After much anticipation, the all-new 2009 Ford Fiesta has finally made its rally debut, competing in the opening round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship in the UK.
The car, a wide-bodied race version of Ford?s baby hatchback, was produced by Swedish rally outfit MSE/Ford TeamRS and driven by Andreas Eriksson, who finished 11th after struggling with a plethora of technical problems.
The team had only tested the Fiesta once before the first weekend of the championship, entering the round with little knowledge of how it would behave, much less its potential.
Eriksson, though, managed to emerge victorious in one heat, demonstrating the ultimate pace the car is capable of achieving, only to be struck by a gearbox problem - his second of the weekend.
Two-time World Rally Champion Marcus Gronholm is also contracted to compete for the team this season.
Featuring a 2.0 litre Duratec turbo four engine running on E85 ethanol fuel, the Fiesta packs a massive punch, producing 410kw (550hp) of power and 820Nm of torque at 6400rpm, while weighing only 1200kg. This allows the car to race from 0-100km/h in only 2.8 seconds, a simply phenomenal figure.
Rallycross is a unique off-road category, sporting a number of significant differences when compared to the better known World Rally Championship.
Rounds of the Rallycross Championship take place on a mixed surface track, with cars competing in a series of heats and stages, while more than one car can be racing at a time.
The cars are also smaller and much more powerful than their WRC counterparts, with the premier Division 1 class featuring 4WD turbocharged Group A ?specials?.
Round two of the Championship will be held in Portugal next weekend.