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Q&A: Christian Loriaux, Ford Abu Dhabi WRT

The man behind the all-new Ford Fiesta RS WRC talks about his latest creation ahead of its debut WRC event in Sweden.
Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team technical director Christian Loriaux headed the team which developed the all-new Fiesta RS World Rally Car. Here the 44-year-old Belgian talks about some of the key issues surrounding the development of Ford's 2011 WRC challenger in the countdown to the season opener in Sweden on February 11-13.


Q:
Christian, was it simply a matter of developing a new engine to turn the Ford Fiesta S2000 into the Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car?

Christian Loriaux:
No. The Fiesta S2000 rally car provided a great base with which our engineers could work, but there was more development to undertake than just the engine. We had to ensure we were happy with the suspension and chassis, as well as developing the transmission. Essentially we had to be confident that the carryover parts from the S2000 would be strong enough to cope with the extra speed and power of a new-generation World Rally Car.

Q:
What were the biggest challenges in developing the Fiesta RS WRC?

Christian Loriaux:
Developing the 1.6-litre Ford EcoBoost engine was a massive undertaking. Working with this engine and direct injection for the first time was complicated – it was a completely new animal for us. Other areas that were big tasks were the transmission, the gear ratios and fitting the cooling package around the engine. The new rules stipulate a 1200kg minimum weight limit and it has been difficult to get down to that figure. We received great support in the entire process from the product engineers at Ford of Europe and many of their suppliers.

Q:
Was the development of the engine the biggest challenge of all?

Christian Loriaux:
Yes. Direct injection is a complex beast and we worked closely with Ford's road vehicle engineers and our engine tuner, Pipo Moteurs, in France, to make the best of their expertise. Because the new regulations demand forced injection for the first time, it was the first occasion that many of us had the opportunity to work with this in a competition engine.

Q:
Are the engine regulations for 2011 taking the sport in the right direction?

Christian Loriaux:
Downsizing was most definitely the correct route to take, from both a manufacturer and a competition perspective. And retaining turbocharged units was also the way forward. These engines require drivers to use more revs and from a spectator's viewpoint they sound faster. Engine noise is an important part of the spectacle and these cars sound better.

Q:
How many parts are common to both the S2000 and the RS WRC?

Christian Loriaux:
We obtained plenty of data from the S2000 which competed in the S-WRC and other championships last year. We re-evaluated every area and if we thought certain areas could be improved, we went ahead and did so. Apart from the roll cage and chassis there aren't too many parts that the Fiesta RS WRC shares with the S2000. Plenty of parts may look similar, but they have been modified to be lighter, stiffer or whatever we felt would bring an improvement.

Q:
The Fiesta RS WRC is visibly different to the S2000. Why?

Christian Loriaux:
Together with Ford of Europe's design team, we carried out a full restyling of the car to incorporate as many aspects as we could of Ford's kinetic design styling cues that are an integral part of the company's road vehicles. There are some necessary compromises for aerodynamic reasons, but both Ford and M-Sport are delighted with the car's appearance.

Q:
Is the Fiesta RS WRC more difficult to drive than the Focus RS WRC?

Christian Loriaux:
The new regulations require 'back to basics' rally cars. In terms of chassis they are similar, but some of the technology we used in the Focus RS WRC has been banned. There is no active central differential, no launch control and no paddle shift gearchange. That demands more driver skills.

Q:
So the car rewards the better drivers?

Christian Loriaux:



Related Pictures

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Christian Loriaux. Ford
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN), Ford Focus RS WRC08, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team and Cristian Loriaux
Christian Loriaux, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Christian Loriaux [Pic credit: Ford]
Christian Loriaux with the new Ford Fiesta RS WRC car [Pic credit: Ford]

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