Matthew Wilson has praised the introduction of the Ford Fiesta Regional Rally Car after testing the new car in Cumbria.
The Fiesta RRC is essentially a Fiesta World Rally Car with a smaller rear wing and a smaller air intake restrictor on the turbo.
Stobart M-Sport WRC driver Wilson has done the development work on the new car, which is aimed at FIA Regional Rally Championships in Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Middle-East, where WRC-spec machines are not permitted.
"The Regional Rally Car is really two cars in one," said Wilson. "It's designed for the regions, obviously, but also places like Belgium, where you can drive it with the World Rally Car wing and restrictor in the national championship and then, when the European Rally Championship comes on events like Ypres, you can switch it to RRC specification – and it's really easy to do that."
The smaller restrictor takes around 50hp away from the engine and slightly changes the driving characteristics.
"To drive the RRC, it feels more like the old Focus WRC [than the current Fiesta WRC]," said Wilson. "You're driving it on the torque lower down the rev range. The WRC will rev to 8,000rpm, but the RRC is at its peak at around 6,000, so everything is happening 2,000 revs lower.
"I really enjoyed driving the car and, in the tight stuff, coming out of hairpins, you really don't notice that it's any slower than the WRC. Obviously, as you pick up speed and move up the gears and into the quicker sections, you're going to notice that smaller restrictor, but it's still a beautifully balanced car."
Wilson added that the introduction of the MS1, the base-level Fiesta for the R1 class was also great news for drivers starting out in their career.
He said: "The good thing is that, really from the time drivers start out, they can be building a relationship with a manufacturer and with M-Sport.
"And the new MS1 Fiesta is a fantastic car to start in. And when you're ready to move up to the Fiesta R2, you don't have to sell the chassis, you can just buy the next kit and move up to the next step of the ladder – it really is a very cost-effective way to go rallying from the ground up. And, like I said, you have all the support there from M-Sport."
The RRC will have its competitive debut in Poland later this month.