FIA World Rally Championship
FORD MOTOR COMPANY WILL REVEAL ITS ALL-NEW FORD FOCUS WORLD RALLY CAR FOR THE FIRST TIME AT THE PARIS MOTOR SHOW TODAY 29/09. THE NEW CAR WILL MAKE ITS COMPETITION DEBUT ON THE MONTE CARLO RALLY IN JANUARY 1999, PILOTED BY THE WORLD'S FASTEST RALLY DRIVER, 1995 WORLD CHAMPION COLIN MCRAE. THE CAR WILL BE UNVEILED BY FORD OF EUROPE VICE PRESIDENT, MARKETING, SALES AND SERVICE, PHILIPPE MELLIER.
PHILIPPE MELLIER, VICE PRESIDENT, MARKETING, SALES AND SERVICE-- "While Ford is a major player in the two most important forms of world-class motorsport, rallying is undoubtedly the area which is most relevant to the development of road cars. To maximise the benefits of taking part in rallying, for Ford customers, we know two things are vital for the programme, Firstly you must be a consistent player, taking part over many seasons. Secondly you must campaign a rally car which is a close relative of its road car siblings in order to obtain genuine technical feedback and a cross-over of expertise between road and rally car development. From Day 1, the Focus road car and rally car have been part of an integrated programme. We believe that the kind of passion behind the Ford Focus is reflected in the World Rally Car - the ultimate expression of the rewarding driving dynamics at the heart of every Ford Focus."
IN DEVELOPING THE WORLD RALLY CAR, THE FORD FOCUS TEAM FROM THE SMALL AND MEDIUM VEHICLE CENTRE AT DUNTON (UK) AND COLOGNE (GERMANY) WORKED CLOSELY WITH ENGINEERS FROM MALCOLM WILSON'S FORD WORLD RALLY TEAM AT THEIR NEW R&D BASE AT MILLBROOK IN BEDFORDSHIRE (UK).
MALCOLM WILSON, FORD WORLD RALLY TEAM DIRECTOR--"In Colin McRae, Ford has the world's fastest rally driver and we are determined to ensure he has the world's fastest rally car. The Ford Focus has many attributes which are fundamental to the creation of a great rally car. The chassis is inherently stiff, the long wheelbase allows us to optimise weight distribution, the aerodynamics are very efficient and all-round visibility is excellent - which is surprisingly important when traveling sideways. I think the rally car looks like a Ford Focus on steroids and is perfectly suited to carry the flag for the entire Focus range."
TO MARK THE FORD FOCUS WORLD RALLY CAR LAUNCH, FORD'S DIRECTOR OF EUROPEAN MOTORSPORT, MARTIN WHITAKER ANSWERS 10 TOPICAL QUESTIONS.
How important to Ford is the new Focus World Rally Car ? "We are focusing much more clearly on the two FIA World Championship programmes and Ford is no longer approaching motorsport with a scatter shot - now it's with a sniper's rifle. In addition we are bringing our motorsport and Ford mainstream engineering closer together. With the Focus WRC it's the first time for many years that the competition car has been launched at the same time as the road car. It's a fresh car, marking a fresh approach and one that will set new standards for other motor manufacturers."
How much carry-over does the Focus have from the Escort ? "In terms of hardware and components absolutely nothing, but in terms of competitive philosophy and the will to win, there's a strong Ford heritage to build on as a base for future success."
How is preparation of the new Focus WRC progressing ? "The Ford World Rally team took on the design and development of the car last year and together with Ford's Dunton and Cologne facilities, they've done a remarkable job. The design phase is completed, the build phase is underway and we are happy that everything is on schedule. We are determined that this car will be absolutely 'right' on its debut." How much testing will Ford be able to do before Monte Carlo ? "Plenty is the answer and the need to test regularly is one of the reasons we created the facility at Millbrook. We can go testing whenever we like on site, just wheel the car out of the garage and away we go."
What kind of investment does the Focus WRC programme represent ? "We have identified the right kind of resources to set up and run a programme of this importance and Ford has committed the appropriate finances to do the job and do it well."
What part does WRC play in Ford's renewed commitment to success ? "The FIA World Rally Championship is growing in popularity and awareness almost every day. The changes to future TV coverage are very important and the fact that more manufacturers are joining the competition next year underlines its importance as a stage on which to display their products in an exciting environment."
Does competition activity actually sell more road cars ? "Yes, I believe it does. The FIA World Rally Championship gives Ford an opportunity to demonstrate the reliability, durability and performance of its cars - cars the public can readily identify with in their local dealership."
McRae is a great 'catch' for Ford, but who will drive the second Focus ? "Colin is certainly a wonderful driver to have at Ford and his presence again underlines our commitment to success. As a happy coincidence the Focus programme comes at a time when people across the world - not just in Britain - would like to see Ford back at the top of world championship rallying. This is essentially a British car with a British driver and I'm sure it will attract massive public support. At present we cannot reveal our second driver."
Are hopes of 1999 success realistic - is 2000 the championship goal ? "Of course we want to win in 1999, that's why we're launching in 1999. While there might be some teething problems with a brand new car, it's the mind-set that is so important and we are going rallying to win - to win as soon as possible as often as possible."
When Ford scores a 1st-2nd result, how will you describe two cars ? "Apart from wonderful and marvelous... The plural of Focus will be Focus."