Australian Rally Championship
Ford Australia will enter an all-new Focus factory team in the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship.
Ford's rally program will focus on development during the 2005 season, including entry in selected rounds of the Globalstar ARC as well as extensive testing and development.
To be known as Ford TeamRS, the all new Focus entry will be engineered and run from Ford Australia’s Campbellfield base in Melbourne.
Multiple Australian champion Michael Guest has been named as official driver for Ford TeamRS in 2005 and '06, with another multiple Australian title holder Mark Stacey as co-driver.
In making the announcement, Ford Australia President Tom Gorman outlined a major commitment to the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship.
"The decision to enter the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship has come after a very long period of evaluation," said Mr Gorman.
"Ford has enjoyed success on the world stage in rallying and in Australia with our V8 Supercar program.
"With that success behind us, the timing is right for us to take on the challenge of the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship.
"Rallying provides a great test for the car and the driver. It is the perfect showcase for the new model Focus' outstanding driving dynamics and performance."
Chairman of the Australian Rally Commission (ARCom) Garry Connelly welcomed Ford's entry.
"Four years ago our championship adopted new rules aimed at attracting further manufacturer involvement," said Mr Connelly.
"This announcement from Ford clearly shows that this was the right decision, and that the sport in this country has risen to new heights that warrant high level manufacturer involvement.
"Ford will enjoy a great opportunity by competing in what we believe is the premier domestic rally championship in the world."
Ford Australia's Motorsport Operations Manager Ross Booth said the groundwork had been completed and now the focus was switching to getting Ford Team RS on the road.
"Today’s announcement is like driving off the start ramp, now we need to get to that first competitive stage," said Mr Booth.
"We will be campaigning the all-new model Focus, which gives us the great honour of giving this car its rally debut anywhere in the world.
"We are not only working on getting the car built for testing and development, but we are also working with a number of partners to provide the much needed commercial and technical support.
"When you see this car, everyone will know that Ford is back in Australian rallying."
Ford has not been officially involved in Australian rallying since the 1970s and early '80s with the ever-reliable Escort. For its return to the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship Ford has invested heavily in equipment and technical staff. Leading the program is experienced race and rally engineer Steve Hoinville.
"The new Focus provides us with an excellent base to build a rally car," said Hoinville.
"The Ford TeamRS program in Australia is unique as our car is being designed and built to CAMS Group N(P) regulations.
"We are not building a World Rally Car; the regulations that govern our entry to the championship dictate a specification much closer in performance to a group N car. However, we are able to re-engineer various aspects of the new Focus road car with one purpose in mind, and that’s to be successful on the Australian rally scene.
"We will announce the final technical specification of the car in the coming months once we have completed our full vehicle evaluation and testing."
After experiencing just about everything the sport of rallying has to offer, Michael Guest is excited about the challenge of being part of Ford's official entry in the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship.
"My involvement already with Ford Team RS has me in no doubt that this is a great opportunity," said Guest.
"I’ve been working with the crew at Ford Team RS in the planning and design of the Focus.
"I have not competed fulltime for the last couple of years, but with all the testing that we're in for over the coming months I’ll be well and truly dialled in by the time we get into competition."
The Ford Team RS program will now go into full swing with a busy schedule of building as well as testing and development.
Further announcements, including the final technical specification will be made in the coming months. The first public showing is expected in the second half of 2005.