Rally via cable: World's first competition with a steer-by-wire Ford Fiesta Rally 2
The Ford Fiesta Rally 2 is equipped with the Space Drive steer-by-wire system from Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co.KG and thus differs significantly from the other vehicles in the field. This is because the bolide has no mechanical connection between the force feedback steering unit and the steering gear. The technology has had national approval for the DRM since the end of last year and has been an integral part of the DRM regulations since 2022. One special feature is that in addition to approval from the German Motorsport Federation, road approval is also required to take part in a rally.
The rally platform is a very important field of development for the innovative steering technology. The conditions that prevail are completely different from those on the test field of the classic race track, with regard to the mechanical stress, but also to the extreme load on the steering system in general, if only because of the fundamentally different track conditions.
"In the rally, the advantages are more obvious: the steering forces, the speed of the steering, there are significantly more possibilities than on the normal race track," says Roland Arnold, CEO of Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co.KG, who developed the road-approved system almost 20 years ago from the mobility of the disabled. "In addition, there is a significant plus in comfort. For example, you can customize the shocks that a rally driver gets from the deep ruts in the steering and thus also in the arms."
Fabio Schwarz will drive the world premiere with internationally experienced co-driver Andris Malnieks from Latvia, with whom he has already competed in various vehicles this year. The son of rally veteran Armin Schwarz has already successfully participated in rallies in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania this year. He has also already competed in a Rallye 3 car at the Hundsrück Junior, a gravel rally in Bad Schmiedeberg and the DRM Saarland / Rhineland-Palatinate round.
I was very surprised how good the steering was and I want to gain a lot of experience, with the Space Drive System and the Rally 2. I'm very excited to see where we can make up time. You can steer much more smoothly because you simply don't have kickback anymore. It makes the car much smoother in general.
The youngster also expects advantages in aquaplaning - should it rain. So far, the Space Drive team led by development driver and European Rally Champion Armin Schwarz has been driving on gravel or snow and ice. In 2020 and 2021, he was already successfully in action with the Space Drive Ford Fiesta Rallye 2 at the Lausitz Rally as an advance vehicle. With the asphalt rally over 168.5 kilometers and 14 special stages, the steering pioneers are now entering new territory. But initial tests have shown that the pace and setup are also right on asphalt. "The wide-ranging experience and data from the circuit - from the DTM and GTC Race - were able to be incorporated into the basic setup of the vehicle, which has so far been used almost exclusively on gravel or, in winter in Finland, on ice and snow," says Axel Randolph, Head of Race at Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co.KG. "The first tests on asphalt were extremely positive. The standard is very high because the steering system has to prove itself on very different road or track conditions."
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The steering feel for the driver is different on asphalt than on gravel, as the first tests have clearly shown. "The steering has significantly more bite and reacts much more agilely than on gravel," reports Armin Schwarz. "We have adjusted that." The special feature of the “3 Städte Rally” is that it is held in three countries. Team boss Armin Schwarz knows that the tracks in the Bavarian Forest will be very fast, similar to a country road, with many hilltops. In Austria, he expects the tracks to be narrower and somewhat slower, with many cuts where you can drive into the grass. In the Czech Republic, Schwarz expects the track to be much more choppy, broken up, extremely undulating and angled and twisty. "There you need a car that you can drive well in all conditions. After practice on Thursday, we will be able to set up the car accordingly. We are well prepared." In mid-October, however, the weather will also play an important role.
It can be cold and slippery and in that respect we will see what the conditions are and where we can sort ourselves in," the team boss said. "They are very different conditions. I want to drive a clean rally, with one or the other fast time.
About the 58th ADAC Knaus Tabbert 3 Städte Rallye
The 58th ADAC Knaus Tabbert 3 Städte Rally covers 14 special stages with a total of 168.5 scoring kilometers. All routes will be driven twice. In contrast to previous years, the rally will be held for the first time in the Czech Republic as well as in Lower Bavaria and Upper Austria. On Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15, the rally will start from the rally center in Waldkirchen. For the special stages on Friday starting at 2:30 p.m., the rally will fight against the clock exclusively in the Czech Republic. The route leads to the special stages to Šumavské Hoštice (11.30 km), Zálezly (12.65 km) and Putkov (5.30 km). On Saturday, the first special stage of the day and the seventh of the rally will start at 7.45 a.m. on the track in Sonnen (11.78 km). From there it goes on to Austria on the special stage Peilstein (15.20 km). There will also be a special stage in Julbach (15.30 km) before the rally returns to Breitenberg in Bavaria (12.72 km).