Ford Manufacturer Profile & Rally History

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Ford Home Country: Europe Europe

If you are looking for the makes with the biggest rallying heritage, the big 4 are Peugeot, Renault, BMC (Mini, Austin) and Ford. You could add Fiat/Lancia, Saab and Citroën, but these already with a question mark as Lancia was only small scale, privateer support programs before the mid 1960s and Saab and Citroën have not been in any big involvement in the 1980s-1990s, while however Renault and BMC have also become quiet lately. So if you are looking into rallying heritage from all kind of angles, the two that are left as truly outstanding are Peugeot and Ford. These two share the biggest part of rallying heritage in different ways: while Peugeot was already into the sport before Ford even existed, in fact Peugeot was involved in the creation of motorsport, Ford is the most outstanding make by far when it comes to loyalty! In that comparison maybe Ford wasn't actively involved in the birth of motorsport. But the company founder Henry Ford is as enthusiastic as Armand Peugeot. Henry Ford himself as a driver broke an early official land speed record (147.05km/h on 12th January 1904, he failed the attempt to become the first man to break the 150km/h barrier, but he topped the previous record by over 10km/h). This has little to do with rallying, but once again, Ford is the most loyal brand to rallying by a long way!

So here we go, Ford’s rallying heritage is huge. So is indeed a works supported Ford Model A V8 listed as the winner of the Rallye Monte Carlo 1936, this is near 30 years before Lancias with proper works involvement appeared on the scene! And the Anglia was a widely respected car with many rally successes and the Ford Zephyr wasn’t exactly hanging around either. One unconfirmed story is that Ford also invented professional drivers, when they paid Dutch Maurice Gatsonides for winning Monte Carlo 1953 in a proper works Zephyr VHK 194. We also saw huge Ford Falcon and sometimes Zodiac and in 1969 a Ford Taunus 20M RS won the Safari and as well occasionally a Capri was seen with works involvement. It was as well the 1960s when Ford started to hit the scene really big with the nimble Ford Lotus Cortina, a car that had a Lotus tuned 1.6 litre twin cam engine – a huge success.

It seems appropriate to add a chapter “What was before the Escort”, as many people only remember the Escort as a legend. No offence to the fans as I found even several reknown journalists and motorsport magazins starting the Ford story with the Escort. To their excuse, the Cortina especially in Mk1 & M2 guise was a Ford UK product, the Ford Germany version looked different and had different names. Still, it is an important and successful part of Ford rally history and I would bet most of these journalists will shout "Doh, how could I forget!" when the name "Lotus Cortina" is mentioned. However, do you even know which road car model was replaced by the Escort? The Escort was a straight replacement to the Anglia model in 1968. The Anglia in turn was the first fully European designed Ford (it was related but not identical to the German Ford Eifel), so you have a hint how long living the Anglia was. However, despite several top10 finishes, including i.e. 7th overall for lady driver Anne Hall on the 1961 RAC, the Anglia was a small 997cc car. Therefore the Anglia was not a main rally car for Ford, as Ford tried quite a variety of different models for rallies, with the Zephyr being the most common one in the earlier Anglia days. It seems ironic that one of the biggest Ford rally successes before Escort is regarded to be the Safari victory 1969 by Robin Hillyar, ending many years of Peugeot 404 domination on that event. However the Ford Taunus 20M RS K-LS 521 he used was, although an official works car, Ford Germany built and run and not connected to legendary Boreham and in fact this success came AFTER Boreham debuted the Escort! The main Ford rally project before Escort has to be the Cortina. Funny enough the last big event for the Cortina was also after the Escort debut, the 1968 London-Sydney Rally where the car led until Australia with Roger Clark, but after rear differential problems Clark in the leading works Cortina finished 10th with the Ford Deutschland Taunus 20M RS of Ernie Kleint in 7th and an Australian run Falcon 4.7 in 3rd.

