After 173 event starts, the Focus makes its final appearance as Ford's team entry in the World Rally Championship at Rally GB this weekend. Next season the Focus will be replaced by a World Rally Car based on the Fiesta model.
World champions Marcus Grönholm, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen headlined a long list of drivers and co-drivers attending the function at Cardiff's Millennium Centre. The trio claimed back-to-back manufacturers' world titles for Ford in 2006 and 2007 in Focus RS WRCs. Timo Rautiainen, the fourth member of the winning quartet, was unable to attend.
Other winning Ford Focus RS WRC drivers and co-drivers attending in Cardiff were Nicky Grist (nine wins with the late Colin McRae), Markko Märtin (five wins), Jari-Matti Latvala (four wins), Miikka Anttila (four wins) and Luis Moya (two wins). Colin McRae was represented by his father, Jimmy.
The Focus made its debut in the 1999 Monte Carlo Rally. Since then M-Sport, Ford of Europe's rally partner, has built 97 different cars for testing and competition in the WRC. It has won on 44 occasions, finished second in 43 rallies and taken third in 55 events.
"The Ford Focus RS WRC will be remembered as one of the sport's great rally cars," said Ian Slater, Ford of Europe's Vice-President of Communications and Public Affairs. "It was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in 1998, exactly at the same time as the Focus road car was launched. The successes of the road and rally models have run in parallel since then.
"When the car starts Rally GB tonight, it will be strange to think that it's the final time we'll see an official factory team Focus in action on a WRC rally. Victory on its final outing would be the perfect way to bring the curtain down on a great career, and both Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala are targeting nothing less," said Slater.
M-Sport managing director and BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson has overseen the build of every Focus rally car.
"I have some wonderful recollections of the car from the past 12 seasons,” said Wilson. “The first win in Kenya was special, because the Safari Rally was the toughest in the championship and the Focus was still so new. But the moment that we clinched the manufacturers' world championship with the car in New Zealand in 2006 will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
"The moment that we clinched the manufacturers' world championship with the car in New Zealand in 2006 will stay with me for the rest of my life.”