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WRC Rally Latvia

The other byproduct of M-Sport’s non-hybrid WRC experiment

The debut of the non-hybrid World Rally Championship Ford Puma Rally1 could prove beneficial for M-Sport

Martins Sesks, Renars Francis, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Martins Sesks, Renars Francis, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: Tomasz Kaliński

M-Sport is hopeful the strong debut of its non-hybrid version of its Ford Puma World Rally Championship car will help stimulate its Rally1 car sales.

The Ford squad took advantage of a new FIA regulation introduced this year that allows teams to enter non-hybrid powered Rally1 cars in WRC events by fielding rising star Martins Sesks in Poland earlier this month.

Without the hybrid, the car produced 130 fewer horsepower and had to carry 100 kilograms of ballast to be located in pace of the hybrid unit and its relevant equipment in the car.

The idea behind the FIA’s regulation tweak was to provide a cheaper Rally1 option at €150,000 less than the €800,000 hybrid version and offer a Rally1 platform to help younger drivers bridge the gap from Rally2 to Rally1.

Its maiden outing in Poland, supported by the WRC Promoter, resulted in an impressive drive from 2023 European Rally Championship Sesks, who finished fifth overall and came within 0.3s of claiming a stage win.

While the project’s main focus was to offer a young driver the experience of Rally1, M-Sport team principal Richard Millener says the rally put the car in the shop window for prospective buyers.

Martins Sesks, Renars Francis, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Martins Sesks, Renars Francis, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: Tomasz Kaliński

M-Sport bases a core part of its business on building and selling rally cars but has sold only one Puma Rally1 since its introduction in 2022.

“I hope [we can sell some more cars]. That was also part of the goal to showcase it and show that you can still come here and have fun and be in amongst the top guys and more importantly a long way ahead of Rally2,” Millener told Motorsport.com.

“We wanted to prove it can do that and still be competitive and it can give this opportunity to youngsters to come and prove what they can do.

“People were saying if you just remove the hybrid, it is a Rally2 car but if you had watched Martins in a Rally2 car he would never have had the same feeling or feedback. These Rally1 cars are amazing to watch and that is why I always say that we can’t get rid of them. We must have a top category in WRC and something like this to showcase what this is about.”

Sesks’ pace across Poland’s high-speed gravel stages raised questions surrounding the necessity of the hybrid units in Rally1 cars moving forward, but Millener feels this outing masked the hybrid’s true performance.

“It would be a very different conversation if we were at a different rally,” he added.

“We know on the fast rallies it [the hybrid] is less advantageous, but you can still see that Martins was on the edge everywhere and probably the bits he was missing out on were the bits where people were using the hybrid.

“It definitely goes to show the hybrid is still a requirement to win but he did a fantastic job without it.”

Sesks will pilot a full hybrid version of the Puma when the WRC visits Latvia next week, which marks the final round of his two-rally programme.

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