M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson has commended the increased safety of the dynamic new-era World Rally Cars ahead of their introduction in the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship.
Wilson’s M-Sport team is developing a Ford Fiesta RS, one of five manufacturers building new-look cars for next year. He has been involved in the sport as a driver and team owner for more than 40 years and said the 2017 regulations feature a ‘big step’ forward in safety.
“It’s a fantastic new era and the cars are going to be very, very spectacular,” he said. “But, of course, so much more of the safety aspect has gone into it and it’s really pleasing for me to see because the drivers and co-drivers are our most valuable asset.
“The levels of safety and improvements to the safety shell and every single safety aspect on the car has been improved over where we currently are. We have set new standards in terms of safety.”
Manufacturers and the FIA, in conjunction with the Global Institute for Motor Sport Safety, have worked together to increase crew protection, particularly in side-on impacts.
Space for energy absorbing foam inside cars has been increased from 200mm to 240mm, it will be positioned closer to the seats and will extend behind them for the first time. The foam is also more absorbent than before.
Other improvements include mandatory door sill reinforcements to help prevent items penetrating cars and additional padding on seat supports to restrict head movement during an impact.
Wilson, who still suffers pain after breaking both ankles in a massive accident at the 1980 Scottish Rally, said safety had moved forward hugely since then.
“There’s been a big step in roll cage design, to the point now where it is the main structure of the car which picks up on all the suspension points, so basically you’re transferring the load right throughout the entire bodyshell. But that’s just part of it.
“The seat is now like a safety shell, which of course is now designed so it moves into the car so the occupants don’t get injured, but on the other hand it protects the driver as well.
“All the teams are competing against each other, everyone is trying to win, but on aspects of safety, everybody is united,” he said.
You can watch Wilson's full interview below.