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It’s obvious that there’s a world of difference between a standard Ford Fiesta and the World Rally Car version that tears up the WRC stages. One looks purposeful and mean, the other …. well, let’s just say it doesn’t look like a rally car.
So when the opportunity arose for me to test drive one of the car’s earmarked for the Ford Fiesta Rally Series in Victoria, I jumped at the chance. But to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I’d seen plenty of Fiestas in various trim running in events across Australia and New Zealand, and while they looked to be reliable and fun to drive, they didn’t look like something that would get me out of a rear-wheel drive Escort and into a front-wheel drive shopping trolley. Luckily for me, preconceived ideas can be quickly thrown out the window.
Brendan Reeves Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta rally car is deceptively fast and is great fun to drive.

Victorian rallying stalwart, John Carney, had offered me a drive of a car that he’d purchased to run in the series that he and Col Hardinge are the brains behind. Also the founders of Victoria’s Hyundai Excel one-make series, John and Col thought the time was right to expand on their idea.
While the Excel series continues as a true entry-level category in the sport, the Fiesta series is for those with either a little more coin in their pockets, or the desire to go faster in a more modern car.
My test drive was held on Brendan Reeves’ own test track, which he also uses for his driver training courses throughout the year. About a kilometre and a half in length, it offers a wide variety of conditions and cambers, and is ideal to test a car’s capabilities.
Peter Whitten Ford Fiesta

RallySport Magazine's Peter Whitten familiarises himself with the Fiesta's interior layout.

Carney’s Fiesta really is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It looks racy from the outside with a great colour scheme, but when you open the door and sit in the driver’s seat you can tell that it’s more than a standard Fiesta.
The most notable addition is a sequential five-speed Sadev gearbox. I’d used a sequential box many moons ago when I drove Simon Evans’ VW Golf Kit Car, so was looking forward to blasting through the gears with clutch-less changes.
By the time I got my chance behind the wheel, Carney and Reeves had already ensured that the front tyres were shot, but with dry and dusty conditions, that wouldn’t prove to be much of a problem. After a sighting lap around the track, and with Reeves sitting shot-gun, I put my foot down and was immediately amazed by the power of the Fiesta’s 1.6-litre engine.
Ford Fiesta rally car interior

Neat, compact and purposeful – the Fiesta is a real rally car.

The engine seemed to pull right through the rev range, and hitting fifth gear on the short straights was achieved effortlessly. Once the brakes warmed up I could keep the car turned in with left-foot braking, and while the seating position was less than ideal (I struggled to reach the pedals!), it gave you great confidence that the car would do what you asked of it. The handling was also impressive, despite the lack of grip from the front tyres.
Ford Fiesta rally tyres worn out

Warm conditions soon saw the tyres worn out, but the Fiesta still had loads of grip.

The Fiesta series regulations allow for some variations in specification, and with a sequential box and a computer management system installed this car is at the higher end of those regs, but it was clear to see that even a standard Fiesta would be incredibly enjoyable to drive. With only a few laps in the car it is difficult to give a detailed impression on the car’s good and bad points, particularly as it is still being developed by Carney and his Gunnawyn Motorsport team, but it’s obvious it has huge potential.
Ford Fiesta rally car Victoria

Aspiring rally drivers could do a lot worse than consider Ford's robust Fiesta.

And perhaps the most telling question I’ve been asked since is: “Would I buy one?”. The answer is a definite yes.
While my heart lies in a rear-wheel drive car that you can power slide through corners, the lure of a modern, front-wheel drive car that would leave most of its ‘rooster tailing’ rivals in its wake is difficult to ignore. My two rally-mad sons are now scouring eBay and Gumtree looking for possible project cars …..

You may also enjoy:

https://rallysportmag.com/where-are-they-now-ed-ordynski/ https://rallysportmag.com/wrc-teams-test-new-cars-as-2018-regulations-appear/
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