At that point the Cortina was a works rally car for about 7 years. However once more there is something not many people may remember. While the name Ford Lotus Cortina may ring a bell for most, there were actually 4 different versions of this car: First you have to split them in Ford Cortina GT and Ford Lotus Cortina. And then there were two different generations. The Cortina Mk2, again in the versions GT & Lotus was slightly bigger and heavier than the Mk1 and while it had exactly the same technology and power, the Mk2 was a very much unloved replacement to the original Cortina. Well, maybe not unloved, but you can see that same technology in a bigger and heavier car was not exactly an improvement for the rally stages. Indeed this is a perfect example how cars have grown over the years. In modern days the Cortina range was followed by Sierra and Mondeo models, which today exceed Granada size, while the original Cortina Mk1 was hardly bigger than an Escort Mk2! But staying with the rally Cortinas for now: both in Mk1 and Mk2 shape the Ford Cortina GT had a 1.5 litre 8-valves engine with 120BHP, while the Ford Lotus Cortina had a 140BHP 1.6 twin cam engine – and also 8 valves, which is another fact that is misleading, twin cam does not mean 16v! And the same goes for the Ford Escort RS1600 Twin Cam. Although rallying Escorts never carried the Lotus name, the Twin Cam (TC) called versions of the Escort RS1600 used exactly the same engine as the Lotus Cortina!

In the late 1960s Ford started to push their rallying into two very different directions. For one, when the new Escort model was launched – a 2-door saloon like the Cortina but slightly smaller – it seemed to make sense to have that as a replacement to the growing Cortina on the rally stages. But at the same time on the other end of extremes Ford created the first purpose built rally car in the history of this sport, the GT70. The GT70 was inspired by the GT40 race car and there were similarities in the looks department as well, although the GT70 was a little less curvy and smaller. So the GT70 was a mid-engined, 2-seater sports coupé and could be compared to the Lancia Stratos (which came later) and the Renault-Alpine A110 (which wasn’t purpose built for rallying). The GT70 was a hugely exciting project for Ford as their entire range of cars was conventional front engine RWD. But therefore it was quite an effort to create this specialised car and it also had only a 2.0 4-cylinder engine. At the bottom line the GT70 was expensive, it didn’t resemble a road car (negative on the marketing) and apart from tarmac rallies it couldn’t reliably beat the Escort. Even when the GT70 was equipped with a 2.6 V6 Capri engine this wouldn’t change and therefore it simply didn’t make sense for Ford to carry on with the GT70 project. And indeed at the end of the day there were only three GT70 that were fairly regularly run: NVX 70J, PVW 70J & OVW 870K in France mostly in the hands of Jean-Francois Piot or Guy Chasseuil. These French GT70 were run until the end of 1972, so the cars eventually disappeared for good just as the WRC was born. So the Escort became the real big number. At first there were similarities between the Escort Mk1 and the Lotus Cortina as i.e. both had the 1.6 twin cam engine. But there were endless possibilities with the Escort. While the official name for the competition model stayed Escort RS1600, there were soon versions with 1.85 and 2.0 engines and YVW 591F was even a prototype with a (heavy) 2.3 V6.

While the Escort Mk1 lead Ford into the World Rally Championship – created in 1973 – we have to point out the attitude of the early, traditional makes in rallying. This not only goes for Ford but as well Peugeot, Hillman, BMC and Citroën: The WRC was a new and welcome thing, but for the marketing departments to see its true value took a while. Therefore the traditional makes named above kept concentrating on single rallies that would reflect reliability and functionality of their products in a huge variety of conditions. The really big events of the time were African rallies or marathons like the London-Sydney Rally. Therefore the one event that was the big career highlight for the Escort Mk1 was the World Cup Rally 1970, which went from London to Mexico. Ford created an extra model only for this event that along with a number of other features as i.e. roll cage bars that would go from the roof to the front suspension tops (yes on the outside of the shell) it had a 1850cc engine. The Escort FEV 1H duly won the event in the hands of Hannu Mikkola. And to show how marketing worked these days, Ford celebrated this particular rally win by launching an 1850cc Mk1 Escort road car called the “Escort Mexico” and this again turned a huge success in the show rooms. This is maybe the most magic example of the old saying "Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday". There were also sporty versions Escort GT and RS2000, but despite a bigger engine, even the Mk1 RS2000 stood in the shadow of the Mexico. Mexico was no abstract letter combination, it was a name linking straight to this massive rally success. And if that was the marketing highlight you could get out of a single event, why change this strategy for a championship title?

