Last weekend saw the successful debut of the all-new Ford Fiesta MS1 as, piloted by the 2010 FST International Shootout winner Stephen Barker, Ford and M-Sport’s latest global rally car assumed the role of Course Car on the Coppermines Grizedale Stages Rally in South Cumbria.
Based in the Grizedale Forest, the 40 mile event also marked Barker’s competitive debut on British soil. Partnered by fellow M-Sport employee, Richard Millener, the duo successfully navigated the tricky stages to secure an unofficial time which would have placed them inside the top 15 as the 4th 2WD car overall – a huge achievement for Barker and the MS1 alike.
Following hot on the heels of the highly successful Ford Fiesta R2, the MS1 is aimed at those drivers who are just starting out on their rallying career; offering individuals an introduction to rallying at an affordable level.
Homologated to R1 specification, the basic conversion kit offers all the same personal safety and underbody protection as the Fiesta R2, but with standard engine and transmission components to comply with International R1 regulations. The various MS1 kits on offer provide competitors with the option of upgrading their Fiesta, piece by piece, adding performance enhancements as local regulations allow, so as to eventually graduate to the Fiesta R2.
The latest in a long line of rally cars produced as a result of the successful partnership between Ford and M-Sport, the MS1 has been developed with all the same expertise which launched the record-breaking Ford Focus RS WRC, the Ford Fiesta GpN ST, the Ford Fiesta R2 and S2000 and, more recently, the ground-braking Ford Fiesta RRC and RS WRC.
In turn, the arrival of the MS1 means that together, Ford and M-Sport can offer a complete ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ through which competitors might graduate from national level right through to the top epsilons of the WRC.
Prior to the Grizedale Stages, Barker put the MS1 through a series of vigorous tests at Carlisle Airfield and M-Sport’s own testing complex at Greystoke Forest. Focusing on refining the new Bilstein dampers along with developing the latest specification engine maps, Barker has covered more than 240kms of testing with the new Fiesta in recent weeks.
The rally itself was contested over seven stages, one in the darkness of Saturday night, which was also affected by patchy fog, and a further six on Sunday. Despite running as Course Car, Barker set out with a clear objective: to gain an indication of his pace on gravel compared to some of the 2011 Fiesta SportTrophy UK competitors in preparation for a potential assault on the 2012 British Rally Championship [BRC].
“It’s great get back behind the wheel of a rally car,” said Barker after the event. “Our aim was to get the car to the finish. I didn’t push hard and came back surprisingly happy with the times we were setting when compared to others in similarly powered machinery. The MS1 is a great little package and will offer all young and aspiring drivers a great base level entry car to hone their driving skills”
Navigator, Millener said “I wanted to do this event for two reason: one, to sit with Stephen to see if we worked well together as we would both like to be back in the BRC next season; and secondly, to experience the new MS1. In my role at M-Sport I deal with a lot of our customers and it is always good to experience the product first hand so that when we are in discussions, I know exactly what the product is and what it can offer. I have now sat in an MS1, R2, S2000 and RRC so I know all the ‘rungs’ to our ’Ladder of Opportunity’, and I can honestly say the MS1 is a superb entry-level package to start off any new driver’s career.”
– Credit: M-Sport and Photography by McCrash Media.