The 2011 Ford Fiesta isn’t just turning heads amongst those seeking an affordable compact hatchback that is frugal at the fuel pump. The all-new Ford Fiesta is also proving to be a formidable weapon in the performance arena as well – specifically, the challenging world of rally racing.
For anyone familiar with the European rally scene, the effectiveness of the Ford Fiesta platform on the grueling switchbacks and gravel logging road battlegrounds where the world’s top drivers meet is no surprise. The Fiesta has carved out quite a niche for itself in several different series, but it has now taken its courage under fire across the ocean to the U.S. where it has become the vehicle of choice for several elite RallyCross competitors.
What is RallyCross? This unique event is part of the ESPN X Games, and it adds a healthy dose of motorized mayhem to a package of sports and entertainment that has typically been associated more with snowboards and half-pipes than high-performance machinery. RallyCross can be thought of as a traditional rally event run on a course that has been shrunk down to either fit inside an arena or within a small local area, which makes it that much more thrilling for spectators and particularly challenging for drivers who must negotiate a tighter and more technical circuit.
The 17th edition of the ESPN X Games wrapped up in Los Angeles, Calif. over this past weekend, and the event marked a dominant performance for the Ford Fiesta as drivers in the top three positions at the end of the day piloted Fiesta track machines to RallyCross glory. Brian Deegan captured the gold medal at the event, followed by Tanner Foust with the silver and Marcus Grönholm grabbing bronze. Heavy favorite Travis Pastrana, hobbled by a broken shin suffered while competing in Moto X competition earlier in the week, failed to make the podium in his Subaru after a crash into the wall wiped out his chances.
The Ford Fiesta’s performance at the X Games is truly impressive, as the event brings out some of the world’s top manufacturers as well as its most talented drivers. There are, of course, several key differences between the production Fiesta and the fire-breathing race cars that turned in a trio of hot performances in Los Angeles this July. Each track model features a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder Duratec engine that is paired with a turbocharged in order to crank out well over 500 horsepower in addition to 600 lb-ft of torque. A dedicated four-wheel drive system helps the stripped down compact racer dig into both dirt and tarmac, and the platform’s short wheelbase gives it the kind of nimble handling required to conquer maze-like RallyCross track designs.
It’s important to keep in mind that despite existing in two separate worlds, the street-oriented and race-bred versions of the Ford Fiesta have more in common that one might think. Ford has taken the lessons it has learned in competition and applied them to the Fiesta’s chassis, making it much more responsive than one would typically expect in its segment. It has also enabled the engineers at Dearborn to squeeze 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque out of the Ford Fiesta’s 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine while still returning 30 mpg in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway. Rumors also abound that the Blue Oval is considering a performance edition of the Fiesta, one which would adopt a turbocharged motor of its own that undoubtedly would borrow much from Ford’s race development program.
The Ford Fiesta has made its mark on the minds of X Games fans around the world, and has helped to show an audience of millions that compact cars can be cool as well as affordable and practical. The Fiesta’s RallyCross record this past weekend points towards a bright future for the platform on the professional racing scene in the United States, and strong interest in Ford showrooms across the country.