Focus WRC answers the doubters

From Ben Mulkern [ 21/01/2002 ].
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Some might say that the Monte Carlo Rally was a big rally for M-Sport and the Focus WRC. The Cumbrian outfit has run the blue oval's rallying efforts since 1999 with the Focus WRC, and in rallying terms, that's a long time to spend in meeting your goal.Moreover, the Focus is not the newest car on the block, and could it be that M-Sport has taken development of the best selling hatchback as far as they can? Has the car been over-developed?

Well, the result from Monaco was a welcome fillip for team boss Malcolm Wilson, as the car performed beautifully - OK, it wasn't a win, but a third and fourth place on asphalt - it's almost like a win.

When you take a look at the maulings that Ford took last year in San Remo and Corsica, you realise that the quiet development of the car over the winter has paid off on the season's first event. You have to say that this year's Monte was an asphalt event, so things bode well for the team this year, especially with the asphalt Rally of Germany coming into the equation at the loss of a gravel rally (Portugal).

For McRae and Sainz, the old rivalries continue, with an event long battle of wills which this time resulted in a top third place for the Spaniard. The way he manages to wangle a podium place out of an event like this still says so much about the man, and is the very quality that McRae probably wishes he had more of.

Once again the Scot was riddled with bad luck, as engine maladies at the end of day two cost him a chunk of time, which he managed to rescue to some extent with his fine overhaul of Marcus Gronholm on the final morning. The Lanark man says he is satisfied with the result - and many tip him for a Sweden (first non-Scandinavian) victory. What do you think of that?

As for Markko Martin, he got to the end , which was the objective - he promises so much more as the season develops.

I reckon this was a first class event for Ford, and challenges those who thought the Focus WRC was getting long in the tooth. The winter's efforts have paid off at least on the first event - they must take advantage before Peugeot et al get their act together.