Ford's new World Rally Championship challenger, the Fiesta RS WRC, is set to be given the green-light for its competitive debut.

The FIA is ready to approve homologation of the car after it successfully passed technical inspections to ensure that it complies with the WRC's new regulations.

Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen will give the Fiesta its debut at Rally Sweden, the opening round of the 2011 WRC season, on 10 February.

“We worked closely with the FIA throughout the development of the car to ensure our understanding of the regulations was aligned with that of the governing body,” said Gerard Quinn, Ford of Europe’s motorsport chief.  “We expect the paperwork to be finalised this week, and everyone involved with the programme is looking forward to an exciting season ahead, with the action beginning over Sweden’s frozen roads in 10 days.”

Derived from the Fiesta road car, the World Rally Car was developed from the Fiesta S2000 rally car by M-Sport, Ford's long-term rally partner, with support from Ford of Europe. Development work on the car will continue when the car is taken to the Environmental Testing Laboratory at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre in the UK to evaluate and optimise engine performance.

The team's Technical Director Christian Loriaux has headed the development team. “We obtained plenty of data from the standard Fiesta road car, and the S2000 which competed in the S-WRC and other championships last year,” explained the 44-year-old Belgian. “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.

“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 modifications for aerodynamic reasons, but both Ford and M-Sport are delighted with the car’s appearance”

The Fiesta RS WRC is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged direct injection engine, using Ford's EcoBoost technology that can be found in their latest production cars.

“Ford’s EcoBoost road engine represents a new generation of downsized, high-efficiency, petrol engines,” said Quinn. “Developed by Ford engineers in Europe, the four-cylinder EcoBoost production unit combines high-pressure direct injection, advanced turbocharging and twin variable valve timing to maximise combustion efficiency.  Different displacements are already available in Ford road vehicles around the globe.  The knowledge accumulated during the design of the EcoBoost road engine proved invaluable during development of the rally car unit.  Technology transfer usually switches from rally cars to road vehicles, but in this situation we’re delighted it has taken the opposite route.”

The engine was developed by French tuner Pipo Moteurs, which has maintained a strong relationship with both Ford and M-Sport over recent years. They worked with engineers from both companies throughout the development of the engine. Ford provided support from its global engineering facilities, including its Powertrain Research and Innovation Centre in the United States, its Engine Research Centre at Dunton in the UK and its Research & Advanced Engineering Centre in Aachen, Germany.

Loriaux explained that the implementation of the direct injection technology was a challenging task. It was a massive undertaking,” he said. “Direct injection was a complex beast and it was the first time many of us in the team had the opportunity to work with forced injection in a competition engine.  The engine was the biggest challenge of the whole project.”

The Fiesta RS WRC has already racked up more than 11,000 km of testing prior to its competitive debut – the equivalent of more than two full WRC seasons.

“We’re encouraged by both the car’s performance and its reliability over thousands of kilometres of testing, and we’re confident we can transfer that into competition,” said Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson.  “But the true test will come during the opening round in Sweden next week. It was a challenging test programme.  Matching the car to the tyres of our new supplier, Michelin, was a demanding process.  We’ve made excellent progress but I believe Mikko and Jari-Matti will learn more about the way the tyres behave as we encounter new conditions on different rallies.”