Ford decides to stay in rallying

Ford's recent success in the World Rally Championship seems to have tipped the Detroit company into staying in the WRC for four more years. The company will have to figure out what to do for the engines of the Ford Focus WRC cars because it is selling engine-builder Cosworth Racing and the Jaguar Racing F1 team. The company says it is also developing the Ford Focus for the World Touring Car Championship, presumably the intention being to overlap development between the WRC and the WTCC.

The WRC programme is funded by Ford Europe whereas the F1 programme was being paid for by the American end of the operation and having invested heavily in the WRC in recent years it made no sense for Ford to leave the series before enjoying the fruit of the labour.

"We believe that the infrastructure is now in place for us to move forward and build a team capable of bringing world titles to Ford," said Ford's Jost Capito. Ford will continue to use the current Focus RS and will then develop a new model for the start of 2006.

"There is a strong business case for Ford's continued involvement," said Capito. "The proposals from the FIA to reduce the costs of competing in the WRC, via revisions to the regulations, convinced us to continue long-term. While the exact nature of those revisions has still to be finalised, I welcome these moves. We at Ford look forward to working with the FIA and the other manufacturers to make the sport as cost-effective as possible."

The commitment from Ford Europe is good news for Malcolm Wilson's M-Sport team although the pressure will be to deliver. Ford has not won the WRC title since Ari Vatanen took the title back in 1981. M-Sport has been running the Ford programme for the last eight years.

Meanwhile, Ford's involvement with Jaguar Cars has been under scrutiny with a parliamentary committee into the closure of the Browns lane factory being told by Jaguar's chairman and chief executive Joe Greenwell that the company is not aiming to break even until 2007. Over 1000 jobs are to go at Jaguar Cars as part of the restructuring plan. British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed to intervene after hearing arguments that Jaguar had failed to consult workers and to keep its promise to continue to build cars at Browns Lane.

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