Racing simulator equipment manufacturer Fanatec is again proving that its products have real-world applications, by helping none other than automotive giant Ford develop a steering wheel for its 2022 World Rally Championship contender.
Fanatec has partnered with automotive and motorsport brands to create steering wheels twice before already. The first to actually make it into racing action was the Bentley Continental GT3 Pikes Peak, which Rhys Millen used in the 2021 event, though Fanatec hasn’t started selling the wheel yet. However you can buy the 2022 BMW M4 GT3 wheel, which will be used by the factory BMW Motorsport team this coming season.
- Fanatec Podium Wheel BMW M4 GT3 (USA) – $1,399.95
- Fanatec Podium Wheel BMW M4 GT3 (Europe) – €1,399.95
- Fanatec Podium Wheel BMW M4 GT3 (Australia) – $2,229.95
The World Rally Championship is an entirely different animal though, with a steering wheel required to put up with not only the extreme loading of a run up Pikes Peak but the endurance of a long-distance race too. Add into that the frequently dusty and muddy environments and the high likelihood of suspension and steering damage, and whatever Fanatec has developed will need to be the most robust item yet.
At the moment, neither UK-based M-Sport, which has created the Ford Puma Rally1 car as Ford’s factory-backed WRC outfit, nor Fanatec are revealing anything about what the product actually is. A brief glimpse into the hybrid Puma’s cabin shows off an array of lights and dials — and a small LCD screen with the Fanatec logo — on a wheel center, but nothing more.
Craig Breen, one of the drivers who’ll be racing the Puma Rally1 in the first season of the hybrid WRC, comments that Fanatec has “allowed us to get the most out of the Puma Hybrid Rally1 with their steering wheel control panel”, while team principal Rich Millener says that to “now have the same steering wheel that is used in a real life Rally1 car also on your home gaming setup is really quite incredible”.
We’ll have to wait and see exactly what M-Sport’s drivers — Breen, Gus Greensmith, Adrien Fourmaux, and nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb — will use to hurl the Puma around the rally stages, but we won’t need to wait long. The car makes its championship debut on January 20 at Rally Monte Carlo.
Hopefully, as with the Bentley and BMW items, whatever Fanatec has come up with for the Puma will become available for customers to purchase for their home sim rigs in due course.
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