Why are we so intimidated by elite-level race cars?
It’s a curious anomaly of the online car enthusiast. I’ve lost count of the amount of ‘but it’s SPEEDhunters, bro’ comments on other car culture stories, but when we share properly fast cars, the very same people are nowhere to be seen. This isn’t just an anecdote; it can be backed up with analytics and is plain for all to see across all social media where real race cars nearly always receive less likes, shares and engagement than the stanced VIP build from down your street.
Unsurprisingly, I think about this an awful lot. I always want what’s best for Speedhunters, and while I normally tend to follow my heart when it comes to what I choose to feature or showcase, there’s still that part of me that knows that a lot of professional motorsport coverage will largely go unread. It’s as frustrating as it is fascinating, but it’s a problem which is up to us to solve.
Part of me believes that the lack of access and privacy which surrounds these top-level cars is partly to blame, as we can really only appreciate them on a superficial level. Another part of me thinks that there’s a part of us all which is intimidated by them on some level, or that we don’t want to embarrass ourselves by showing others that we don’t fully understand how something works.
If there’s anything I’ve learned along the way, it’s that there’s really no such thing as a stupid question, and that everyone has to learn at some stage. The more you learn, the more you realise you don’t actually know. Maybe that’s another part of it? To reject the idea of learning, we risk becoming one of those ‘anoraks’ which we all encounter at some stage; blissfully ignorant and not afraid to show Dunning-Kruger in full effect.
This is Molly, the PFCRX World RX specification Ford Fiesta RX Supercar as driven by Irish driver, and two-time European Rallycross Champion, Derek Tohill. I’ve been around entire paddocks full of RX Supercars, and they never cease to amaze me. For me, these are pretty much the pinnacle of how I like to consume my regular dose of speed: Blisteringly fast, tough as nails, and actually look like real world production cars.
Add some lights, turn signals and registration plates, and I would happily drive one to my local Aldi for the grocery shop. Once a week, anyway.
I recently wrote a short spotlight on why you should never turn down the opportunity to shoot a Supra, and this is sort of a natural extension of that story. There was no real reason to shoot Molly; the story wasn’t pitched in advance and could have in all likelihood end up on the actual cutting room floor.
It’s not a new thing, as the Fiesta RX has been around for a few years at this stage, and it’s rough around the edges, still wearing its scars and tell-tale signs of battles.
With all of this in mind, and what we’ve already discussed above, I still wanted to just pore over the car with a 50mm lens and present them to you anyways. I’ll add information where I can, but hope that your eyes might see even more than my lens.
The omission of colour is a decision I made on purpose, as it helps the eye and mind absorb the details much better, rather than just glossing over them.
Molly features a latest specification Olsbergs MSE chassis, clad in a full carbon fibre body kit as designed and produced by Galway Carbon.
Every World RX Supercar must weigh a minimum of 1,300kg (2,866lb) including the driver, their full racing gear, and whatever fluids remain in the car when the car is weighed.
Despite the minimum weight requirements, which some might consider borderline hefty, the Fiesta still produces over 600hp from its longitudinally-mounted 2.0-litre Mountune inline-four. That’s 600hp despite a significant restrictor with a maximum internal diameter of 45mm on the inlet of the Garrett turbocharger.
That 600+hp and 1,300kg minimum weight can still accelerate to 60mph on a loose surface in just 1.9-seconds – faster than a Formula 1 car can off its tarmac starting line.
If you’ve never experienced a full Supercar heat launching in person, I highly recommend that you add it to your automotive bucket list. It’s right at the very top of the most impressive things you will ever see a car do.
While there’s no doubt that the Sadev 4WD gearbox and differentials supply their fair share of effort to propel a Supercar off the line this quickly, there should also be consideration for the Alcon World RX works clutch system and the calibration of the launch control system through the Cosworth Pectel MQ12 ECU.
All of these are vital to a good start and subsequent result in rallycross, as you really do not want to be the last car to the first corner.
Unlike their WRC cousins, there’s no room for passengers in here. Just a single Sparco carbon seat, SCHROTH harnesses, and a Lifeline Zero 275 fire extinguisher system for company. Touch points are limited to a Tilton adjustable pedal box, a carbon Reverie steering wheel, an Olsbergs MSE control panel, a Sadev extended sequential shifter and a hydraulic handbrake lever.
Something that caught my attention was the double master cylinder setup on the hydraulic handbrake, with lines running in opposite directions. My thinking was that one is operating the clutch and disengaging driver when the lever is pulled, which Derek later confirmed. “One cylinder is for the brakes and the other, as you described, for the clutch release for that clutch-less quick trajectory change often required in Rallycross to get the necessary pendulum,” he explained.
I figured since I was annoying him already, I might as well confirm if these notes taped to the inside of his door are optimised shift points or rev limits for a previous outing.
“The crude RPMs will be from the last day, probably five seconds before the final, stuck on the door so that I know what launch settings I can choose for the start line. This will constantly move with changes in weather and the track environment. Finding that magic sweet spot on the start line in rallycross is the holy grail of RX.”
Behind the well used Motegi wheels, are Alcon brakes of considerable size, but not mass.
Another thing which caught my attention was the use of a small scraper to keep the inner rim free of mud and dirt. I’ve often seen the inside of wheels packed solid with all sorts after a rallycross, which must feel like driving with a puncture due to the extra unsprung mass.
With regards to suspension, the car runs a full Öhlins double wishbone setup with Eibach springs. Also, note the carbon fibre arch liners.
With overall weight strictly regulated, the placement of any weight is incredibly important. In a sealed-off section at the rear of the car you will find the radiator setup, which is fed by intakes in the quarter panels. There’s also a dry sump tank and breather mounted here.
Unsurprisingly, aerodynamics aren’t a strong suit of any World RX car due to how much the cars move around under braking and around corners. Still, it’s important that a Supercar looks as good as it performs.
With that, I have reached the limit of my deconstruction abilities here, but I truly hope this isn’t the end of the feature. I know there’s a lot of very intelligent people who read Speedhunters, so I hope that they might share some of their own RX insights, anecdotes or observations in the comments below.
While the rest of us wait for these inputs, I’ll leave some extra images below for you to pore over.