Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 #19 – Spark

2022 Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 #19
Pilots: S. Loeb / I. Galmiche
Team: M-Sport Ford WRT
Race: 1st overall (RC1 class) at the Monte Carlo Rally 2022
Spark - S6697 (resin)

FIA is famous for not sitting still in regards to regulations. And like with every other racing class, rallying is not exempt. So for 2022, FIA changed the rules of the World Rally Championship. Out went the World Rally Car class and in came the new Rally1 class as the top class. Defined in Article 262 of Appendix J of the International Sporting Code, Rally1 cars have two major new characteristics. First and foremost, they are hybrid cars – they have both electric motors and an ICE. Secondly, Rally1 cars don’t need to be homologated in Group A or N, and have no series production car requirement. Nonetheless, they must look like a series production model. That was very important to manufacturers, since it cut costs and better aligned rally cars with consumer marketing preferences. Unfortunately though, only three manufacturers came to the Rally1 party: Ford, Toyota and Hyundai.

Powerful yet safe: few cars could withstand a crash like this with no injuries to the crew.

A traditional name in rallying, up until 2021 Ford competed in the WRC with the Fiesta WRC. So for the new Rally1 regulations, Ford needed a new car, and they chose their 2021 Puma as the basis. Produced by M-Sport, the new Puma Hybrid Rally1 only shares the name with the civilian Puma. It has a bespoke tubular T45 steel space frame chassis, offering superb protection for the crew. And of course, it has a hybrid powertrain. The battery-electric motor captures energy during braking, storing it in a 3.9 kWh battery. That stored energy, when needed, can then be unleashed through a 100 kW electric motor. Moreover, its ICE is a turbocharged inline-4 1.6-liter petrol engine (“EcoBoost”) that can produce 279.5 kW (380 hp). With both combined, the Puma Hybrid has a total peak power output of over 468 kW (500 hp).

The Puma Hybrid Rally1 is Ford’s first electrified racing car.

Weighing 1260 kg, the Puma Rally1 counts on a 5-speed sequential manual gearbox. From the gearbox, up to 420 Nm of torque are split 50/50 front and rear. Using the combined power of the ICE and the electric motor, the car can reach 100 km/h in just 3.2 seconds. All Rally1 cars use fossil-free fuel, and the electric boost is available to the pilot for up to three seconds. However, once the battery is flat, the pilot must use the brakes to recharge it. Also, in select sections between stages or through cities, the cars can run on pure-electric power. If needed, the battery pack can also be recharged using an external charging unit. All the Rally1 cars share these features, making the WRC more eco-friendly ♻. The WRC came quite a long way from the nothing-matters-but-power mentality of the Group B era…

The Puma’s hybrid system weighs 95 kg, and has an air/water-cooling system.

Ford debuted the Puma Hybrid Rally1 in January of 2022, at the 90ème Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo. The M-Sport team would compete with three cars in the 2022 WRC, however for the Monte they arrived with four cars. That’s because M-Sport invited rally legend Sèbastien Loeb for a special appearance. Loeb, nine-times winner of the WRC, and codriver Isabelle Galmiche (a mathematics teacher) received car #19. Interestingly, Loeb never drove with Galmiche before. Moreover, his last WRC event was 16 months prior, and he never drove a Ford Puma in a race. Nonetheless, up until the penultimate stage, Loeb was second behind Sébastien Ogier, when a punctured tire slowed Ogier’s Toyota Yaris. With that, Loeb took the lead and finished in first place, only 10.5 seconds ahead of Ogier. One month away from his 48th birthday, that was Loeb’s eighth Monte Carlo victory, and the first not piloting a Citroën.

If you want a budget version of the model, Ixo offers a GREAT alternative.

No doubt about it: Sébastien Loeb is the greatest rally driver ever. Come on, nine WRC titles, in a row? That translates to 80 rally wins, with 120 podiums and 939 stage wins. And I’m not counting wins in other classes. The man even came second at Le Mans in 2006 😲! Totally deserving of a GOAT title. With all that, I was more than eager to get his latest WRC winning car. Besides, I was flabbergasted when I read about the new Rally1 cars. These cars are as powerful (and just as fast!) as the Group B monsters, yet safer, more reliable and eco-friendly. Equally important, the model is gorgeous! As always, Spark nailed the car, and it looks outstanding. All right then, I got a Rally1 car – and as a bonus, a Loeb ride! Sooo, do I now need a GR Yaris and an i20 N too? 🤔

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