2021 Ford Fiesta ERX STARD Electric Rallycross Review


Our first taste of battery-powered rallycross reveals what to expect from the new generation of EV off-road racing.

This is the latest chapter in the continuing story of the electrification of motorsport, and potentially quite an important one. While Formula E and, latterly, Extreme E have been making all the headlines in their pursuit of bigging-up battery power on the circuits and in the stages, they have done so in an exclusively EV environment.

Not only that, their use of emerging tech and far-flung locations makes them expensive, limiting participation to well-backed factory squads or publicity-savvy grand prix world champs looking to offset their fossil fuel-burning F1 pasts. The STARD Ford Fiesta ERX takes a different approach.

This is the latest chapter in the continuing story of the electrification of motorsport, and potentially quite an important one. While Formula E and, latterly, Extreme E have been making all the headlines in their pursuit of bigging-up battery power on the circuits and in the stages, they have done so in an exclusively EV environment.

Not only that, their use of emerging tech and far-flung locations makes them expensive, limiting participation to well-backed factory squads or publicity-savvy grand prix world champs looking to offset their fossil fuel-burning F1 pasts. The STARD Ford Fiesta ERX takes a different approach.

Designed and developed by long-time WRC stalwart Manfred Stohl’s Austrian-based STARD operation (it stands for Stohl Advanced Research and Development, don’t you know), this all-electric rallycross car (there’s also a rally version, if you fancy bringing along a pace note-wielding passenger) is designed to be bought and run by privateer racers. It will also – and this is the interesting bit – be allowed to race head-to-head with ICE cars, giving fans the chance to experience just how much or little they’re likely to be missing if and when the petrol and diesel engines finally fall silent.

In fact, what’s really neat about the STARD’s powertrain (we’ll get to the technical niceties shortly) is that it is almost literally a plug-and-play solution. What you see here is a Fiesta, and Ford Performance has had a helping hand in the engineering, but it could just as easily be a Citroën or a Skoda. The compact motors and battery are able to fit in virtually any rally or rallycross machine – although for the purposes of keeping costs down, STARD currently favours R5 machinery, which is one rung below full-fat WRC cars.

So what have we got? Well, in the case of the Fiesta you see here, it’s full Supercar rallycross specification, which means a heady 450kW and 1002Nm of instant torque supplied by three motors (one at the front and two at the back) that have been developed by STARD and Swiss company Brusa. These slot transversely onto either side of a modestly sized two-speed transmission (one at the front and one at the back, each of which is interchangeable for ease of manufacturing and servicing) that features a mechanical limited-slip diff. Excitingly, the modular layout means there’s room for another motor at the front, to give a mirror image to the set-up at the rear, meaning that, gulp, up to 745kW  and 300km/h is possible.

The battery is a 35kWh lithium ion pack that’s mounted on the floor next to the driver in an FIA-approved carbonfibre safety cell that can comfortably withstand a 50g impact. STARD doesn’t talk range in the accepted sense, but reckons it’s easily possible to compete in the semi-finals and the final of an event without the need to plug in. There’s a standard Type 2 CCS connector as standard, while with a DC rapid charger you can get 80 per cent capacity in as little as 15 minutes.

Each of the motors is controlled by its own STARD-developed inverter, allowing for fine-tuning for torque delivery and throttle response using a few of the numerous dials on the steering wheel. Effectively, the rear axle can be actively torque vectored if that’s what you want, simply by twisting a controller this way or that depending on the balance you’re looking for.

The rest of the car is effectively an R5 Fiesta with some extra rallycross bits added on, including the STARD-engineered carbonfibre front and rear wings, gravel-grazing front bumper and large rear spoiler. Suspension is struts all round with four-way-adjustable Tein dampers, while the braking system is an AP set-up that on the rallycross car runs without the regenerative function due to the short races, but this is available and, according to Stohl, particularly useful on rally versions.

All in, it weighs about 1450kg, which is around 200kg more than its ICE counterpart, but the electric powertrain’s torque helps offset this and in a straight fight there’s little between the two. This is part of the reason STARD is allowed to compete alongside petrol-powered rivals; an impromptu drag race between the Fiesta and the petrol-powered Peugeot 208 T16 of British rallycross regular Andrew Scott suggested there was nothing in it off the line.

If you’ve watched top-tier rallycross before, then the silence is almost shocking. Sat on the start line at the Lydden Hill circuit, there’s no drama; instead, it’s eerily quiet and calm. Perched next to me is Stohl and I can easily hear every word as he talks me through the launch control protocol. Make no mistake, the excitement is coming, but without the head-rattling rat-a-tat of anti-lag or chainsaw buzz from a turbocharged four-cylinder straining at the leash to be fired off the line, it all seems a little humdrum.

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