Ford revealed its all-new Fiesta RS WRC - the company's next generation World Rally car - at the Paris Motor Show this morning.
As the 2011 World Rally Championship regulations dictate, the Fiesta will run with a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine and will be seen in WRC competition for the first time in February's Rally Sweden, the opening round of next year's series.
"The introduction of Ford's latest engine technology to its rally programme reinforces further our commitment to motorsport," said Mike Norton, Ford of Europe's motorsport manager. "It also demonstrates our continued support for affordable competition by using an off-the-shelf production engine on which to base our WRC power plant."
The engine has been developed for the WRC by French tuner Pipo Moteur.
The Fiesta RS WRC's appearance at the Paris Motor Show precedes the car's first major test programme with the full 2011 engine specification on gravel roads in Spain next week. The car has already completed almost 3000 kilometres of testing in Britain and France, powered initially by the current WRC engine and more recently by a prototype 1.6-litre Ford EcoBoost turbo unit.
The test will provide the first opportunity for Ford World Rally Team drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala to drive the new Fiesta RS WRC.
Gerard Quinn, Ford of Europe's motorsport chief, has overseen the development programme throughout 2010 and says: "We're delighted to preview the Ford Fiesta RS WRC in such a prominent Motor Show as Paris. There are significant visual differences from the Fiesta S2000 base car as well as major changes under the skin. The biggest, of course, is the 1.6-litre Ford EcoBoost turbo engine - the original version of which was developed by Ford's Powertrain Engineering team."
M-Sport managing director and Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson is equally enthusiastic about the new car.
"This is a thrilling time for everyone involved in the car's development," Wilson said. "Countless hours have gone into the Fiesta RS WRC to reach this point, and for the car to be unveiled in public for the first time is a proud moment for us. We are right on track with our development and the team is delighted with testing to date. Another major step forward will be taken at the start of October when the car tests in full 2011 technical specification for the first time.
"We will have a test car running under the guidance of our technical director, Christian Loriaux. Mikko and Jari-Matti lead our challenge with the new car in the 2011 WRC, so their feedback from the testing is critical and will provide valuable data for our engineering team to work with."
The Fiesta RS WRC will replace the record-breaking Focus RS WRC as Ford's championship challenger. The Focus RS WRC won back-to-back manufacturers' world titles in 2006 and '07, and its victory in New Zealand in May was the Blue Oval's 75th at WRC level, making Ford the most successful manufacturer in world championship history.
*For a gallery of images of the Ford Fiesta, Citroen DS3 and Mini WRC cars, click here.