"To win the FIA World Rally Championship, the toughest competition for production-based cars, for a second consecutive season is an achievement of which we are rightly proud. Today we have added another memorable chapter to Ford's great...
"To win the FIA World Rally Championship, the toughest competition for production-based cars, for a second consecutive season is an achievement of which we are rightly proud. Today we have added another memorable chapter to Ford's great Motorsport history."
John Fleming, President and CEO Ford of Europe
FORD WINS WRC MANUFACTURERS' TITLES BACK TO BACK*
Ford today won its second consecutive world title by securing the manufacturers' crown in the FIA World Rally Championship with the Focus RS World Rally Car 07.* The BP-Ford World Rally Team finished Rally Ireland this afternoon with a 21-point lead to secure the prestigious title with one event remaining in the 16-round series.
The team led the gruelling championship, which spans five continents on surfaces as diverse as snow, asphalt and gravel, since the third round in Norway in February. It has secured enough points to claim the title for 2007, even though one round in Britain remains.
On Top Again in 2007
Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen triumphed in Sweden, Italy and Greece during the first half of the season while team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen won in Norway -- all in the 2006-specification Focus RS World Rally Car. Gronholm secured a debut victory for the Focus RS World Rally Car 07 in Finland as the second part of the season got under way and added another victory in New Zealand in September after the closest finish in WRC history. Hirvonen added his second victory in Japan last month.
Both Focus RS World Rally Cars were developed by British-based company M-Sport and specialist engineers at Ford TeamRS, Ford's performance car and motorsport division under the lead of TeamRS Director Jost Capito for the last four years.
John Fleming, President and CEO of Ford of Europe, emphasised the team achievement and what the title meant to Ford. "We're delighted with this result. Winning the world championship in 2006 with a new car was a superb achievement, but to defend that title successfully this year and secure the championship with one event remaining is outstanding and raises our accomplishments to new heights. Ford takes great pride in the success of the car and the team and I would like to thank every member of the BP-Ford World Rally Team for their dedication this year. They can once again proudly state that they are the best in the world."
"It's a great thrill to see Ford on top of the world again," said Capito. "We have consistently produced high-quality performances and results through the season. We work together as a team and that bond goes far beyond the proven talents of Marcus, Timo, Mikko and Jarmo. It stretches to the core engineers who provided a super base vehicle in the Focus road car from which we developed the Focus RS WRC. I am personally proud of this result and I now feel comfortable to take on a new role within Ford from the beginning of 2008."
The 2007 title further enhances the hugely successful partnership between Ford of Europe and M-Sport, which has operated the Blue Oval's WRC programme under Malcolm Wilson since its inception in 1997.
Wilson said: "Once again Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen have expertly led Ford's challenge in their final season before retirement. They received magnificent support from Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, who showed increasing maturity as the season progressed to establish themselves as one of the best partnerships in the world and natural successors to their retiring colleagues."
Ford and Rallying -- A Heritage of Success
Ford has been synonymous with motorsport for more than a century. It was on 10 October 1901 that Henry Ford beat the famous driver Alexander Winton to win the Grosse Pointe Race with a 26 PS that he personally developed. In the 1930s the Blue Oval twice won the famous Monte Carlo Rally and from that point on, the list of wonderful Ford cars developed to fight and win in the toughest championship is impressive. They include the innovative Zephyr, the Cortina that triumphed in the incredibly hard Safari Rally in 1964, the powerful Falcon and, by the end of the 1960s, the legendary Escort that claimed the first of its 21 WRC victories in the championship's inaugural season in 1973.
In 1979 Bjorn Waldegard drove an Escort RS1800 to Ford's first manufacturers' title and also claimed the drivers' crown. Two years later Ari Vatanen clinched a second drivers' title in a similar car.
The Focus World Rally Car made its debut in 1999 and since then has won 31 world rallies. It took its maiden title success last season when Ford secured its first manufacturers' championship for 27 years with the Focus RS World Rally Car 06 in its debut season.
*Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA
John Fleming, President and CEO, Ford of Europe: "Everyone at Ford is truly delighted at this wonderful achievement. I have attended several WRC events this year and seen for myself the blood, sweat and tears that go into being successful. Winning a title in the WRC demands so many attributes -- skill, discipline, communication to name but a few. They all come together under one word -- teamwork -- and I'm proud of how effectively so many people have united to deliver a second world title. I'd like to thank our drivers and co-drivers and everyone in the team for a marvellous effort throughout the season."
Ian Slater, Vice President Public Affairs: "Ford has a tremendous motorsport heritage, both at the top of international competition and at grass roots level. I have seen the genuine delight on the faces of our supporters around the world when we are successful in the WRC. These people are our customers and our employees and they, too, drive Ford cars on a daily basis or compete with a Blue Oval on their vehicle. This win will give great pleasure to them just as much as it does to everyone with the team."
Jost Capito, Director of Ford TeamRS: "After last year's title success we knew we had to raise our game in 2007 if we wanted to defend it. The reigning champions become the target of all their rivals and it is an old adage in sport that is harder to defend a title than it is to win it in the first place. Well, we have done that and it is the result of many hours' hard work by many different people. It gives me great pride to reflect on this achievement and see the confidence throughout the team. It's not arrogance -- it's a genuine belief in each other and that belief paid off in Ireland today."
Malcolm Wilson, Director of BP-Ford World Rally Team: "I thought winning the title last year would be the crowning moment of my rally career, but to move forward from there to win it again and cement our place as the best in the world feels even better. It has been another huge effort by everyone, not only all the employees at M-Sport, but also Ford and all the partners and suppliers who have given just as much in contributing to this success. Marcus and Mikko set a professional example behind the wheel and that excellence spread throughout the team, to those members who travel to events and also to those who play such an important role behind the scenes at Dovenby Hall."
Marcus Gronholm, Driver: "I'm delighted! I've been with BP-Ford for two seasons and we've now won a world title in both years. This is my final season of competition in the WRC and I couldn't have asked for a better car than the Focus RS WRC. I've enjoyed some magnificent moments this season en route to the title, none more so than in New Zealand when I won by just 0.3sec after three days of competition. That felt almost as good as winning the title and provided a surge of confidence at an important time of the season."
Mikko Hirvonen, Driver: "This has been a brilliant season for both BP-Ford and me personally. Marcus and I worked well together and that's important because to win the manufacturers' title it's vital to have both drivers scoring consistently and not just one. My task was to concentrate on securing podium finishes and getting manufacturers' points and I feel that I have achieved it. This is great!"