JANUARY 25, 2002
Ford abandons Middle East motor sport
THE first real cutback in the newly re-branded Ford Rallye Sport empire has come with the announcement that the works-supported Ford Focus program of multiple FIA Middle East Rally Champion Mohammed bin Sulayem is to be axed, bringing an end to the 13-time champion's career.
Ford recently announced the name change of its European motor sport wing from Ford Racing to reflect the shift in its priorities away from the circuit to the special stage. Individual importers around Europe run one-make championships for the Ka and Puma models with the assistance of Essex-based Ford Rallye Sport, while the main focus of the works RS teams is on the World Rally Championship with the Ford Focus team and on the Junior WRC with the Puma.
Pulling the funding from bin Sulayem has left him with little time to replace the required funds to run his Focus, and although he will retain a strong hand in guiding the championship he has admitted that his driving days are now over. "Everyone knows the financial problems that recently hit Ford Motor Company, my main sponsor in the last few years, and that had a negative effect on my career. I had strong links with them and it's very difficult to find a sponsor of their caliber overnight," he said.
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