The blue oval’s interest in WRC has heightened following the introduction of new hybrid Rally1 regulations in 2022, which has resulted in more input into M-Sport’s plans for rallying’s new era.
Last week M-Sport became the first team to officially launch its new Rally1 weapon with the unveiling of its all-new Puma at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The launch signified Ford’s renewed interest in the sport with its global CEO Jim Farley and Rushbrook in attendance.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Rushbrook confirmed that Ford has been heavily involved in the development of the Puma, with its engineers assisting with its knowledge of hybrid technology and aerodynamics.
“Certainly we have increased our support with the development of the new car and being as engaged as we are,” Rushbrook told Motorsport.com.
“M-Sport are great partners and always have been. Like we do in any form of motorsport we try to complement each other with our partners.
“M-Sport has always been very good at developing new cars and we expect the same with this case.
“But with the new technology with hybrid we are able to bring in some of our calibration engineers to help with the software strategy, and also aerodynamics and vehicle dynamics simulation are other areas we can contribute to the new car, and we have always had a good relationship on the powertrain and all of that continues.”
M-Sport has been effectively running a semi-works effort in the WRC since 2013 with Ford an active partner and sponsor, but the operation is not a full factory effort compared to rivals Toyota and Hyundai.
Rushbrook admitted that the WRC’s new future has piqued interest at Ford but stopped short of saying that the brand would return as a full factory team in the near future.
“Absolutely [we are excited], we participate in the FIA technical working groups and we were part of that in terms of developing these new regulations along with the other manufactures,” he said.
“We think it is an exciting change for the sport and we expect the fans to be engaged with it as well as they start to see the performance and the technology in the cars.
When asked if there was chance Ford could return as a full works effort, he added: “That is probably not something I would comment on.”
Rushbrook also confirmed that the decision to switch from the Fiesta body to the Puma was down to Ford and its strategy to promote its new product through the WRC.
The development car had been running a Fiesta shell during M-Sport’s recent tests of its 2022 machine earlier this year.
“It [the Ford Puma] is a new product for us and an important part of the future cycle plan and we wanted to showcase that especially with the hybrid technology,” said Rushbrook.
The new Puma made its full public debut last weekend with M-Sport’s current WRC driver Adrien Fourmaux and test driver Matthew Wilson completing demonstration runs up the Goodwood hillclimb course.
Puma Rally1 WRC Prototype
Photo by: M-Sport