21 Jul 08
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
1997 (with M-Sport)
Ford Focus RS WRC07
1979, 2006, 2007
Mikko Hirvonen, Jari-Matti Latvala, Khalid Al Qassimi
WRC wins at end of 2007:
From the legendary Escort to the modern Focus WRC, Ford has been a mainstay of the World Rally Championship since the early 1970s. This year, the team begins another quest for rallying's top honour with the Finnish duo of Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala hoping to collect Ford a third consecutive manufacturers' title.
The most recent chapter in Ford's WRC story started when British champion and Blue Oval stalwart Malcolm Wilson won the deal to run Ford's campaign for the start of 1997. The Escort Cosworth that Wilson's M-Sport team inherited was long in the tooth, however, and the best Carlos Sainz could manage was wins in Indonesia and Greece on the way to third in the drivers' standings.
Juha Kankkunen and Bruno Thiry impressed at times in 1998, but work had already started on the new Focus WRC. It made a long-expected debut in Monte Carlo in 1999, and big-money signing Colin McRae showed its promise. McRae went on to win the tough Safari and Portuguese events, but a troubled second half of the year denied the team a title.
The Focus WRC proved to be competitive and versatile but fragile throughout 2000, claiming wins in Spain, Greece and Cyprus in McRae's hands. McRae won again in Argentina, Cyprus and Greece in 2001, but a nightmare start and end to the year kept the Scot and Ford out of title contention.