ERC Q&A: Maciej Woda, M-Sport Poland
Following an impressive world debut for M-Sport Poland’s latest challenger, the Fiesta Rally3, on the SM O.K. Auto-Ralli in Finland recently, company board member Maciej Woda reflects on ERC3/ERC3 Junior champion Ken Torn’s performance and discusses what’s in store for the FIA’s new and accessible four-wheel-drive category and the Pirelli-supported FIA ERC Junior Championship in which it will compete.
Looking back, how do you assess the performance of the Fiesta Rally3 on its world debut?
“The performance was what we expected. Ken always starts out sensibly and then is building up his speed and this is exactly what happened in Finland as well. But then if you look at the overall result of the rally and the afternoon stages the performance was exactly where it should be. Ken posted three top-10 stage times and finished just 1.5s outside the top 10. On the 14.37-kilometre fourth stage he was just 18s down on the best Rally2 car.”
How easy was the car to maintain, were there any issues?
“The car was absolutely trouble free. The conditions of a winter rally put absolutely no pressure on the car at all, but we’ve been doing a lot of testing in Sardinia purely because we wanted to make sure that the car is bullet proof and robust. Of course, the more cars that are produced and the more rallies that are done, sooner or later you will find some issues but, overall, the car is very strong and very reliable.”
What did you learn from the testing in Sardinia?
“We have been testing after the World Rally Championship event in October with Matt Wilson. He went to do the recce of the test stage and came back and said, ‘how do you want me to drive this car, do you want me to avoid the big rocks and so on?’ I just said, ‘no Matt, you just drive it like you would do the rally, flat out, all the time, up and down’. That’s what he has been doing and all the time the car was really strong.”
After a very strong start in Finland, what’s next for the Fiesta Rally3’s development programme?
“We want to show the car on a Tarmac event as well. We know the car’s potential on gravel because it’s four-wheel drive, but we want to show its performance on Tarmac, considering on the paper it has pretty much the same power as a Rally4 car but it’s heavier.”
In your view, what’s the potential of this car?
“It perfectly fits where we wanted this car to fit, which is not to compete with Rally2 cars but be a perfect step between Rally4 and Rally2. If you look at the overall performance difference between Rally2 and Rally4 you’re talking three and a half to four and a half seconds per kilometre. Our target for Rally3 cars would be around one a half seconds per kilometre slower than a Rally2 car. It’s pretty much in the middle of the range. But I still think a very good driver in a Rally3 car is going to be fighting with Rally2 cars with a less experienced driver. The car can bring some surprises in my opinion.”
When does the production begin?
“We started the production in the last quarter of 2020 and are delivering cars to customers already now. When we committed to the ERC Junior Championship, we could not imagine somebody coming to us in the next few days saying, ‘I want to do ERC Junior, can I buy a car?’ and us telling them, ‘no problem, but in October or November’. We are absolutely on a big push to deliver the cars as soon as possible.”
What level of interest are you experiencing in ERC Junior car sales?
“There is a very good interest about the Rally3 cars and the ladder we have created with the FIA, Eurosport Events and Pirelli is a big boost because you can see the clear step from ERC3 Junior to ERC Junior and then to the Junior World Rally Championship. I can see a large number of people committing to this.”
How many cars will be delivered by the summer?
“We already have 21 bodyshells built so having 20 cars assembled and ready to go by then should be absolutely no problem. Because the car will have FIA homologation you can use it where you want really, that’s the beauty of this car.”
In general, what has been the feedback from drivers who have sampled the Fiesta Rally3?
“The feedback we have been receiving from the different test drivers and different customers who have tried the car in Poland and in Finland was the car is very, very easy to drive. Which is very, very important both for the young drivers jumping from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive, but also for the gentlemen drivers who want to have this car for fun for enjoying themselves and that’s very important. The car needs to be simple, the car needs to be strong and the car needs to be easy to drive and cost effective. These were our targets when we built this car.”
Maciej Woda will join Jérôme Roussel (FIA) and Terenzio Testoni (Pirelli) for an ERC Junior special on ERC The Stage, the live talk show from Eurosport Events at 18h00 CET today (March 24). For more information go to: https://www.fiaerc.com