Steve Sutcliffe: A Formula Ford racing car
is not perhaps the most obvious choice of vehicles compared with an Audi R8 supercar,
a BMW M6 GranCoupe, or a Mercedes A45 AMG. But here’s the thing, because this particular
Formula Ford is, in fact, road legal. Hence, the reason it wears numberplates, has a set
of headlights, and even has a tax disc to prove it.
Okay, I’m sitting on a 1.0-litre turbocharged engine. It’s been pretty heavily turbocharged.
Ford says it’s got just over 200bhp, which might not sound a great deal until you realise
that this car weighs less than 500kg. It’s got mega, mega performance as a result – quite
a lot more straight line performance than a regular Formula Ford would have.
It’s the torque that’s most impressive. I just put my foot down now, and – wow – in
fourth gear you’ve got a big, big thrust in the back for starters, but you also get
all these massive chatters and fizzes from the wastegate because it opens and closes
as it dumps boost. It sounds just like a mid-80s touring car. It’s fantastic. Listen. (Laughs), I mean the rest of this car is absolutely straight Formula Ford – sequential gearbox, double wishbone suspension front and rear, actually be no curb weight whatsoever. Super
hyper-instinctive, hyper-precise steering. And the movement on all the pedals, it’s just
tiny. The brake pedal moves about an inch backwards and forwards through its total travel.
That’s really nice because it’s a lovely solid pedal to lean up against.
This car is all about showcasing Ford’s award-winning three-cylinder engine. It’s basically to show
the world, I guess, an alternative view to what a sports car could be like. We’re going
to show you what it will do to an Audi R8 V10 in a straight line, and to an M6 going around
a corner, and a Mercedes A45 AMG going through The Snake (test track). It can live with or beat
all of those cars, despite having only a 1.0-litre engine.
I think the real killer point about this car is not just how fast it is in a straight line
or around corners, it’s how much fuel you don’t use in the process. Ford reckons that
this car will do 118mpg. That’s mad – all that performance and 100mpg. That’s the answers
to all of our prayers, isn’t it? Okay, so here’s how the Ecoboost from the Ford
compared with the Audi in a straight drag race up to about 100mph. Unfortunately, it was
soaking wet when we started filming as you can see, which gave the four-wheel drive Audi
a massive advantage off the line. But when we compared them in the dry a bit
earlier, before the cameras started rolling, the Formula Ford could stay with the Audi
up to 90. In fact, it was a little bit quicker. Once again, it was wet when we filmed the
Ford and the M6 going through our favourite corner on the test track. As you can see, the M6
was all over the place while the Ford just basically drove through with no problems.
Even so, the lack of inertia in the Ford was very obvious. Beside it, the M6 felt like
a bit of a tank, although it did provide us with the perfect opportunity to do some gratuitous sideways driving. It was the same when we compared the Ford
with the A45 through The Snake. The A-class felt more stable, true, and it probably had
a bit more grip, thanks mainly to the Ford’s not entirely rain-friendly tyres, but the
way the Ford could change directions so rapidly, thanks to its light weight, was still a real
eye opener. That’s the one key lesson in all this, I guess,
which is lightness in a sports car really is the Holy Grail. And when you don’t have
two tonnes of car to lug about but instead, in this case, just half a ton, when everything
else kind of falls into place, sports car makers of the world, please take note.