Ford drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala have completed their first test in the new Fiesta WRC they will use for the 2011 World Rally Championship season.
The pair completed a lengthy test on gravel roads in Spain and France last week as Ford continues work on the car that will replace for the Focus next season.
Hirvonen completed the majority of the running as he spent three days behind the wheel in Spain before the team headed to the south of France, with the Finn ultimately completing more than 1000km behind the wheel.
"I had looked forward so much to driving the Fiesta RS WRC and I was very satisfied with it," he said. "It was just as much fun as I hoped and I'm genuinely excited about what we can achieve with it. Of course, there is still a lot of development to do but my first impressions are very good. It has its own unique feel and it's like driving an angry bee!
"The biggest difference between the Fiesta RS WRC and the outgoing Focus RS WRC is the engine. There is less torque from the 1.6 litre engine in the Fiesta than we have from the 2.0-litre unit in the Focus, and it requires a different driving style as a result. The engine needs to be kept at high revs.
"A slightly more aggressive approach is needed, especially in slower corners, where the driver needs to take command and attack harder, rather than letting the car do the work."
Latvala only completed 200km of running himself after taking over from Hirvonen, but despite the limited running, he was equally impressed with the car.
"The road is usually used for testing cars of the type that compete in the Dakar Rally and it was full of big rocks, holes and bumps,” he said. “It asked a lot of the car, but I pushed hard because the team wanted to see how the Fiesta behaved in those conditions.
"I was impressed and I was pleased at how quickly I found a good feeling at the wheel. The balance felt very good and the engine was better than I expected."
While the pair were busy at the wheel, work back at M-Sport's base in Cumbria continued on the final specification 2011-engine, which will be used to power the Fiesta for a three-day test planned following Rally Spain this weekend.
"It was an important week in the development of the Fiesta RS WRC,” Ford of Europe motorsport boss Gerard Quinn said. “We are very pleased to receive such a positive reaction from Mikko and Jari-Matti's first drive in the car. We can move forward confidently to the next stage of testing, encouraged that the hard work put into the design and development has been so well received."