Ford signs Sainz for world rally title bid in 2000

Ford has signed double world champion Carlos Sainz to drive its Ford Focus World Rally Car in next season's FIA World Rally Championship. Sainz will team up with Scot Colin McRae to give the Ford Martini squad the strongest line-up of all the teams fighting for the first world rally titles of the new millennium.

Thirty-seven-year-old Sainz is one of the most successful drivers in the history of the sport, his 22 world rally wins placing him second on the all-time list. The Spaniard, who started his world championship career with Ford in 1987, will renew his alliance with the team for whom he drove in 1996 and 1997 when he won three rallies.

He will make his debut in the Ford Focus World Rally Car in January's Monte Carlo Rally, exactly one year after its first appearance, and has agreed a two-year contract with Ford.

European director of Ford Racing Martin Whitaker said the prospect of Sainz and McRae in the same team was 'formidable'. "Of all the drivers competing in the world championship, few display the same degree of professionalism as Carlos. He brings with him a wealth of experience and consistency behind the wheel. We're delighted to welcome him back to Ford and look forward to mounting a strong challenge in both the manufacturers' and drivers' championships next season."

Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson said the signing of Sainz added further weight to Ford's championship programme. "When Carlos became available we were eager to secure his services because, after working with him for two seasons previously, he was the man we wanted in the team alongside Colin.

"His total dedication in competition and thoroughness in testing will put the team in a stronger position than ever before. His attention to detail and ability to identify even the smallest areas for improvement will help us in our continued development of the Focus and put us on course for a title-winning campaign in 2000," he added.

Sainz, who will continue to be co-driven by fellow countryman Luis Moya, said: "I have enjoyed some very special moments with Ford during my career and I'm delighted to be competing with the team again. The prospect of driving the Ford Focus in the world championship is an exciting one and I'm looking forward to the moment when I can test the car for the first time."