M-Sport Poland, based in the city of Krakow, is the technical headquarters of the new six-round feeder series to the WRC - the FIA WRC Academy - and was opened at the start of 2011 to help service growing demand for the UK-based company's products within Europe.

As the WRC Academy passed the half-way point, M-Sport project co-ordinator Maciej Woda took time out of his busy schedule to outline how the development of M-Sport Poland is progressing after six months in operation.

"Considering the short amount of time between the decision to open the Polish centre in November and having it fully functioning in February the staff here have done a tremendous job of proving what they are capable of - it has all run very smoothly," said Woda.

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M-Sport Poland is home to a highly motivated workforce and houses all the facilities required for looking after the Ford Fiesta R2 rally cars competing in this year's WRC Academy, and includes a 500 square metre workshop and approximately 100 square metres of storage facilities.

"After each rally the Ford Fiesta R2s return to M-Sport Poland where the cars are thoroughly inspected. The gearboxes and dampers are fully rebuilt and the team crack-test all major suspension components to ensure maximum reliability. The graphics on the cars are also refreshed between each rally to ensure the very highest levels of presentation for both the WRC Academy and individual sponsors is provided," explained Woda.

"Rally Italia Sardegna was particularly rough on the cars and the team worked exceptionally hard on repairing some of the engines before Finland. I was pleased to see that each of these engines performed well whilst over there. I was also delighted to see 14 out of the 15 Ford Fiesta R2s finish the last WRC Academy round in Germany," said Woda.

Polish-born Woda started working for M-Sport in September 2004. After progressing through the ranks as an engineer in the WRC team, Woda was a natural choice to run the programme when it M-Sport decided it would open up a new operational hub on the continent.

After a rigorous search process a suitable site for M-Sport's Poland branch was found towards the end of 2010 in Poland's second-largest city - Krakow.

"As well as being one of the biggest countries in Europe Poland is also one of the fastest growing economies. In addition to being responsible for the preparation and servicing of the WRC Academy, the Polish division of M-Sport helps to form part of a longer-term investment to grow capacity for the Cumbria-based company," explained Woda.

"As Krakow is centrally located within Europe and has a dynamically growing transport infrastructure, the new base helps allow M-Sport to communicate more easily with our partners in Europe," he continued.

Woda also pointed out that M-Sport Poland has other key logistical benefits: "The new base ensures that less time is spent transporting the Ford Fiesta R2 rally cars back from events, allowing more time for the team to work on the cars back at base."

"The new workshop is better located for WRC Academy rounds where there is a tight turnaround, such as Finland and Germany, as it ensures the cars have plenty of time to be rebuilt as necessary," Woda continued.

The event team of 52 people employed to work from Poland are supplemented by students from Myerscough College in north-west England during events which seems appropriate for a series which promotes and develops talented young people who are determined to make their career in the WRC.

Over sixty students were assessed and ten were selected at the start of the year to help assist M-Sport's technical and service teams on WRC Academy rounds. The project sees the students demonstrate the skills they have been learning on their course in a practical and hands-on environment.

"Much like our team in Poland, the students we have working on event are very hard-working. We have a group of fantastic, dedicated and highly motivated people and we give them the chance to gain an insight into the reality of working in motorsport," explained Woda.

M-Sport has recently supplied the college with the kit needed for students to build a Ford Fiesta R2 as part of their course. Past students at the college have found their niche in M-Sport and have become part of the business, while others have blazed their own trail in the world of motorsport.

As a result of the initial success of M-Sport's Polish base, it is expected that the investment in Eastern Europe will see the branch grow over the following years.

"With M-Sport offering a full range of rally cars, starting from the Ford Fiesta MS1 through to the R2, S2000, RRC and the top WRC machine, I strongly believe we will be able to expand our markets even further. I firmly believe that the experience we are gaining will allow us to accurately tailor our future facilities and grow M-Sport Poland into a strong customer support base," concluded Woda.

M-Sport's roll-out of its site in Poland is one part of a structured, long-term plan to add to the company's range of capabilities and allow it to continue to expand its presence in the motorsport sector and automotive industry in the coming years.