Delecour and Ford marriage at an end

From Ben Mulkern [ 24/10/2001 ].
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Ford's Francois Delecour has announced in the French national newspaper L'Equipe that he will not be driving for the Blue Oval next year in the world rally championship. It seems like the lure of some serious money at another team has swung the decision for the fiery Frenchman, with Hyundai or Mitsubishi almost certain to be the manufacturers boosting the Delecour retirement fund. Delecour has been at great pains to state that he had presented Malcolm Wilson with his demands for 2002 at San Remo, but that nothing had been forthcoming from the Cumbrian, and therefore his future had to be elsewhere.

M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson made it clear all along that he could not afford three mega-paid drivers, and with Delecour coming to the end of hs career (he is age 38), he could not be blamed if he thought he could do better driving elsewhere. It now seems certain that that will be the case, however the replacement for Delecour is less straightforward.

Markko Martin is at the top of Malcolm Wilson's wanted list. The Estonian has been denied a 14 round campaign with Subaru for 2002, and the Ford outfiot must be one of the favourites to secure the services of the talented Martin for next year. Ford has already announced that Mark Higgins, their faithful test driver, will be rewarded for his commitment to the testing of the team with a run in a Focus WRC on the Rally of Great Britain (possibly as a replacement for Delecour), and that is good news for the Manxman. However, he is still short of being a candidate for the full third place driver's seat.

The Ford team hs also announed that they will be supporting Francois Duval during 2002. The Belgian's campaign will be predominantly in a Ford Puma 1600 in the S1600 category, however the team ahs promised four outings in the Focus WRC, in a clear move to invest in young talent.