Ford will unleash the 2004-spec Focus RS WRC at the New Zealand Rally later this month. Will this evolution of last year’s car power Estonian Markko Martin to his maiden world title this year?

Ford will unleash the 2004-spec Focus RS WRC at the New Zealand Rally later this month. Could this evolution of last year’s car power Estonian Markko Martin to his maiden world title this year?


For its latest challenger, Ford concentrated on saving weight, exploiting the 2004 regulation that allows the fitment of lighter front and rear wings. Cosworth also lightened some of the engine internals - the con rods and pistons - while modifying the turbo and exhaust manifold.


“The new rules mean the minimum weight of the shell is now just 320 kg. We have lightened ours by 10 kg to 330 kg, so we are still 10 kg above the limit,” M-Sport’s Technical Director Christian Loriaux said.


“Further weight savings could have been made by taking advantage of the new regulations which permit the use of an aluminium boot and bonnet, but the time available to us did not allow for that. One of the key features of the 03 car was to save weight and, more importantly, distribute it via ballast to those areas of the car where it would improve balance and handling.


“Our weightsaving with the new shell has allowed us to further that process and lower the centre of gravity even more.


“The changes are more of an evolution than anything else. The car has evolved from rally to rally under the skin and we’ll continue to make improvements throughout the season, nibbling away at weight and reliability.


“In Cyprus, we’ll introduce new dampers and new electronic settings. Development is a continuing process, not something that happens once a year during homologation. We’re not expecting a quantum leap forwards from the homologation changes. What we do expect is to maintain the progress we’ve made since the 03 débuted in New Zealand last year,” Loriaux added.


For his part, Ford’s lead driver Martin doesn’t expect a great leap forward when the 2004 Focus World Rally Car competes for the first time on the Propecia Rally.


“I don’t think it’s that different, just a small evolution I think, but we were OK anyway, so not too worried. All we can do is just small steps and I didn’t expect any radical stuff. I know there is a lot of development and small things coming all the time. I know it’s faster everywhere,” Martin said.