Double world champions Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya completed their first official test with the Ford Martini World Rally Team in Spain this week in preparation for the opening FIA World Rally Championship of the new millennium. It was the first opportunity for the Spanish partnership to get behind the wheel of a Ford Focus World Rally Car since rejoining the team for the 2000 and 2001 seasons last month.
Sainz spent three days acclimatising himself to the Focus on familiar bumpy asphalt roads north of Barcelona, used by the 37-year-old Spaniard for testing on many occasions and close to special stages used on this year's Catalunya Rally.
Sainz spent much of the opening day, under the watchful eye of team director Malcolm Wilson, developing a set-up on the Focus with which he was happy. He then went on to try new Michelin tyres which will be available for the first time in competition on January's Monte Carlo Rally, opening round of the championship.
"Even after just a few hours in the car I can sense the Focus has great potential and the first impressions are quite positive," said Sainz. "The chassis feels very good and the car seems well balanced. I spent quite a lot of time making small adjustments to see exactly how they affected the car's behaviour at speed. It's vital to learn how various modifications affect the handling to establish a base from which to work.
"I'm happy to be back with Ford. I already know the team, many of the mechanics and most of the engineers. I'll try my best to help Ford win the manufacturers' title, and we'll also try to win both titles next year. It's not going to be easy, but I'm here to help and the commitment is there. Ford is going back to the top," said Sainz.
Wilson, who worked with Sainz at Ford in 1996 and 1997, was impressed with Sainz's contribution. "After only a few runs over the test stage on the first day Carlos was providing excellent feedback for our engineers to work on. His initial feelings about the Focus were very positive. He felt that the engine needed more power but we had a 1999-specification unit in the car so that was not unexpected. We will have a 2000 engine installed for our next test in Sweden," he said.
Ford's pre-season programme will continue with Sainz and team-mate Colin McRae testing in Sweden from 13 -17 December and a nine-day test in France in January.