- Having driven a Ford Fiesta R5 at the head of the field on last weekend’s Geko Ypres Rally, Thierry Neuville was full of praise for the new machine after completing all 19 stages as part of the FIA European Rally Championship.
Partnered by regular co-driver and fellow Belgian Nicolas Gilsoul, the pairing have extensive knowledge of their local event – a fact made all the more apparent by their impressive performance on the specialist stages. The conditions suited the duo perfectly as they piloted their Fiesta R5 to what would have been 16 fastest times from a possible 19 stages.
Despite a couple of ‘offs’ and having caught the zero car on occasion, Neuville and the Fiesta R5 remained in a class of their own. Were it not for a puncture on SS14 which lost the youngster some three minutes, his time would have been good enough to secure the rally win by an impressive two minute advantage.
Designed by M-Sport and based on the new 1.6-litre EcoBoost-engined Ford Fiesta ST road car – Ford’s fastest-ever production Fiesta which went on sale earlier this year – the Fiesta R5 rally car forms the latest step on Ford and M-Sport’s ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ and Neuville was suitably impressed with the partnership’s latest collaboration.
But Neuville clearly isn’t the only driver impressed with the performance of M-Sport’s latest rally car. With more than 20 deposits already placed, it is likely that the Fiesta R5 will make a return to the stages – this time in competition – with M-Sport customers towards the end of the month. Thierry Neuville said: “The car is really impressive. In terms of chassis and brakes, you can compare it to a WRC car although the engine is, of course, not the same and you have only five gears. It is a really driveable car and good fun too! For regional championships like the ERC [FIA European Rally Championship], it is perfect – less expensive than a Super 2000 or Regional Rally Car, but still very competitive.
“You can also adapt really quickly to this car and it’s easy to set quick times because you have the benefit of a good set-up and therefore more confidence straight away. It’s a great car for a driver who wants to prove their speed and I think the FIA have done a great job with the regulations of this new class.”