Thu 14 Mar 2024

Remembering when McRae gave M-Sport its first Focus win

Two rounds in and the Ford team was probably eyeing a trip to Kenya with some trepidation. Twenty-five years ago, the Focus WRC remained very much a new car. And that year’s Safari Rally offered a very big test.

The season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo had proved something of a disaster, with both factory Fords excluded for water pump irregularities. Four stage wins for Colin McRae in the French Alps allied to Thomas Rådström’s third place in Sweden demonstrated the Focus WRC had plenty of pace – but did it have the durability?


In a further complication for the British-based team, Petter Solberg had to fly out as a late replacement for the injured Rådström. The Norwegian drove well on his full factory debut, placing his car fifth, but it was McRae who stole the limelight.


Colin’s Focus ran an early third, then moved ahead of Carlos Sainz’s Toyota when the Spaniard suffered a pair of punctures while Richard Burns’ Subaru fell foul of a suspension problem.


The Scot emerged from day two's second section from Nyaru to Eldama Raving with a four-minute lead over Didier Auriol (Toyota). By the end of that day that advantage had mushroomed to 14 minutes from Tommi Mäkinen’s Mitsubishi.


Just Sunday to go, but 25 years ago, just Sunday on the Safari still meant 277 competitive kilometres.


They were no bother for McRae (apart from a puncture on the second of four sections). He brought the car home at the front to score a sensationally quick and controlled victory for the Malcolm Wilson-run team.

Image: McKlein

WATCH: Colin McRae's victory at WRC Safari Rally Kenya 1999


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