P-G Andersson believes the next generation of World Rally Championship machinery will delight fans, after testing Ford's 2011 Fiesta RS WRC in Cumbria last week.
There had been concerns that the switch from a two-liter to 1600cc engines might lessen the spectacle at the sport's highest level – with that worry echoed following the World Motor Sport Council's decision to ban the use of paddle-shift gear changes in the next generation of World Rally Cars. Andersson is convinced there is nothing to fear from 2011, however.
"OK, you have to move your arm a bit farther to change the gear," said Andersson, "but it's not a problem. As a driver, the paddle-shift is easier, you just flick it, whereas without the hydraulics pulling the gearstick requires a bit more effort, but once you're in third gear and above you don't really notice."
Andersson completed some initial running in the Fiesta, which was fitted with the detuned engine from the current Focus in an effort to replicate the power output of next year's 1.6-liter turbo engine which is still being developed, at Kirkbride Airfield in Cumbria.
"The Fiesta was fantastic to drive, really good fun," said Andersson. "There's no doubt that the rally fans are going to enjoy this car next year. Of course, the engine is a little bit different for next year, but the action in the stages will be just the same – it will be fantastic car, especially for the forest."
As well as the decision to outlaw the use of paddle shifts, last week's World Motor Sport Council meeting also confirmed a 13-round calendar for next season and a return to competition among tire manufacturers – with Pirelli's position as sole supplier to the WRC drawing to a close at the end of this season.
Starting at next week's Rally Bulgaria, co-drivers' names will also return to the rear windows of cars competing in the WRC.