Ford sets new WRC record for rally wins
- 11th May 2010, 1:23pm
The Finns won the demanding three-day mixed surface event by just 2.4sec, also extending Ford's record-breaking run of consecutive points finishes to 124. Ford lies just five points from the lead of the manufacturers' championship, while Latvala lies second in the drivers' standings after five rounds of the 13-rally series.
Ford's tally of 75 victories since the championship was founded in 1973 has helped the company take the manufacturers' world title in 1979, 2006 and 2007 and the drivers' world crown in 1979 and 1981.
Seventeen high profile drivers have contributed to the record effort, which began in 1973 at the 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland. They are Timo Mäkinen, Hannu Mikkola, Roger Clark, Bjorn Waldegard, Kyosti Hamalainen, Ari Vatanen, Didier Auriol, François Delecour, Miki Biasion, Gianfranco Cunico, Tommi Mäkinen, Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae, Markko Märtin, Marcus Grönholm, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala.
The most successful drivers are current BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team lead pilot Mikko Hirvonen and fellow Finn Marcus Grönholm with 12 victories. Grönholm led Ford to the manufacturers' world title in 2006 and 2007 in a Focus RS WRC.
"This is a landmark achievement of which everyone at Ford rightly can be proud," said John Fleming, Ford of Europe Chairman and CEO. "Ford has a long and illustrious motorsport heritage, especially in rallying where our participation dates back more than 70 years. We were involved in WRC when it began in 1973 and it remains Ford's major global motorsport activity. We're there because we're competitive and we win, and when we win our customers win too, as we learn a huge amount from rallying and apply this knowledge to our road cars.
"Our participation in WRC highlights a core attribute of Ford vehicles – driving quality. The WRC is the toughest competition in motorsport for production-based cars. A record-breaking 75 wins at the sport's highest level speaks volumes about the strength, speed and reliability of both our competition cars and our road vehicles," he added.
Gerard Quinn, Ford of Europe's motorsport chief, said: "Twenty different manufacturers have enjoyed the prestige of a WRC event victory. Ford is fortunate enough to have stood on the top step of the podium on 75 occasions. The legendary Escort, the Sierra and now the Focus, which is still winning in its 12th and final season as Ford's WRC challenger, have all contributed to a remarkable record and I hope there are many more wins to come."
Below we highlight some of Ford's most notable WRC wins and present the driver's view of the success.
1973 1000 Lakes Rally Timo Mäkinen Ford Escort RS1600
Mäkinen scored Ford's first victory in the inaugural year of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Finn, partnered by British co-driver Henry Liddon, won his home rally by 2min 09sec. Among the competitors he beat were Ulf Grönholm, father of future Ford driver Marcus, and current FIA president Jean Todt, who co-drove for Achim Warmbold.
Mäkinen said: "As with all my victories with Ford in the 70s, this win was aided by the fact that all the various parts of the team worked well together: driver, co-driver, team chief and mechanics. The team spirit was good. This rally was long and there were fewer breaks than nowadays. There were no tactical manoeuvres, any thought of that and the rally would have been over. It wasn't an easy win, I had to fight every kilometre of the way."
1988 Tour de Corse Didier Auriol Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
Didier Auriol claimed the only WRC victory for the Sierra and his maiden world rally win on home ground in France. Aged 29, Auriol won by 3min 05sec and went onto win the island rally a further six times during his career.
Auriol said: "It was my first rally with Ford and the first time I led a WRC round. I was so surprised to lead that I went off the road soon after and bent my car's rear right wheel. It could have been much worse – I was lucky. The car was physically demanding and I was so exhausted I didn't think I would be able to start the final leg. I did, but on the final stage I pulled the handbrake at a hairpin and dislocated my shoulder! The pain was terrible, but I pushed it hard against the door and the shoulder slipped back into place. I now have that car at my home in France."
1993 Rally de Portugal François Delecour Ford Escort RS Cosworth
Frenchman Delecour scored the first of his four WRC wins in Portugal, earning the new-shape Escort the first of its 10 WRC wins in RS Cosworth and World Rally Car specification. He led for virtually the entire event, overcoming a fuel leak following a secret check by rally organisers which led to a hold-up in the event as mechanics were summoned by officials from another location to carry out repairs.
Delecour said: "It was a great moment. Up to that point I was regarded as primarily an asphalt expert and nobody expected me to win on gravel in Portugal. It changed my image from an asphalt driver to an all-rounder. It was a hard rally. I drove the famous Arganil test at about 4am and it was very dangerous because it was icy and foggy. It was such a testing stage."
1999 Safari Rally Colin McRae Ford Focus WRC
The late Colin McRae, in his first season with Ford, mastered the legendary Kenyan event – the longest, hottest and roughest round of the championship – on only the Focus WRC's third start. McRae took the lead on the second day and won by nearly eight minutes, claiming Ford's first Safari win for 22 years. McRae's winning car remains on display at M-Sport's Dovenby Hall headquarters in the UK.
Scot McRae, who first won the Safari in 1997, said after the rally: "This win means more to me than my first Safari success. The last day was one of the most nerve-wracking ever because on the Safari you can never guarantee anything until it's over. This is a new car and a new team and that makes this very special. It was a controlled drive. You can't drive flat out and win the Safari but we found a good pace throughout and it worked well."
2006 Rally New Zealand Marcus Grönholm Ford Focus RS WRC
Grönholm won the penultimate round of the 2006 campaign to secure Ford's first manufacturers' world title since 1979. Team-mate Mikko Hirvonen finished second. Grönholm led from start to finish, winning every special stage on the opening leg to lay the platform for his success.
Grönholm said: "It was a great feeling to win the rally and secure the world title for Ford on the same day
. It wasn't such a hard rally for me because the car was perfect throughout. A one-two result was the ideal way to win the title and I remember that a lot of people stayed up all night at the team's base in the UK to watch the stage times coming in. It was a long night of celebrations afterwards!"
2007 Rally New Zealand Marcus Grönholm Ford Focus RS WRC
Grönholm claimed his second consecutive NZ victory after the closest finish in the championship's history. He won by just 0.3sec after a titanic battle over 350km – a margin which equated to 7.5 metres or less than two car lengths! He started the nerve-wracking final speed test with a lead of 0.7sec and kept his cool to claim his fifth victory of the year and his fifth in New Zealand – making him the most successful driver in the event's history.
Grönholm said: "It was an incredible fight all weekend and the best battle in my career. There wasn't room for a single missed gearchange. I stayed calm in the rally car and that's something I learned from many years' practice of attacking. The only big stress came with choosing tyres because the conditions were inconsistent and when it's that close, one wrong tyre choice could have ruined everything," he added.
2008 Swedish Rally Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Focus RS WRC
Twenty-two-year-old Jari-Matti Latvala became the youngest winner of a world rally, eclipsing the record of fellow Finn Henri Toivonen. Latvala led for virtually the entire rally to win by 58.3sec. Focus RS WRCs completed a shut-out out of the podium places, with Mikko Hirvonen claiming second and Gig Galli taking third.
Latvala said: "Henri Toivonen is a big hero of mine and in my dreams I wanted to beat his record, so that meant so much to me. I couldn't have dreamed I could win on only my second event in a works team. I started the rally so well and made no mistakes so I was able to control my speed, but it was only on the final day I started to realise I could do it."
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