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

4 November 1998

Week starting: 2 November 1998


NORTHAMPTON, England, 2 November, 1998 - Neil Ressler, has been appointed Chairman of Cosworth Racing, with immediate effect. Currently Vice President of Advanced Vehicle Technology for Ford Motor Company, he will also take up a new position as Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Research and Vehicle Technology for Ford, on 1 January 1999. Ressler will also be joining the Stewart Grand Prix board as a non-executive director.

The appointment of Neil Ressler underlines Ford's commitment to move forward with its world wide motorsport programme at a rapid pace and help Cosworth Racing to play a key role in the integration of Ford's advanced vehicle technology programmes.

Cosworth Racing's interim Managing Director Dick Scammell will work with Neil Ressler to oversee the transition of Cosworth Racing into its new position as a fully owned Ford subsidiary.

Ford completed the purchase of Cosworth Racing from Audi AG less than two months ago.

Cosworth's fame is founded on nearly 40 years of success in top-level motor sport around the world, Cosworth engines have powered cars to victory in 174 Grands Prix, 12 Indianapolis 500s, and countless other international and national rallies and races. Cosworth Racing builds a greater variety of racing engines than any other manufacturer

Cosworth Racing builds the Zetec-R V10 engines that power the Formula One Stewart-Ford cars; in Champ Cars, Ford-Cosworth engines are more widely used than those of any other manufacturer, and the company also builds the Ford-Cosworth V6 that drives the British Touring Car Championship Ford Mondeos.

Week beginning: 2 November 1998

Australia is the location for the Ford World Rally team's final overseas journey of the 1998 FIA World Rally Championship. Juha Kankkunen and Bruno Thiry will drive their usual Valvoline-backed Ford Escort World Rally Car on the Rally Australia, one of the most-favoured events of the season for drivers and teams. Despite suffering rib injuries following their crash on Italy's Sanremo Rally last month, Juha Repo will be fit enough to partner Kankkunen while Stphane Prvot will be co-driving for fellow Belgian Thiry.

Both drivers drove the Escort World Rally Car during a four-day test close to the Ford World Rally team base in Cumbria before leaving for Australia. A major part of the test was focused on working with tyre partner Michelin to develop a suitable tread pattern to combat the unique ball-bearing gravel surface found in the part of Australia where the rally is held.

The four-day rally, the 13th and penultimate round of the championship, is based in the Western Australian city of Perth. It begins on Thursday with a spectacular floodlit super special stage over a purpose-built circuit in the city's Langley Park, a test which usually attracts crowds of up to 35,000. Three days of tough driving over gravel tracks follow before the finish back in the city on Sunday.

"This is one of my favourite rallies in the championship, which is hardly a big surprise given that I've won there on four occasions! Technically, it's quite a difficult event on which to drive. Firstly, we have to cope with the millions of small stones which cover the gravel tracks in that area and give the effect of driving on marbles. Secondly, there are no ditches and the trees stand close to the side of the track. So if you do make a mistake, even just sliding wide, then it's very easy to end the rally by colliding with a large tree," said Juha Kankkunen.

"The Rally Australia is one of the best organised events in the World Championship. It's probably easiest to compare it with the Rally of Great Britain or Rally of Finland in that you need previous experience there to be able to perform well. It's a difficult event for drivers and if you've never been there before you will always struggle. The roads are narrow and fast and differ noticeably from those in Europe and it's hard to find a proper rhythm. Obviously most of the attention is focused on the World Championship battle but following our recent test in Britain, I'm confident that the Escort World Rally Car is capable of a good result and make the long journey back to Europe a happy one," said Bruno Thiry.

"This is a very difficult event because the surface of the special stages in Western Australia is quite unique. The roads are covered in millions of tiny stones, which are just like ball-bearings, and they are very slippery to drive on. The only way for us to combat this is to create a more open tread on the tyres to disperse the stones and we've been working closely with Michelin to achieve this. The difficulty is that if the tyre tread is too open they will be destroyed on the longer stages so the key is to find a compromise which will offer maximum grip and preserve durability. Juha and Bruno tested an entirely new tread pattern in Britain at the end of last month and they were delighted," said Ford World Rally team director Malcolm Wilson.

Testing of the new Ford Focus World Rally Car, to be used by the team in the 1999 FIA World Rally Championship, is continuing behind closed doors this week in Britain. Having successfully completed the early work, which included gaining performance data from the all-new four-wheel drive car, the Ford World Rally test team will move on to endurance work during the course of this week.


Tuesday 3 November
FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Australia, Recce ends

Wednesday 4 November
FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Australia, Shakedown test, Langford Park

Thursday 5 November
FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Australia, Scrutineering and Leg 1, Perth

Friday 6 November
FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Australia, Leg 2, Perth

Saturday 7 November
FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Australia, Leg 3 and finish, Perth