Even if the Ford Fiesta hasn’t been properly introduced to the American market, the blue oval brand is planning on sending a few of its rally based machines to compete in the classic American test of man and machine, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Taking place in Colorado on July 19th, completing the Race to the Clouds is just as much of an accomplishment as setting a record around the Nurburgring, and just as difficult.
In order to reach the summit, drivers must negotiate 12.42 miles of winding mountain road, there is imminent danger awaiting just around each one of the course’s 156 turns and while rising the 4,721 feet to the peak, drivers will have to adapt to everything from paved highways surrounded by pines to loose gravel surrounded by nothing more than wide open blue Colorado skies.
The vehicles will be heavily modified rally cars based on the Fiesta hatchback, and will be powered by 2.0 Liter Duratec Ford four cylinder engines, capable of putting out over 800 HP each. Ford will bring Swedish Rally Champion Andreas Eriksson and World Rally legend Marcus Grönholm to try and conquer the mountain.
Press release after the jump.
The new Ford Fiesta may not be hitting the streets of America officially until next year, but high-performance motorsport examples of the car will make their U.S. racing debut this summer when the Olsberg Motor Sport Evolution team from Sweden, managed by Andreas Eriksson, brings two new Fiesta Rallycross cars to compete in the annual Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado on July 19.
"The new Fiesta is an engaging, fun to drive car that is off to a very successful start in Europe and Asia," said Jim Farley, Group Vice President, Ford Global Marketing and Communications. "Thanks to Andreas Eriksson, we’re able to introduce the Fiesta to racing fans in the U.S. ahead of its launch in 2010."
The Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb dates back to 1916, and is the second oldest motor sports event in America, taking its name from the famous mountain peak that towers above Colorado Springs in the Rocky Mountains and is often referred to as ’The Race to the Clouds."
Ford cars have been at Pike’s Peak since the very first race in 1916, when four Ford-powered cars competed. In 1922, Ford scored its first victory when Noel Bullock took his 179ci, OHV, 50 hp Ford Special, nicknamed "Tin Lizzy" by the other competitors, to a surprise victory in the time of 19:50.9.
The two Fiestas will be driven by Eriksson and rally legend Marcus Grönholm in the ‘Unlimited Class’ at Pike’s Peak, in an attempt to be the first team to break the 10-minute mark over the 12.4-mile, 156-turn pavement and gravel course.
Andreas Eriksson, 35, is a four-time Swedish rally champion, with multiple Rallycross victories, and Marcus Grönholm, 41, is one of World Rallying’s greatest drivers, with two world championships and 30 WRC victories on his resume.
"We’re pleased to have a top independent team like Olsbergs MSE coming to the U.S. with their Fiesta Rallycross cars to take on the challenge of Pike’s Peak," said Brian Wolfe, director, Ford North America Motorsports. "This will be a great chance for enthusiasts here to see in this unique setting what a lot of the rest of the world is already talking about - that the Fiesta is a great road car and a great race car."
Ford Motor Company’s director of Global Motorsport Business Development, Jost Capito, said: "The Pike’s Peak event is another step forward for the new Ford Fiesta as a core vehicle in Ford’s future global motorsport aspirations. We’re looking forward to seeing Andreas and Marcus in action on this unique event."
After finishing second in the Swedish championship last year, Olsberg’s MSE team debuted its new Fiesta Rallycross car for this season’s Swedish and European Rallycross championships, and it scored its first victory in just its second European championship event in Portugal this past month.
The Olsbergs MSE Fiesta Rallycross car is based on both the Fiesta hatchback model road cars. The all-wheel-drive Fiestas are powered by a 2.0-liter Duratec Ford engine capable of more than 800 horsepower.
The Fiesta Rallycross car’s suspension system is the result of collaboration between Olsbergs Motor Sport Evolution, Öhlins and Ford of Europe’s Team RS engineers, who are responsible for Ford’s FIA World Rally Championship program.
"We worked night and day all winter to get the Fiesta ready on time for the European championships, and it was great to see it score a hard-earned victory in Portugal at the start of May," said Eriksson. "We are excited to be bringing the car to Pike’s Peak and to be able to see what it can do in such a unique competition. It’s a legendary event, and we’ve already been there to take a look at the challenge we will face. I’m convinced we’ll be a top contender to break the 10-minute mark and give the Fiesta a proper racing debut in the U.S."
Ford Racing North America, although not directly involved in the project, will assist the team with logistical support while it is in America.
New Fiesta in Rallying
The Ford Fiesta will be Ford Motor Company’s main competition vehicle for rallying in the coming years.
Ford has a long and distinguished history in the FIA WRC (World Rally Championship), the toughest competition in motorsport for production-based cars. The series covers 12 three-day rallies across three continents, with competitors driving flat out on roads ranging from smooth asphalt to rutted, boulder-strewn tracks in conditions ranging from -25°C to 40°C.
Ford has competed in the WRC since 1999 with the Focus RS World Rally Car and won back-to-back manufacturers’ world titles in 2006 and 2007. The Focus has claimed 37 rally victories in that period, the latest coming just last weekend when BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team claimed a one-two finish in Rally d’Italia Sardegna in Italy.
The current generation of World Rally Cars will be replaced by a ’Super 2000’ formula by the start of the 2011 season. In April, M-Sport, the team that oversees Ford’s efforts in the World Rally Championship, announced it was developing the Ford Fiesta Super 2000 rally car.
In addition, an all-new Ford Fiesta R2 rally car, based on the top-selling Ford Fiesta road car launched last year, was unveiled last week at the Rally d’Italia Sardegna. Designed to replace the successful Fiesta ST rally car, the new vehicle is targeted at competitors in the popular Fiesta SportTrophy series, as well as in regional rally championships.
The Fiesta SportTrophy, launched in 2006, is a one-make championship aimed at career-minded young drivers and pure enthusiasts alike. More than 10 countries host national championships, with a top level international series linked to the World Rally Championship calendar.
The all-new Fiesta R2 conforms to the latest FIA regulations and will satisfy strong customer demand for an exciting yet affordable point of entry into rallying.
The five-speed Fiesta R2 rally car is based on the Ford Fiesta Sport (Zetec S in the UK and Ireland) using the 1.6L Ti-Vct 120PS (1598cc) base engine as in regular production. It is built from a standard conversion kit developed by M-Sport.