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  Home > Teams > Past WRC teams > Ford
1970s
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Ford, also affectionately known as the Blue Oval, has been involved in WRC longer than any other team and actually their rallying history pre-dates WRC by a mile. When 1973 dawned and the Championship was created, Ford continued with their proven and classic Ford Escort Mk I. It was upgraded to Mk II a few years later and Ford team, run from Ford Boreham at UK, was the main challenger in the series throughout the 1970's. Factory involvement died off during 1979 as Ford was planning a replacement for the venerable Escort but as an affordable and potent car, Escort was run by privateers to a great effect for years to come.

For official Ford involvement, the 1979 marked the start of the sole longer period that Ford wasn't officially involved with the WRC. With upcoming changes to technical regulations (FIA's Appendix J) and expected end of production of rear-wheel driven Escort in October 1980, it's homologation was in jeopardy. Ford's intention was to continue with rallying and so they examined various options, like running a smaller front-wheel driven Fiesta. In fact, Fiesta had been fielded in 1979 Monte Carlo in hands of Ari Vatanen and Roger Clark, running alongside Waldegard and Mikkola in Escort RS1800s.

RS1700T
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At this point, Audi quattro had been announced but not yet taken seriously outside the Audi Sport. Ford felt that Fiesta was not up to the task and when details of Group B regulations began to emerge, an idea of special competition version of new Escort for Group B was conceived. By autumn 1980, initial plans were ready for the new car and design work began. Based on the boxy bodyshell of the new front-wheel drive Ford Escort, car was to be converted to a rear-wheel drive and equipped with a turbo. News of the car was leaked to the press too early by Walter Rohrl, who had been invited to visit the Ford factory to discuss a possible drive. Resulting publicity forced Ford to show the car, now dubbed as Ford Escort RS1700T, to the press in July 1981 but at that point it was nowhere near ready.

Media was following Ford closely and mounting pressures on them. Official debut dates were set and missed due to hassle with settling the final specification, choosing the engine and delays in deliveries of Hewland-produced transmissions. Two prototypes, each with different specification, were tested after the 1982 Rally Portugal in same roads and Vatanen crashed the other in a high-speed accident. However, completion was nearing and in January 1983, Ford announced that RS1700T would debut in 1983 Tour de Corse. But March 14th 1983, the new Director of European Motor Sports Stuart Turner abruptly cancelled the whole project. He saw that car had very little, if any, hope against already established Lancia 037 Rally and 4WD Audi quattro.

Ford's intention to get back to WRC did not waver, however. Turner's words in cancellation notice told this clearly: "Make no mistake - we shall be back, although not with the cars we have under development at the moment". But if not with RS1700T, with what then?

Ford returns
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By this time, Group B was getting wilder by the minute and also Ford realized that they couldn't possibly go on with anything even remotely production related. Even though work on the concept was begun right away, it would be almost three more years before the Ford's official WRC re-entry was a reality. The successor was named Ford RS200 and by using only a number as the name of the new car, the lack of link to production was underlined. As it had no production base, RS200 had to be designed from scratch and this took time. Design was very good, on paper, but by the time car reached WRC stages, the opposition was well on their second evolutions. RS200 finished third on it's debut in 1986 Swedish Rally but tragedies of 1986 soon followed, leading to immediate ban on evolutions and Group B by the end of the year.

Again Ford was left with little to show for a long and expensive development programme. Luckily they had developed Group A Ford Sierra alongside the RS200 and had a car ready to rally when 1987 Monte Carlo came. Initially team ran version with four-wheel drive and big 2.8 litre atmospheric engine but soon reverted to a rear-wheel driven but turbo-charged version. Unfortunately for Ford, they had no production version which would have both 4WD and turbo until 1990 when Ford Sierra Cosworth 4x4 arrived. It was basically a good car, perhaps slightly too big and when team signed Francois Delecour and later Miki Biasion, Ford's fortunes looked brighter again.

Escort returns
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Ford and Escort, that's how it should be. And that's how it was to be once again when the all-new Ford Escort RS Cosworth debuted in 1993 Monte Carlo. It was designed to be a brilliant rally car and it was destined to be a brilliant rally car - except that much of it's promise was wasted on Ford management blunders and lack of resources. Most of the car's success came in 1993 and soon it's fame was waning fast. Lancia's departure seemed to leave door open for glory but new Japanese challengers in form of Toyota, Mitsubishi and Subaru had stepped up their efforts and success was hard to come by.

When Delecour's leg was broken in a road accident in 1994, Ford suffered from lack of drivers. One-off drivers were drafted in to help the team, including Tommi Makinen who got his big break with the team by winning 1994 1000 Lakes Rally. Running a full-blown rally team with salaried Ford UK employees off from Boreham was a huge financial and logistical drain. In the end, Ford gave running of their rally team over to RAS at Belgium for 1995 season.

M-Sport era
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From 1997 Ford's WRC programme has been run by Malcolm Wilson's M-Sport. For two years they ran a World Rally Car version of the Escort, hastily assembled cars that managed to reach the start line of 1997 Monte Carlo Rally only in the last minute. But for start of the 1999 Ford not only debuted the brand-new Ford Focus WRC but also had lured Colin McRae off from Subaru. New car was a bit of a rush-job but soon gained fame with extreme ruggedness - a requirement for McRae's style of driving. When Carlos Sainz joined the team for 2000, Ford seemed to have a perfect line-up. Despite trying harder than ever, team was unable to capture either of the titles over the next few years.

For 2003, Ford made radical decision and did not renew it's contract with neither McRae or Sainz but instead relied on younger (and much cheaper) Markko Martin and Francois Duval. This allowed them to concentrate on car development and with new chief engineer Christian Loriaux, team produced the best Focus variant yet, the famous Focus WRC2003. Unfortunately, it was a bit fragile and even though young drivers did well, captured only the hearts and minds of the fans but no titles. Both Martin and Duval were soon lured away to other teams and 2005 season was a bit of a stop-gap year of preparation (once again).

After Peugeot withdrew from the WRC, their star Marcus Gronholm joined Ford for 2006 and even though Citroen-backed private Kronos team, led by Sebastien Loeb, gave good opposition, Ford was finally able to capture the makes' title after 27 years. The feat was repeated again for 2007, this time against the full Citroen works team.

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M-Sport HQ
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M-Sport new headquarters at Dovenby Hall, proudly presented by Malcolm Wilson. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
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