Another aspect of early WRC days is that a works team didn’t normally have permanent drivers. So was i.e. in its first 6 years the WRC a pure manufacturers championship. Ford, as most of their competitors named above, was more giving works cars to drivers for their local events. So it is tempting to say the big stars of the Escort MK1 were Timo Mäkinen and Roger Clark, but would you have known that the debut driver for the Escort was actually Ove Andersson (finishing 3rd in San Remo 1968 with XOO 355F)? The truth is more that Timo Mäkinen had a car for Finnish rallies, Roger Clark had a car for British rallies and both of them would compete with works help on their local WRC events and some more. While Ford had no real WRC program, they would run a quite common scheme in those days that i.e. Kenya’s Vic Preston got cars for the Safari, Frenchman Jean-Francois Piot got cars for the Tour de Corse, and so on.

In 1975 the Escort Mk2 arrived and it was a worthy replacement to the Mk1. These 2 models together ensured that the Lombard RAC Rally between 1972 and 1979 was won by Escorts no less than 8 times in a row – in itself a record! But when in 1980 the Escort MK3 was introduced, disaster struck. The Mk3 wasn’t anything what previous Escorts were all about. So we witnessed a spell with the Ford RS200 in 1986 – quite likely the most competitive group B car there was – and a variation of Sierra models in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But by 1993 the Escort was back in winning ways as a 4x4 turbo Cosworth version. This model could easily have been more successful if it hadn’t been for a management mess with tuners and drivers. These Escort Cosworth days were weird days for Ford. Until then Ford very successfully did everything in house with Ford's road car research & devleopment centre AVO being straight involved and both, motorsport and road cars profiting. Ironically Ford's historic motorsport base, an old Airfield in Boreham, existed also about 30years, from birth to death of rallying Escorts. Indeed, when in 1999 the Escort was replaced by the Focus, Ford proudly claimed the Escort was a successful rally car for 30 years! The 1998 Ford Escort WRC had absolutely nothing in common bar the name with the 1968 Ford Escort RS1600 (in fact the step Escort to Focus was much smaller than that of Escort Mk2 to Escort Mk3) and there was actually a 10years gap of Escort usage in the RS200 & Sierra days, but we let them get away with this, Ford certainly deserves the judgement of 30 successful rally years for the Escort.

Let’s go back to that gap in Escort days to close the circle and underline Ford’s loyalty and heritage: It is an incredible shame the Escort RS1700T project didn’t work out. Sure the Escort Mk3 was not the most rigid base chassis, but the car was basically finished, it was beautiful to look at, and the main reason for its cancellation was the dawn of the 4x4 era, which nobody took too serious yet when the RS1700T project was identified in 1980. And only that left a (therefore unplanned!) gap in Ford’s World rallying program from 1982 to 1985. With the exception of this gap (and OK, WW2 aside) you could claim that Ford was rallying non-stop from 1936 until today – an absolutely unbeatable loyalty record! Therefore it is incredible and an unfair judgement that indeed Ford has won the makes and drivers WRC in 1979 and again the drivers in 1981 and since then no titles at all! Well, until 2006 that is, with the Focus Mk2 correcting history. But in past decades Ford definitely deserved more than this and in fact very often came close with many, many 2nd and 3rd places in the title race.

In Sweden 2010 Ford became the most successful manufacturer of WRC ever with win number 74. Maybe Ford is lacking titles, but previous record holder Lancia for example collected more than half of their victories when early groupA rules meant nobody could beat Lancia. Ford never had it quite that easy. Ford may not every season look like the strongest team, but they are the most loyal by far, they invented the first purpose build rally car, they had the most competitive groupB car, both of these never contributed to their list of wins and still Ford has won more WRC events than anybody else (well, currently having a ding-dong battle with Citroën for that record).

