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RALLY: Colin McRae to Drive the New Ford Focus World Rally Car in 1999

12 August 1998

BRENTWOOD, August 1998 -- The world's fastest rally driver, Colin McRae, has signed a contract to drive for Ford in the 1999 FIA World Rally Championship. McRae, from Lanark in Scotland, will drive the all-new Ford Focus World Rally Car and will partner Juha Kankkunen, one of the world's most successful rally drivers.

"It gives me a great deal of pleasure to welcome Colin McRae to the Ford team," says Martin Whitaker, Director of European Motorsport, Ford of Europe. "With Colin in the Ford World Rally line-up, we now have in place the most formidable team to contest the 1999 FIA World Rally Championship, with a unique combination of expertise, technology and organization centered around the superb new Ford Focus."

Colin McRae, the 1995 World Champion and runner-up in 1996 and 1997, and his co-driver of nearly two years, Nicky Grist, signed a two year contract with Ford last week at the company's technical development centre in Dunton, Essex, on the driver's 30th birthday. Colin and Nicky took the opportunity during their visit to Dunton to inspect the road-going Ford Focus and the high performance World Rally Car they will be driving in 1999.

"The move to Ford provides me with a unique and fresh challenge," says Colin McRae. "I will play a major role in the development of an all-new World Rally Car. At the same time, Ford's total commitment to winning the World Championship means that my own ambitions do not have to be put on hold while the new car is developed. The rally car is as radical as the road car and it is clear that I will be driving not just one of the fastest competition cars in the world but one which is also undoubtedly the best looking."

McRae has clearly demonstrated that he is one of the most talented drivers of his generation. Over the last four years he has added to his account more fastest stage times than any other driver. He has won the World Championship title and has been runner-up twice.

He has achieved these results by being blisteringly quick in all conditions, from tarmac, through gravel to snow and in European, African, American and Asian events.

A new direction for the Ford Motorsport programme
McRae's appointment as lead driver in the 1999 Ford Focus World Rally Team completes a change of direction that Martin Whitaker, Ford's Director of European Motorsport, has been putting together for the past two years.

This new approach began with the appointment of Malcolm Wilson's M-Sport company to run Ford's rally program. Two years later the decision was made to produce the Ford Focus World Rally Car. Now Colin McRae has been signed and Ford has demonstrated its total commitment to achieving the company's World Rally Championship aspirations.

"Colin's agreement to join the team underlines Ford's ambitions. It also represents a tremendous vote of confidence in our ability to win at the highest level," explains Martin Whitaker.

"A driver with his record is not going to join a team unless it is clear that the team has the capacity to meet his requirements. At the same time, Colin brings to Ford not just the capability to win, but also an enormous wealth of development skills that will enable us to maximize the potential of the Ford Focus World Rally Car.

"The depth of skill and ability at Ford is unique. Malcolm Wilson has demonstrated that he is one of the leading team managers in the world, bringing a driver's knowledge to his superb organizational skills. Colin is the world's fastest rally driver and Juha is one of the world's most successful rally drivers. Colin's co-driver Nicky Grist has the experience of more than a decade sitting alongside some of the fastest rally drivers in the world.

"This, combined with the new performance standards which will be set by the Ford Focus rally car means that Ford will be the team to beat from 1999," added Martin Whitaker.

The Ford Focus World Rally Team will make its competition debut in the 1999 Monte Carlo Rally next January.