When world rallying introduced a new formula for ‘World Rally Cars,’ Ford needed a completely new car to meet the new rules. Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport organisation, then small but soon to expand considerably, was contracted to do the job, completed the design in less than a year, and spent the next 12 years campaigning this turbocharged four-wheel-drive car all round the world.
Working from state-of-the-art premises at Dovenby Hall, near Cockermouth, in Cumbria, M-Sport built a total of no fewer than 97 Focus WRCs, which were always competitive at World level, this being proved by the fact that they won 44 World Championship events. In that time, stellar drivers such as Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, Markko Märtin, Marcus Grönholm and Mikko Hirvonen all added to the mystique of an ultra-professional organisation, along with substantial support, and sponsorship, from the drinks giant Martini, the oil company BP (and its major subsidiary Castrol), and the state of Abu Dhabi.
In building up its own in-house technical expertise, M-Sport not only engineered and developed the entire car on behalf of Ford, but gradually took over development (and eventually manufacture) of the 300bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, and led the design of the complex four-wheel-drive transmissions provided, at first, by Xtrac, and later by Ricardo.
M-Sport’s reputation within the sport of rallying was such that, when the regulations once again changed, the company was immediately able to produce a new-generation Fiesta WRC, and continue with its winning ways.