RALLYSPORT December 1999 Article by Martin Sharp with Graphics by Jim Bamber.
One morning before Sanremo, the telephone line between Cumbria and Croydon went quiet. Malcolm Wilson stopped talking for an instant. Some swift mental arithmetic later Ford's Director, World Rally jovially announced: "We saved £278 per car by being thrown out of Monte Carlo!" He's referring to the water pump fiasco, when a discussion over regulation interpretation didn't fall in Ford's favour and M-Sport and FoMoCo was forced to hastily re-engineer a standard Focus water pump into the Focus WRC. At around £132, that standard pump is one of the cheapest bits on the Focus WRC, a specialised machine hailed by many as the first of the 'new generation' WRCars. The Focus WRC is costly. But all its parts and assemblies are specialised kit; made in very low volumes, often by hand. Master craftsmen are not cheap: the best materials are high cost... here is why it costs more than one-third of 1 million.
Bodyshell: £148,000 to £155,000 depending on specification
Bodyshell preparation at M-Sport in Cumbria requires some 1200 man-hours. Focus WRC body side panels are unique pressed steel complete-corner sections which form part of the 20-off World Rally Car kit. The roll cage built into each bodyshell totals 45m of high-strength T45 steel tubing, and the Focus WRCar 'shell is claimed to be 30% stiffer than that of the Escort World Rally Car. Courtesy of carbon/aluminium honeycomb inserts in itsdoor panel arm rests, there is also more side impact protection than that enjoyed by the Focus road car.
The Focus World Rally Car is a big car. Its bodyshell is 90kg heavier than that of the Escort WRCar, and a weight reduction programme has been followed through 1999. The Focus has the longest wheelbase of any WRCar. Conventional rally wisdom had it that this could be a disadvantage on twisty rallies. The jury is now out on this convention.
Suspension: £10,517 per corner
World Rally Car rear MacPherson strut arrangement, and MacPherson struts also form the front suspension. Lower 'wishhones' are fabricated steel, the majority of the remainder of suspension components are titanium and include low friction ceramic wheel bearings, which are reckoned to save 5bhp.
M-Sport obtains dampers for the Focus directly from Reiger, a small Dutch company, exclusively devoted to competition shock absorbers. Gerard Seesing is Reiger's damper development expert, and his dampers are unusual in that the damper unit sits separate within the strut body, the outer tube just providing resistance to bending. The anti-roll bar principles are the same front and rear and, by having two roll bar attachments per unit, the suspension struts are interchangeable left to right at both front and rear.
Add subframes and links and it's nearly £61,000 for the suspension of one Focus WRC. This is how the costs of one front suspension strut break down (the rears are very similar):
Top mount: £421
Spring seat, upper: £201
Spring seat helper: £189
Spring seat lower: £104
Tarmac or gravel Helper spring: £38
Total = £2281
And that's just the suspension strut...
Then there's a fabricated steel upright at £3537... A titanium hub at £2195... Four titanium wheel studs at £67 apiece... Ceramic wheel bearings (two per hub) at £637... Titanium wheel bearing spacer at £152...Spigots (two per hub) £152 apiece.
Then, linking the suspension strut to the sub-frames costs £3170 for gravel rallies; £3135 for tarmac, and the subframes themselves are £3,332 for the front and £3,250 for the rear.
But then you've got to stop the car: a tarmac brake disc and bell assembly is £413, its six-pot caliper £1750 apiece; a rear caliper is £473. Gravel discs are £366 and use the same £496 caliper front and rear. M-Sport is developing a new steering rack for 2000: the current one costs around £6000.
Hydraulics: £2735 + costs
The figure includes the twin-stage MPC hydraulic pump which serves the diffs and steering rack with hydraulic pressure. The main valve block for the differentials is £485, and the valve block/accumulator assembly costs £780. But that's nowhere near the representative cost of the Focus's hydraulic system; there's also metres of mega-expensive aircraft-quality high-pressure hydraulic hosing to account for.
Initially developed by Essex-based engine builder Mountune, next year Cosworth will continue development of the 2-litre iron block Zetec 16-valve twin cam unit. A new turbocharger is due for next year, but the plan for an hydraulically-actuated wastegate has been shelved. The price is for a dressed engine and includes the turbocharger at £6780 and alternator at £1970 – but not the engine's electronic control unit: that'll cost you an extra £6800. The exhaust system, from the manifold back costs £2850.
That figure includes the cliff and engineECUs mentioned elsewhere. The rest is made up of: £4900 for the card logger for the engine and transmission, £3700 for the colour monitor on the dash display, but that total does not include the cost of the co-driver's Coralba computer.
Transmission assembly: £69,000
The Focus WRC was the first transversely engined car to rally with the Xtrac longitudinal gearbox/transmission arrangement. Peugeot Sport has adopted a similar unit for its 206 -WRC, as has Hyundai for its Accent WRC. By using transverse engine/ longitudinal transmission axes, this arrangement frees space to fit the necessary forced induction and four wheel-drive equipment in cars not originally designed to contain such equipment. It also puts the gearbox behind the engine and down the WRCar technical rule book-designated transmission tunnel. This maximises masses both to the rear of the car, and as low as is feasible. There have been teething troubles, however. The early concept was to use this transmission in conjunction with an engine designed to run without a flywheel... However, in rally trim the car appeared with a flywheel, and its clutch located below the crankshaft centreline. This required a backlash inherent in those gears caused all manner of torsion and vibration-induced problems.
For the 2000 WRC season the Ford M-Sport operation is working hard on relocating the car's clutch to be in-line with its engine's crankshaft. This move of just 20mm will delete one drop gear set - and entail major underbonnet surgery. An entirely new transmission end case casting - and internals - is required, as is the engineering of a completely new engine mount concept, different turbocharger and location and, by implication, revised intercooler trunking. An innovation which appeared for Sanremo was to replace the bell-crank linkage to the push-pull 'invalid carriage' gear lever to the right of the Focus WRC's steering wheel with a cable in Colin McRae's car. Not attached to the body, and independent of any external gearbox movement, this unique test cable proved so effective that it was immediately fitted to Colin's Sanremo Focus. The car's centre and front active differentials are incorporated in the transmission unit - pay your £69K and you get the cliffs too.
Clutch assembly: £15,169
No, that's not a misprint. Even after re engineering for 2000, providing the drive from its engine to its innovative transmissionthe Focus's special titanium and carbon pull-type clutch will cost in the region of that incredible sum. During our Cumbria/Croydon telephone hot line, M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson paused before giving me the figure. And before that he said: "This is going to blow your mind." It did.
Electric's: £15,000 to £17,000
Here we mean the 'mechanical' side of the electronic part of the car. That is to say the wiring loom. The looms are assembled at M-Sport, but don't constitute part of the body package. A blanket price has not been established and the cost above is Malcolm Wilson's estimate. Which can't be far away when you consider that aircraft-quality connectors and wiring - metres and metres of it - are used, together with some 50-odd contact breakers, each of which costs £46.80... to M-Sport.