Ford TeamRS today unveiled its exciting new Fiesta Junior World Rally Car [JWRC] at the Geneva Motor Show. Ford's latest competition vehicle was seen in public for the first time alongside the Fiesta ST road car and the Fiesta RS Concept as Ford TeamRS introduced its performance vehicle programme for the Fiesta this morning.

When Ford TeamRS was formed early in 2003, its director, Jost Capito, brought together the company's competition and performance road car engineers into a single division for the first time. Their efforts immediately focused on the Ford Fiesta, and the new Fiesta ST and the Fiesta Junior World Rally Car are the first tangible results in a comprehensive programme for Ford's small car.

"We know the latest Fiesta chassis is ideal for rallying and performance road car applications," said Capito. "The RallyeConcept car we showed late in 2001 stirred up so much interest from the public and the rallying community, that we decided to make faster Fiestas our first major project."

With its competition homologation planned for March 1 and 'first time out' debut set for the second round of the Junior World Championship on the Acropolis Rally in Greece in June, the new Fiesta JWRC rally car could be the ideal partner for future World Rally Championship contenders.

"With the Ford RallyeConcept Fiesta as the inspiration, the motorsport side of our operation has developed an exciting two-wheel-drive, 1600cc rally car for national Super 1600 championships and the seven-event JWRC series," Capito said. "We have been delighted with the car's performance during its development, and are confident it will be a worthy successor to the Ford Puma JWRC."

The 2002 Ford RallyeConcept was developed with an unprecedented level of input from Ford of Europe's design team. This input has been carried through to the Fiesta JWRC.

Phillip Dunabin, chief engineer of Ford Rallye Sport, has overseen development of the RallyeConcept into the fully-fledged JWRC rally car. The result is largely what the RallyeConcept development team originally envisioned. The differences under the skin are simply the result of intensive test mileage and detailed development for the heat of competition.

Sitting 60mm lower on 7-by-17-inch, multi-spoke Speedline wheels with 630mm tyres in tarmac trim, and sporting an even more aggressive body kit, the JWRC rally car shows the ultimate development of the Fiesta performance car for competition.

Its 1.6-litre, all-alloy, dry-sump engine delivers over 215 PS at a dizzying 8,750 rpm. Alcon alloy brake callipers front and rear shed speed with remarkable efficiency, and a hydraulic handbrake is fitted for tight hairpin bends. The driver puts the power down through a limited slip differential and flicks his way all the way up to sixth gear using a paddle-operated Hewland gearbox.

The rough stuff is handled by MacPherson struts with adjustable spring platforms and an adjustable anti-roll bar at the front, with a specially developed Ford Rallye Sport trailing arm beam at the rear.

"The design of the air intake system on the JWRC's engine was typical of the co-operation with the Fiesta development team," Dunabin said. "The use of powerful development tools and analysis expertise at Ford's Dunton Technical Centre enabled us to develop a novel intake system using 3D flow visualisation to maximise the efficiency and power of the JWRC engine."

There are only two obvious external design differences from the RallyeConcept. The single roof duct was replaced with twin ducts above driver and co-driver, and air management ducting at the front of the car was redesigned, replacing the 'shark's gills' ducts ahead of the front wheels with a more aerodynamically efficient design.

Internally there has also been practical, competition-focused refinement, primarily in the execution of floor switches for ease of use by the co-driver.

The Fiesta JWRC will be competing from June 2004, as 18-year-old Finn Jari-Matti Latvala, 19-year-old Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach and 26-year-old Lebanese Abdo Feghali will all tackle the tough seven-event series from behind the wheel of JWRC Fiestas. Latvala and Feghali's cars will be operated by Italian team Astra Racing while British-based Chris Birkbeck Rallysport will run Rautenbach's Fiesta.