Until now, grip from all four corners of a rally car has meant one of two things. A World Rally Car or Rally2 machine, both packed with technology and no shortage of performance.
Things have changed with the emergence of the Rally3 category and the arrival of the latest Fiesta. M-Sport put the car through its paces in Sardinia, on roads similar to those tackled by the WRC’s best at Rally Italia Sardegna, and we jumped in to sample Rally3 power first hand.
As with all new cars, you build a mental picture of what’s coming. Understanding this M-Sport Poland-built car came with just three cylinders, we were fairly confident the neck muscles would go untroubled off the line.
The departure from the start was brisk, but some distance from the mind-bending, horizon-zooming abilities of the cars from the categories above. But as former WRC regular Matthew Wilson progressed through the gears, it was impossible not to be impressed.
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The Fiesta Rally3 pulls 215bhp from its 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine and, as with any rally car, the key comes with the commitment to using every one of those 215 horses.
The first section of the stage climbed steadily, with a series of medium-speed corners. Wilson’s steadfast approach to keeping the power on was entirely commendable. At times we wondered if we’re actually looking at the same piece of road – we saw far more corners and rocks than he did!
“We’ve got to push the car,” said Wilson. “It’s why we’re here. The car’s done some Tarmac and some smoother gravel, but this is a really representative Sardinian road. You wouldn’t go around those rocks on a rally, so we’ve got to hit them here.”
We’re not talking TV-sized wheel-breakers here, but the Reigers on each corner dealt mighty well with some fair boulders.
Wilson’s style was press-on, attacking. Impressive. “Watch this,” he said, “we’ll change things a little bit.”
In the next series of corners, he left the car a gear higher and rode the torque instead. The car didn’t bog, it just pulled. That’s what 400Nm of torque does.
“We need to remember,” he said, “that as much as this is going to be a career rally car for drivers to step up from Rally4 and the Junior WRC, it’s also going to be a car for those out there looking to just enjoy their rallying.
“Having enough torque to power the four-wheel drive and give drivers the chance to leave it in a gear and focus on their steering, knowing there will be power to pull them through, is also very important.”
M-Sport Poland’s latest creation does all of that and is wrapped up into a superb rally car for €100,000. For M-Sport Poland managing director Maciek Woda, the Fiesta Rally3 makes sense.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “There’s been a big gap in the market, the gap between the leading two-wheel drive car and what was R5 and is now Rally2. We’ve been ready for a four-wheel drive car at this price for a very long time and we’re really pleased and proud with what we’ve produced.”
The Fiesta Rally3 will be available in January next year.