COLOURS & TYRES:

Ford’s rally colours changed often due to a lot of different sponsors over the years. In fact Ford is a magic example how sponsorship started in rallying and that it was mostly one-off deals. I.e. when the Escort won the RAC Rally 8 times in a row, the winning car featured a different sponsor and different colour scheme on basically every occasion! Read the details on this in our “colours introduction”. The most distinct sponsors for Ford over the years may be Eaton Yale (lift trucks and conveyor belts, all dark blue with white writing) on selected events 1978-1980, Rothmans (in several layouts, the most famous one being a spectacular layout of dark blue-gold-red stripes on a white base) in (1979,) 1980 & 1981, Texaco (black with bright red letters, however that colour scheme itself had 4 different versions in only one year) in 1987, Q8 (unique navy & cream) in 1991 and of course the known Martini colours in 1999-2002. At most other times Ford was in Ford colours of constantly changing layout. Ford house colours were always mainly white & dark blue or white & 3 shades of blue, but at the start of 1979 Ford ran an interesting works colour scheme where on Waldgaard’s car the blue was replaced for red, otherwise Waldegaard and Mikkola had the same layout. More confusing seem the Focus Mk2 works cars, which appear extremely colourful for several sponsors, none of them tied with blue, yet Ford-blue being the dominant colour.

Ford never seemed to be completely tied to one tyre manufacturer. Dunlop was often used on the RWD Escorts and only had to make way for Pirelli in 1981. Pirelli was also used on the group B RS200. Thereafter it was mostly Michelin.

REGISTRATIONS:

It seems a little confusing to state what nationality Ford actually is. Yes, Ford Motor Co is USA. But one has to note that Ford of Europe - which is an official brand name! - acts fairly independently from Ford USA, a bit like Vauxhall/Opel to GM. And the engineering of Ford's rally cars always was a project of Ford of Europe. Read also in other makes chapters, where you find about GM and Chrysler, the US manufacturers always avoid rallying at all cost. But where is Ford of Europe based? Is it British? Is it German? For a while Ford of Europe named Basildon in Essex, UK as their base, but also Köln in Germany was occasionally named and nowadays Ford of Europe seems to move ever more from UK to Germany. Then we had the case that in time for the Escort Mk1 program, Ford of Europe opened their own, big motorsport facility on an old airbase in Boreham, Essex. But this didn't stop Köln to do some projects. To add to confusion, the main Escort/Focus production facility is in Saarlouis, Germany, some 250km south of Köln, so you will find that in launching rally cars as Escort Mk1 or RS1700T, Boreham had to cooperate with Saarlouis. At the end of the day, from a reg plate identification point of view it all is not half as confusing as I make out here. Works Ford rally cars that came from Germany stayed the exception, were confined to models as the Capri RS2600 and 20M RS. These would carry a German Köln plate, that therefore would display a K in front of the dash. Maybe as an example we use the most unusual car Ford Köln had, an African market German shell but 3000 V6 engined Ford Cortina Mk4 (Taunus), used by Michael Werner in Germany in the early 1980s: "K-LM 124". For more detail, please look at our general registration guide, which might come in handy as well for the UK registered Fords. On the UK registered cars, it seems interesting that they were always registered in Essex. This even goes for the Malcolm Wilson prepared Focuses (Foci?): The cars are built in and run from Cockermouth, Lake District, but they are always registered on Ford of Europe in Essex. This goes to surprising extent. Even private run cars as i.e. the many Sierras & Escorts of Mike Little, Gordon Spooner or R-E-D (MCD in its early days), that would have some Ford works support, have the Essex registration. In fact this usually hints to Boreham built cars handed straight over to these tuners. You see, at Ford this all is much clearer cut than at most other makes. Everything that has any form of works involvement is on Essex plates. Now the UK trick of 3-letter-block, letters 2 & 3 show the area. For Essex these are the combinations: AR, EV, HJ, HK, JN, NO, OO, PU, TW, VW, VX & WC. Exceptions are solely the David Sutton cars. Basically David Sutton is the only Ford tuner who built the cars himself to works standard, rather than getting them from Boreham. David's operation was based in Acton, London. His cars carry London plates and therefore can easily be identified by the first digit of the area code = 2nd digit of the 3-letter-block being an L or a Y. There are some additional codes for London, but these are rare (I think we only have "KP", "RK", "UC" & "UW"). Examples: typical Ford/Essex numbers "GVX 488T" or "G94 CHK", typical Sutton/London numbers "MLD 999P" or "UYY 256S". In later years we also have some privatised plates coming up with Ford. These always would show FMC = Ford Motor Company, as the 3-letter-block. In the case of the Sapphire these are even back-dated, i.e. "A1 FMC", the "A" indicating a 1984 car, when we count 1992. From the new UK registration system from 2001, the area code moved to the first block of 2 letters on the reg plates. For Essex, this block always starts with an E, i.e. "EF04 VVB".
(In brackets so don't let yourself be too confused by this late but necessary add on: The last Focus WRCars produced make an exception, because the WRC homologation does not incorporate the late Focus Mk2 facelift, older shells needed to be located, some already being registered all over the country. And even beyond that on late Focus WRC and early Fiesta S2000 there is strong indication that by now also works cars are registered on M-Sport in Lake District with new system starting letters then being PU, PV, PW, PX, PY, PZ.)

