While other forms of motorsport have waxed and waned for Ford over the past several decades, two that have been pretty consistent are NASCAR and rallying. While NASCAR is pretty much an American exclusive phenomenon, rallying is popular just about everywhere else on the planet. For the 2022 edition of the FIA World Rally Championship, Ford is preparing a brand new contendor along with its partners at M-Sport, the Puma Rally1 with a new plug-in hybrid powertrain.
For those reading this outside of Europe, the current Puma is Ford’s subcompact crossover, not to be confused with the subcompact coupe of the same name from the late 1990s. The Puma is based on the same architecture as the Fiesta and is taking over from that model in WRC.
The WRC is getting a major revamp for 2022 with a new class structure known as the FIA Rally Pyramid. At the top of the Pyramid is the Rally1 class where competitors will race for the world championship and the foundation of the pyramid is Rally5 with lower cost and performance machines for entry-level competitors.
The new Rally1 class brings substantial changes from the old World Rally Car format with more use of standardized components such as a common safety cell to keep costs under control. The biggest change is the adoption of a hybrid system like many other top classes in motorsport from Formula 1 to the 2023 IndyCars and the upcoming LMDh cars for the IMSA Weathertec Challenge and World Endurance Championship.
Like the IndyCars and LMDh machines, Rally1 is using a standardized hybrid system supplied by Compact Dynamics. It features a 100-kW electric motor and 3.9-kWh lithium ion battery with plug-in capability. The electric drive will be paired up in the Puma with a 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. The Rally1 cars will have to run on electricity when moving around the service park and when moving in populated areas between stages. They will also be allowed to use the hybrid for a performance boost at various times during stages.
While other automakers have raced hybrid machinery, primarily in Formula 1 and the World Endurance Championship, this will be Ford’s first attempt with an electrified race car. These are also the first plug-in hybrid race cars to run in a major championship.
The Ford Puma Rally1 prototype has already been testing for several months with the bodywork from the current Fiesta WRC car. From July 8–10, it will make its public debut in Puma bodywork at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK along with other electrified Fords including the Mach-E GT and the Mach-E 1400 which CEO Jim Farley will race in the hillclimb.