Ford pulls factory WRC programme
Ford’s long and storied history as a factory entry in the World Rally Championship will come to a close at the end of this season.
Ford of Europe has announced that it will withdraw as a title sponsor sighting a new change in its marketing strategy in the tough car market.
“Ford has a long and proud history in the WRC and this was not an easy decision,” said Roelant de Waard, vice president, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford of Europe.
“At this time, however we determined that it was better for the company and the Ford brand to reduce our commitment to the WRC and deploy our resources in other areas.”
Ford of Europe’s official involvement in top class rallying dates back to the 1960s with the original Mk I Escort. Despite a period of time in the early 1980s when it was not officially involved in the WRC, it has been a mainstay for over 25 years with the likes of the RS200, RS Sierra Cosworth 2WD, Group A and WRC version of the RS Escort Cosworth 4WD, Focus WRC and now the Fiesta RS WRC models.
Ford’s long-term rallying partner, UK-based M-Sport, plans to continue competing in the WRC with the Fiesta. Ford is in discussions with M-Sport to provide continued vehicle and engineering support, including for the recently announced Fiesta R5 for the new-for-2013 WRC-2 series, and the Fiesta R2 for grass-roots national and regional driver programmes.
“We have great respect for M-Sport and Malcolm Wilson, who have run the Ford WRC team since 1997, and there is no organisation with more expertise and commitment to winning,” de Waard said.
“Working together, we have reached a point where the Ford Fiesta has become the car of choice in rallying, and we want to see this continue in the future.”
Ford also said it wished to thank its rallying fans, drivers, the FIA, and its many WRC partners, including team main sponsors BP and Castrol, for their support and commitment.
With M-Sport Ford has won two Manufacturers’ World Titles for the Blue Oval, but it was narrow losses in the Drivers’ Championship to the likes of Mikko Hirvonen, Marcus Gronholm, Carlos Sainz and the late Colin McRae that will also be remembered.
Although disappointed with Ford’s decision, M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson is optimistic of fielding entries in the 2013 WRC.
“I would like to thank Ford of Europe for their enthusiastic support and the faith shown in the team over the past 16 seasons,” said Wilson.
“We understand that tough decisions have had to be made to safeguard Ford jobs, we accept the commercial reality of the situation and look forward to continuing our strong technical partnership into the future.
“M-Sport is extremely proud of our history with Ford since 1997; 208 podium finishes, scoring points on 156 consecutive events and 52 wins from 225 starts in the WRC along with two world titles underlines the dedication and commitment of the whole team in Cumbria.
“My intention is that we will continue to push to secure stage wins and overall results on the forthcoming events for Ford and to push forward with the development work that was started in March this year to improve and refine the Fiesta WRC even further, ready for the 2013 season.
“We will also continue to work closely with our colleagues at Ford Racing towards the launch of the Fiesta R5 for March 2013 and the improvements that we are working on for the R2 car which will continue to the form the basis of a series of national and regional young driver programmes in the future.
“Confirmation of our key championship programmes for 2013 is our first priority and a challenge that the team here is very much looking forward to. After that we can review all options and determine the right direction for the future.”
The decision by Ford opens the door for lead driver Jari-Matti Latvala to join Sebastien Ogier at the new factory-backed Volkswagen Polo WRC programme which is ironically under the guidance of former Ford of Europe motor sports chief Jost Capito.