Chassis numbers: Ford is about the best example for the aspect of chassis numbers. I.e. first Mk2 Escort BDAs were HHJ 700N = chassis BFATRE69901, HHJ 701N = BFATRE69902, HHJ 702N = BFATRL69901. While numbers seem similar, spot the different letter. And the dream with the similar numbers I destroy with the example of the last Mk2 rally Escort built: GJN 126T = BBATWL92658. Plainly it is road car chassis numbers at random order, it would be a close to impossible task to follow them up and they are simply not very interesting. And this will be the case with most group2, 4 & A cars across the stats. However the RS200 then turns the best example for chassis numbers being exciting. As on many groupB cars this is a special made model and the real road chassis numbers end in 001-200 and therefore are comparable with build numbers in which you can find an exciting order. Example: chassis number SFACXXBJ2CED00003 = RS200 build number 003. RS200 C001 is the first presenter that looks very different to all later cars. 002 served as the FIA crash test car for road legality (like today Euro N-CAP). 003 is the first test & development car and went through many changes during its life. 004 = test road version, 005 = test full rally, 006 = test clubman spec. The real production only started with 007 and 007 & 008 were still allocated as recce cars. 010 = first one sold, 012 turn E201 was meant to be a development car for the 2.1L Evo version, 014 & 015 then were the Swedish Rally 86 works cars. Next 016-060 were dismantled again for rally spares with the remaining rally cars starting from 061 and road cars are sold starting somewhere in the mid-80s. GroupA Sierras and Escorts again had no build numbers as such. Another novelty at Ford is that all those Focus WRC actually did not have sequential build numbers, but indeed used their registration numbers as build numbers/chassis ID. From Fiesta S2000 onwards however M-Sport used build numbers in the classic way.

Ford Rally Cars

Model Class
Ford Ford _ancient_  Group 2
Ford Ford Escort (Mk1)  Group 4
Ford Ford Escort (Mk2)  Group 4
Ford Ford Escort (Mk2)  Group 1
Ford Ford Escort (Mk3)  Group A
Ford Ford Escort (Mk3)  Group B
Ford Ford Escort (Mk3)  Group A
Ford Ford Escort (Mk5)  Group N
Ford Ford Escort (Mk5)  Group A
Ford Ford Escort (Mk5)  Formula 2
Ford Ford Escort (Mk5)  World Rally Car
Ford Ford Fiesta (Mk1)  Group 2
Ford Ford Fiesta (Mk5)  Super 1600
Ford Ford Fiesta (Mk5)  Group N
Ford Ford Fiesta (Mk6)  Group A
Ford Ford Fiesta (Mk6)  Super 2000
Ford Ford Focus (Mk1)  World Rally Car
Ford Ford Focus (Mk2)  World Rally Car
Ford Ford Puma (Mk1)  Super 1600
Ford Ford RS200  Group B
Ford Ford Sapphire (Mk1)  Group N
Ford Ford Sapphire (Mk1)  Group A
Ford Ford Sapphire (Mk1)  Group N
Ford Ford Sierra (Mk1)  Group A
Ford Ford Sierra (Mk1)  Group N
Ford Ford Sierra (Mk1)  Group A

