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

M-Sport hopes the convincing debut of the non-hybrid version of its Ford Puma World Rally Championship car will help boost sales of its Rally1 cars.

The Ford squad benefited from a new FIA rule introduced this year that allows teams to use Rally1 cars without hybrid powertrains in WRC events and fielded rising star Martins Sesks in Poland earlier this month.

Without a hybrid drive, the car produced 130 hp less and had to carry 100 kilograms of ballast to accommodate the hybrid drive and the associated equipment in the car.

The idea behind this FIA rule change was to provide a cheaper Rally1 option, costing €150,000 less than the €800,000 hybrid version, and to provide a Rally1 platform to help younger drivers bridge the gap between Rally2 and Rally1.

His first appearance in Poland, supported by the WRC promoter, ended with an impressive drive by 2023 European Rally Champion Sesks, who finished fifth overall and missed out on a stage win by 0.3 seconds.

While the main focus of the project was to offer a young driver the experience of a Rally 1, M-Sport team boss Richard Millener says the rally made the car accessible to potential 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

A core business of M-Sport is building and selling rally cars, but the company has only sold one Puma Rally1 since its launch in 2022.

“I hope we can sell even more cars. That was also part of our goal, to showcase it and show that you can still come here and have fun and be among the best and, more importantly, be way ahead of Rally2,” Millener told Autosport.

“We wanted to prove that this is possible and still remain competitive. And we want to give young players the opportunity to show what they can do.”

“People said if you just take the hybrid out it’s a Rally2 car, but if you saw Martins in a Rally2 car he would never have had the same feeling or feedback. These Rally1 cars are incredible to watch and that’s why I always say we can’t get rid of them. We need a top category in the WRC and something like that to show what it’s all about.”

Sesks’ pace on Poland’s high-speed gravel tracks raised questions about the need for hybrid powertrains in future Rally1 cars, but Millener believes that performance obscured the true capabilities of hybrid power.

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

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: M-Sport

“We know that the hybrid is less advantageous in the fast rallies, but you can still see that Martins was at the limit everywhere and that the parts he missed were probably the parts where the others used the hybrid.

“It definitely shows that the hybrid is still a prerequisite for victory, but he did a fantastic job without it.”

Sesks will drive a full hybrid version of the Puma when the WRC visits Latvia next week, the final round of its two-rally programme.

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