Marcus Gronholm is a household name for any fan of rally racing. The double world champion is known for his fiery driving style, as well as his unabashed critiques of the sport and its drivers, and in the process has endeared himself to many. Though his career effectively ended in 2009, he was still at the height of his powers then and enlisted the help of Olsbergs Motor Sport Evolution to produce a one-run special for The Race to the Clouds in a Ford Fiesta. Talk about the ultimate sendoff.
Back in ’09, the course was still largely unpaved, and so Gronholm’s aggressive style was on full display as he metered out 800 horsepower over the 12.4-mile, 156-turn pavement and gravel course. That absurd level of power came from a 2.0-liter Duratec, which provided the top-end thrust but lacked the sort of low-end torque that Gronholm was accustomed to in WRC machinery. Fortunately, the machine weighed less than 2,200 pounds, so gobs of torque weren’t exactly necessary.
The car was made manageable with the help of a custom suspension which was jointly developed by Olsbergs Motor Sport Evolution, Öhlins, and Ford’s team of European RS engineers. Plus, the massive wings made to gather as much of the thin air (Pike’s Peak summit reaches 14,114-feet) helps make the four wheel-drive Fiesta squat and obey the Finn’s commands.
Though this big-budget machine enjoyed the assistance of Ford North America and plenty of hype, it wouldn’t live up to its expectations. Intended to be first car to achieve the goal of a sub-10 minute time, it was unable due to turbocharger problems and a crash, but the potential—and the spectacle—was certainly there.