The Arena International Motorsport team has completed its first shakedown of its WTCC-spec Ford Focus as it prepares to make its debut in the 2012 World Touring Car Championship season.
The test took place at the manufacturer’s technical centre in Essex in the lead-up to Christmas, with the purpose-built car fitted with a 1.6-litre turbocharged Ford engine and the series-spec Yokohama tyres.
The new car will undergo an FIA inspection later this month, while it is also continuing negotiations with potential drivers who will get behind the wheel in the championship.
Hotly tipped is resident Ford driver Tom Chilton, while SUNRED veteran Gabriele Tarquini is also rumoured as a possible candidate for another seat, with his negotiations with Volvo seemingly over when the Swedish carmaker all but confirmed that it would not contest a sophomore season in the championship.
“It has been very exciting to see the development of this new car,” said Chilton, who competed with the team in last year’s British Touring Car Championship.
“Of course we’re already very familiar with the new Focus, having won races with it in 2011, but there are certain elements which make the WTCC version a different challenge from a driver’s perspective.
“We had our first proper shakedown with the car just before Christmas and hearing the new 1.6 engine fire up was pretty exciting in itself! The engine was incredibly impressive even on its first run and I can’t wait to see what else it can do when we get our full test programme underway. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but it’s great to have such a new challenge.”
The team will conduct further tests in the UK later this month, before heading to the comparatively warmer conditions in Spain in February.
The 2012 season will be the first time that a Ford has been present on the grid since the German-run Hotfiel team ran a pair of Focuses in the 2005 championship season.
[Image via FIA WTCC Media]