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F1, BTCC, RALLY: This Week in Ford of Europe Motorsport

30 September 1998

Week starting: 28 September 1998


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.

"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," said Philippe Mellier, Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Service.

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).

"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 travelling 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," said Malcolm Wilson, Ford World Rally Team Director.

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 marvellous... The plural of Focus will be Focus...


Luxemburg Grand Prix RACE REPORT
Rubens (Qualified:12th) drove consistently to finish in 11th place while Jos (Qualified:18th) brought his car home to 13th position. The forecast for rain was not to be and although the race started under overcast skies it ended in bright sunshine. Both drivers suffered from a lack of grip on what proved to be a slippery track. Rubens went for a one-stop strategy while Jos opted for two.

'It was pleasing to have both cars finish, but disappointing as well that we were unable to make a greater impression in the race. Rubens' one-stop strategy appeared to be the right one, but he wasn't able to make the gains we expected. Last year the car handled pretty well here, but for whatever reason, humidity or maybe track conditions, we were not able to find that same level of performance this time. We will look towards next week's three-day test in Barcelona to find improvements which will enable us to round off the season with a competitive race in Japan.' Paul Stewart, Managing Director

'The penultimate race of the season saw both Stewart-Ford cars finishing a race for the first time since the French Grand Prix. The whole team will be pleased with the increased reliability shown today during a race in which both engines ran faultlessly. We now look forward to the final race at Suzuka before which the team will be testing at Barcelona and Silverstone with a view to running Series 6 engines in Japan.' Martin Whitaker, Ford European Director of Motorsport

'I was fighting for grip for most of the race which meant that I couldn't improve my position as I would have liked. I was involved in a battle with both Saubers soon after the start but I was forced to run over the kerbs at the chicane to avoid Jean Alesi and Johnny Herbert also took advantage. The car seemed to perform at its best after about 20 laps and just before my first stop it was handling better but the Saubers were out of reach. It wasn't one of my most enjoyable races.' Rubens Barrichello, Car no.18: SF-2/05, Position:11th

'I had a very bad start after a minor clutch problem. Both stops went pretty well but I missed my chance to pass Panis when he got out of the pit lane ahead of me. I had a good duel with Salo from about half-distance. My lap times were quite consistent but I was unable to push much more because I was struggling with understeer. It's nice to get the car home and I felt I drove a solid race.' Jos Verstappen, Car no.19: SF-2/02, Position:13th

AutoTrader RAC British Touring Car Championship(BTCC)

Following the climax of the 1998 Auto Trader British Touring Car Championship, all preparations begin for the 1999 BTCC season, which Ford will attack with a new team and new drivers.

The calendar for the new season is now provisionally announced, commencing on April 5, at Donington Park and concluding once again at Silverstone, on September 19.

1999 BTCC Race Calendar
April 4/5	Donington Park, Leics
April 17/18	Silverstone, Northants
May 2/3	Thruxton, Hants
May 15/16	Brands Hatch, Kent
May 30/31	Oulton Park, Cheshire
June 19/20	Donington Park, Leics
July 3/ 4	Croft, N. Yorks
July 17/18	Snetterton, Norfolk
July 31/ Aug 1	Thruxton, Hampshire
August 14/15	Knockhill, Scotland
August 29/30	Brands Hatch, Kent
September 11/12	Oulton Park, Cheshire
September 18/19	Silverstone, Northants 


Ford Credit Fiesta Championship news will return on 19 October with a preview for the Ford Fiesta Winter Series which gets underway at Brands Hatch on 25 October


Slick 50 Formula Ford Championship runner-up Derek Hayes moved into the lead of the Autolite Formula Ford Eurocup after dominating the second round at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) on Sunday. The Ulsterman powered passed team-mate Jenson Button on the run to Les Combes on lap five and was never threatened for the remainder of the race after Button made an uncharacteristic error and spun at Pouhon.

"We were both really pushing hard at the start and were able to pull away very easily. I was really committed, especially at Eau Rouge where I was almost flat which caused me to nip through part of the gravel trap on one lap!" Derek Hayes

Several other Slick 50 series drivers made the trip to the Belgian track. Craig Murray battled back to eighth position after an early clash with Daniel Wheldon, who powered through into second place. Jeff Wright was equally impressive, finishing 11th in the factory Vector while a drying track cost wet weather tyre-shod Barry Horne and Tom Sisley strong finishes. Mark Fullalove impressed although alternator problems prevented Tom Herridge from racing.

The Formula Ford Eurocup resumes at Hockenheim on 11 October

With Slick 50 Formula Ford Championship teams embarking on a short break, there will be no news update next week


Tuesday, 29 September
Paris International Motor Show Press Day - Unveiling of the Ford Focus World Rally Car