The last official World Rally Championship event held in the United States was the 1988 Olympus Rally around Tacoma, Washington, won by Miki Biasion in a Lancia Delta Integrale. Since then, actual WRC-class machines haven’t had much of a reason to run stages in the U.S., because national rallies use differently specced cars.
So when someone turns up in a Fiesta WRC at Missouri’s 100 Acre Wood Rally, it gets noticed. Friend of Jalopnik Steven Harrell posted a video to Instagram Wednesday, showing what looks to be a M-Sport Fiesta WRC rounding a hairpin during testing.
Judging from the images here, the Fiesta is being run by Barry McKenna, with co-driver Leon Jordan beside him. It’s presumably taking the place of McKenna’s 2011 Fiesta R5, which currently remains on the official entry list as car #1, in the Open 4WD class.
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We’ve reached out to McKenna to confirm the car’s status — not to mention what it’s doing here — and we’ll update this story with whatever we learn. American Rally Association Series and Competition Director Preston Osborn clarified to Jalopnik that technically this Fiesta “is not a full WRC spec car as certain aspects of our rules do not allow it.” That’s expected, because a true WRC car wouldn’t be fair to run without some modifications.
I’m not too fussed about the reason for the Fiesta’s presence. It’s just cool to see a WRC car tearing up American soil. Much thanks to Steve for providing these images of it.
This M-Sport Fiesta isn’t the only unusual machine to grace the 2021 100 Acre Wood Rally. Ken Block will be piloting a Škoda Fabia R5+, of all things, for this weekend’s festivities. Block has only rallied Subarus and Fords to date, so this is a pretty big get for Škoda and the VW Group in general, especially after January’s news that Block had parted ways with the Blue Oval. It’s a bit weird seeing a Monster-liveried Fabia, but I think we’ll all get over it in due time.
This Fabia chassis actually won the Olympus Rally in November, with none other than McKenna behind the wheel. Block will look to add another victory to the car’s tally, which seems quite likely as he’s already won 100 Acre Wood seven times before.
Weirdly, today’s testing in Salem came to an abrupt and early end after county officials arrived on the scene, saying the event’s organizers weren’t authorized to run testing on the route they’d chosen. Assuming everything continues as planned, the rally will begin Friday, starting with shakedown that morning. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of the Fiesta and Fabia in action then.
Update March 19, 2021, 9:16 a.m. ET: A bulletin sent to all competitors of the 100 Acre Wood Rally from Osborn at 10:48 p.m. last night and shared with Jalopnik states that the ARA has deemed McKenna’s WRC-derived Fiesta as “outside of the O4WD rules due to aerodynamic pieces on the vehicle.” McKenna is appealing that decision, and per USAC rules, he’s allowed to compete with the car this weekend in the interim provided it passes all safety inspections. The decision on the appeal could take up to 45 days.
According to a Facebook post shared with Jalopnik, the Fiesta has had a few modifications to make the current WRC chassis conform to the ARA rulebook. The car is said to have a 2014-spec gearbox with a floor-mounted shifter (like the images below indicate), replacing the paddles typically found on the WRC chassis. There’s also no active center differential.