DustTrails, Episode 8: Michael Guest and Ford’s ARC return

After a short stint in the WRC, Michael Guest returned to Australia as a factory driver for Ford. In this episode of DustTrails, he tells the story of those two years in the Australian Rally Championship.

It was a return out of the blue, and the car they turned up with to start the 2006 season was about as perplexing.

For Guest, or any rally driver for that matter, a rear-wheel drive car wasn’t the optimum car to drive towards the top of the ARC field, however, it was sold to the ex-Hyundai WRC driver as a complete package.

“I was a paid driver, paid to drive in the WRC and it’s difficult to come back and then go back to start again,” Guest tells Peter Whitten on the podcast.

“This opportunity came up with Ford, where Howard Marsden, who was the boss at Ford, contacted me and said, ‘Michael, we want to go rallying.’ I said, ‘Well, happy days. I’m always keen to go rallying. Let’s do that. What’s the program?’

“The car was going to be built at the Ford factory. That’s exciting. A real driver’s car, weighing about 900-odd kilos with 300 horsepower.”

That car did not end up in that specification, however.

Ford’s effort lasted just one year with this particular Focus, that was well under par for overall speed, but also from the expectations set aside for their driver, Guest.

“They underestimated it, 100%,” Guest adds. “It just wasn’t up to the rigours of gravel rallying to start with. The car ended up weighing at 1240 kilos with about 240 horsepower, so it was 340 kilos too heavy and 60 horsepower down and a heap of torque down.”

Michael Guest with Ford in 2006.

Joining Ford and being a part of this program, that eventually moved to longtime V8 Supercars driver, Jason Bright’s Britek operation, was a time that Guest does not regret, and one that truly opened his eyes to the vigorous Ford and Holden rivalry.

“I remember, I went to Bathurst to do some PR stuff before we started and (I) had all the Ford gear on.

“I ended up doing a lot of stuff with Craig Lowndes and I remember walking around at Bathurst and it was the first time ever I’d been in that V8 scene. And I suddenly learned that either you’re a Ford fan or you’re a Holden fan.

“People would come up and kiss and cuddle you and want to know your whole life story, and did you hatch out of a Ford Escort Mark 1? How many Falcons did you have at home?

“And if they were holding people, they’d want to spit on you and set you on fire. Like they hated you.

“I found once you’re a Ford driver, that’s it, you’re either loved or hated.”

The entire episode spans almost half an hour and can be listened to for free on your favourite podcast platform.

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