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Sebastien Loeb
powers through

Workshops left and right on our tour

Big Bentley GT3 and  brakes

Puma on the run

Puma in for service on stage

1902 Peugeot, first registered car in Cumbria . Not knowingly rallied or raced!

Remember when 'picnic table' rear spoilers were all the rage?

Red Bull paint job

Ford GT40 power plant

Ford GT, one of several on display

Escort Mk1 shell
awaiting restoration
Seemed out of place here

Colin McRae Focus 

Rear end of Ford GT

Graeme Gallaoway's Anglia
CCHMSC visit M-Sport  - Thursday 6 October  
Report & photos  by Jim Paterson

Some of our group gathering in the Trophy Room with Monte Carlo trophy on the table

From all corners of the UK we met up at M-Sport at Dovenby Hall near Cockermouth at around 1700hrs for the tour of the M-Sport facility, to see and find out how they build rally cars, from 2 wheel drive clubman to full AWD WRC cars.

In the Trophy Room, which itself displays a very impressive collection of silverware cups, our guide Roger introduced us to the new facilities we would be seeing. The site map covered the main building we were in, the new manufacturing building and the Test Track.

The new track is where cars are put through their final checks. We asked Roger if he had ever 'had a go' in one of the rally cars, he replied in 16 years with M-Sport he hadn't. We would see this later. Note photographs were not permitted in many of the  rooms we visited, but I managed a few in the rooms we were allowed.

The major changes since we were last here in 2019 were the test track, which was an empty building site last time, and the updated cars now that we are in the 'Hybrid' era. After the introduction and refreshments we started on our way.
Flying Puma's flat out
On our way to the first first port of call Roger told us that the new Ford Puma car is the base model, taking over from the Fiesta, and is predecessor the Focus. The Puma is a stronger car and to meet the FIA regulations uses a lot of manufacturer parts. We arrived at the the gearbox and differential build workshop. To meet the latest Hybrid regulations these now have a drive input from the petrol engine and the electric motor. For the four wheel drive cars the engine drive shaft enters the front gearbox/diff with three outputs one to each front wheel and a third to a prop shaft heading to the back diff unit. That has three I/O ports, one for each wheel and the third to the electric motor. This along with the associated battery pack is mounted behind the front seats.

Which one will I try first?

Now how do I get inside this one?
Our team in the showroom

A bit like F1 cars the electric motor power is used as a 'boost', at take off from the start line and in stage. Roger reported some 118bhp added when this motor switched in. A lot of technology in there to prevent the whole lot going out of sync. The driver has to learn how to manage this boost energy so as to recharge the battery through regenerative braking, acceleration etc. Finally rally cars driving through built up areas, e.g. between stages, have to drive on electric only. With only 15 minutes all electric capacity they have to drive pretty frugally.

Here are a couple of links showing testing techniques

M-Sport Loeb tests Puma Hybrid on Gravel

Hyundai Hybrid testing        

On to our next area to view. This looked down on the car preparation area, where several Puma's, Fiesta's,and we spotted one Focus, were being built / rebuilt for customers. There were a few Bentley GT cars, based on the Continental model, being rebuilt. Bentley we were told have pulled out of the GT series as electric power is taking over from big combustion engines as the Company way forward. They were pretty impressive all the same.

It was noted there was not a hydraulic lift on site. Roger explained that on stage you don't have that luxury, and as the technicians (they don't call them engineers) who work on the M-Sport WRC cars in this workshop get first refusal to travel to events with the car, they will be used to working under long leg axle stands.

member Tom Niven eyes up this GT40

or maybe this Ford GT?

Time to head over the road to see the test track, before the light failed. Most impressive with lots of turns and changes in altitude. Roger told us that testing only takes place on certain days and times, to meet their planning regulations, i.e. noise etc. So you can't just drive on and press the loud pedal!

Back inside we visited the engine department. Most engines are based on the stock Ford Ecoboost block, bored out and fitted with wet liners. The WRC blocks are custom built. Several engines in varying states of build were in the workshop. There is a limit of two engines per season, and with many FIA scrutineer seals not a lot can be done if one goes wrong. As Roger said, you can poke a camera into the sump and down the spark plug hole to see what's up, but fixing it might not be possible without dismantling.  

In the next body build workshop we saw the custom made roll cages being fitted into the body shells. All the pipe bending and welding is done here. I noted the front cage links through the centre of the bulkhead to the top of the coil over spring suspension (not unlike Macpherson struts!) In a head on smash the energy goes through these bars into the inside cage where it dissipates around all the bars in there. Whilst some panels can be changed for carbon fibre, other have to be manufacturer original. The doors however can and are filled with compression retarding foam to slow a side impact down. So in effect the crew are in a protective cocoon.

flight crates loaded and ready to fly

anyone got the keys?

As we headed to our final spot we passed the boxes of kit (spares, tools, oils etc) that go out to each venue before the rally event. For distant venues this all goes by ship, so set off months ahead of the event. For closer venues they go by air.  Remember the technicians that built the car here at M-Sport usually fly out to service it on the event.

Roger presents.... the finer points of the Bentley GT3 cars
Our final stop on the tour was the showroom a stunning 557m2 space suitable for functions, exhibitions, vehicle launches and other private events, like our tour. From a very early Peugeot (never knowingly rallied!) through GT3 Bentley's and a selection of M-Sport previous rally cars, plus some exotic cars, we ended with Colin Mcrae's winning Focus. See more at

We returned back to the main Dovenby Hall Trophy Room for the wrap up. Many questions had been asked of Roger on the way round and his experience added detail that only taking a tour can discover. Well worth a visit and something everyone should have on their 'must visit' list.          
More on M-Sport  

Published 11 October 2022