Rally Honour Roll

Year Class Place Manufacturer Events
2013 WRC Super 2000 3rd. Ford (190pts) 13
Super 2000 4th. 13
Super 2000 5th. 13

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2013 IRC Super 2000 3rd. Ford (122pts) 12

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2012 IRC Super 2000 3rd. Ford (212pts) 13

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2012 WRC Super 2000 3rd. Ford (170pts) 13
Super 2000 2nd. 13
Super 2000 4th. 13
Super 2000 8th. 13

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2011 WRC Super 2000 8th. Ford (27pts) 13
Super 2000 5th. 13
Super 2000 6th. 13
Super 2000 3rd. 13
Super 2000 2nd. 13
Super 2000 7th. 13

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2011 IRC Super 2000 4th. Ford (107pts) 11

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2010 WRC World Rally Car 2nd. Ford (337pts) 13
World Rally Car 4th. 13
World Rally Car 5th. 13

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2010 IRC Super 2000 3rd. Ford (55pts) 12

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2009 WRC World Rally Car 3rd. Ford (80pts) 12
World Rally Car 2nd. 12
World Rally Car 5th. 12

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2008 WRC World Rally Car 2nd. Ford (173pts) 15
World Rally Car 4th. 15
World Rally Car 6th. 15

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2007 WRC World Rally Car 1st. Ford (212pts) 16

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2006 WRC World Rally Car 1st. Ford (195pts) 16

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2005 WRC World Rally Car 3rd. Ford (104pts) 16

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2004 WRC World Rally Car 2nd. Ford (143pts) 16

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2003 WRC World Rally Car 4th. Ford (93pts) 14

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2002 WRC World Rally Car 2nd. Ford (104pts) 14

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2001 WRC World Rally Car 2nd. Ford (86pts) 14

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2000 WRC World Rally Car 2nd. Ford (91pts) 14

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1999 WRC World Rally Car 4th. Ford (37pts) 14

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1998 WRC World Rally Car 4th. Ford (53pts) 13

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1997 WRC World Rally Car 2nd. Ford (91pts) 14

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1996 WRC Group A 3rd. Ford (299pts) 9

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1995 WRC Group A 3rd. Ford (223pts) 8

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1994 WRC Group A 3rd. Ford (116pts) 10

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1993 WRC Group A 2nd. Ford (151pts) 13

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1992 WRC Group A 3rd. Ford (94pts) 14

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1991 WRC Group A 4th. Ford (54pts) 14

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1990 WRC Group A 8th. Ford (22pts) 13

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1989 WRC Group A 12th. Ford (6pts) 13

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1988 WRC Group A 2nd. Ford (79pts) 13

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1987 WRC Group A 5th. Ford (62pts) 13

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1986 WRC Group B 5th. Ford (24pts) 13

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1985 WRC Group B 11th. Ford (21pts) 12

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1984 WRC Group B 11th. Ford (6pts) 12

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1982 WRC Open 4th. Ford (55pts) 12

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1980 WRC Open 66th. Ford (20pts) 12

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1979 WRC Open 1st. Ford (122pts) 12

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1978 WRC Open 2nd. Ford (100pts) 11

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1977 WRC Open 2nd. Ford (132pts) 11

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1976 WRC Open 3rd. Ford (47pts) 10

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1975 WRC Open 6th. Ford (35pts) 10

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1974 WRC Open 3rd. Ford (54pts) 8

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1973 WRC Open 3rd. Ford (76pts) 13

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