Ford World Rally team has extended its partnership in the FIA World Rally Championship with Italian racewear manufacturer Sparco.

The agreement ensures that Sparco, which currently supplies overalls, boots, balaclavas and racing gloves to Ford drivers Juha Kankkunen and Bruno Thiry as well as the mechanics, will continue to supply the team until the end of the year 2000.

The extension of the partnership comes at an exciting time for the Valvoline-backed Ford World Rally team which last month signed former World Champion Colin McRae to drive the new Ford Focus rally car for the next two seasons.

Ford's Director of European Motorsport, Martin Whitaker welcomed the extension of the partnership. "We're very pleased to continue our agreement with Sparco. Safety is one of the most vital aspect in motorsport and Sparco produces top-quality equipment which the Ford World Rally team is privileged to use."

Malcolm Wilson, Ford World Rally team director said: "From a personal point of view I'm delighted to enter into a long term agreement with Sparco bearing in mind what we've got planned for the future. In 1982 I was one of the first people to bring Sparco into the UK and we've dealt with them as a company for many years."

The Italian company, which was founded in 1977, is a world leader in producing quality fire-proof clothing to over 50 countries for both drivers and mechanics.

Founder and owner Enrico Glorioso is delighted with the continuing partnership between Ford World Rally and Sparco. "I'm very happy for this partnership to continue because I'm sure it will lead to the development of new projects together."