Ford Focus RS WRC - 44 world rally wins in 12 seasons


February 12, 2017
Featured, Spotlight
Ian McLeigh


  • Ford Focus RS WRC, 2003 Rallye Monte Carlo
  • Colin McRae, 2002 Cyprus Rally
  • Ford Focus RS WRC 03 at 2003 Rally Finland
  • Ford Focus RS WRC 06 at 2006 Rally Finland

Ford Focus RS WRC is one of the most successful rally cars in a history, with 44 World Rally Championship wins in a 12-season period between 1999 and 2010. With that car, Ford World Rally Team captured two WRC manufacturers’ titles in 2006 and 2007. For the 2011 WRC season, Focus was replaced by Fiesta RS WRC.

Second World Rally Car made by Ford

Focus RS WRC was the second World Rally Car made by Ford after the Escort WRC debuted in 1997 and participated in two WRC seasons. Escort WRC was in a fact Escort RS Cosworth which was converted from Group A rules to new-for-1997 World Rally Car rules. Focus RS WRC was a purpose-built WRC car based on the production model of first-generation Ford Focus which was introduced in 1998.

Like other World Rally Cars of that time, Focus RS WRC was the four-wheel-drive race car which featured 2.0-litre turbo engine with about 300 horse powers under the hood. Six-speed XTrac sequential gearbox was mounted next to the engine, transferring the power and the torque to four wheels through the active hydro-electronically controlled differentials.

Ford Focus RS WRC debuted at 1999 Rallye Monte Carlo

Ford Focus RS WRC debuted at 1999 Rallye Monte Carlo

Disappointing debut at 1999 Rallye Monte Carlo

Ford Focus RS WRC 99 debuted at Rallye Monte Carlo, the opening round of the 1999 championship. Colin McRae, who moved from Subaru to Ford, was driving the #7 car, with Simon Jean-Joseph as a teammate in the #8 car. A debut was disappointing, as both cars were excluded from the event because of an illegal water pump.

Maiden podium in Sweden, maiden win at Safari Rally

At the Swedish Rally, Thomas Radstrom debuted in the #8 car and scored a maiden podium with Focus RS WRC, finishing in the third place. McRae retired with a broken engine. In the third round, at Safari Rally in Kenya, McRae dominantly won the event, finishing over 14 minutes ahead of second-placed Toyota of Didier Auriol. Petter Solberg debuted in the #8 at Safari Rally, finishing in the fifth place.

Colin McRae, 2002 Cyprus Rally

Colin McRae knew how to redesign a rally car

Nine retirements for Colin McCrash

Colin McRae scored another win at Rallye Portugal, beating Toyota duo Sainz & Auriol. Until the end of the season, McRae finished only one event, taking fourth place at Tour de Corse, recording nine DNFs. In the last three events, accidents forced McRae to retirements. With such a performance McRae proved his nickname Colin McCrash. At the end of the season, McRae was sixth in the points, Ford finished fourth among manufacturers.

Three wins in the 2000 WRC season

For the 2000 WRC season, Carlos Sainz landed to the Ford World Rally Team. With having two former world champions in the team, Ford finished second in the manufacturers’ standings, behind Peugeot. McRae won two times (Catalunya and Greece), Sainz added one win (Cyprus). Sainz was six more times on the podiums, finishing third in the championship points, one place ahead of a teammate. Other drivers who competed with Ford Focus were Petter Solberg, Piero Liatti and Tapio Laukkanen.

Colin McRae at 2001 Rallye Monte Carlo

Colin McRae at 2001 Rallye Monte Carlo

McRae lost the 2001 title by two points

Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz stayed together in the 2001 WRC season. McRae was fighting for the title until the last event but he crashed out at Rally GB for the third year in a row, losing a title for two points to Richard Burns. Earlier in the season, McRae has won three times – Rally Argentina, Cyprus Rally and Acropolis Rally. Sainz had no wins, only five podiums, to finish sixth in the points. In the manufacturers’ standings, Peugeot was again in front of Ford.

Markko Martin joined Ford in 2002

In the 2002 WRC season, Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz were joined by Markko Martin in the third car. Ford Focus RS WRC was a victorious car in three events. Sainz won Rally Argentina, McRae was the fastest at Acropolis Rally and Safari Rally. Markko Martin’s best result was 2nd place at season-closing Rally GB. After 14 events, Sainz and McRae were third and fourth respectively, Ford finished second among manufacturers again.

Ford Focus RS WRC 03 at 2003 Rally Finland

Ford Focus RS WRC 03 at 2003 Rally Finland

Redesigned Focus RS WRC came in 2003

For the 2003 WRC season, Ford released a newly designed car. The car, with most parts redesigned from the ground up, featured a lighter body shell and a new aerodynamically enhanced front bumper and wing. The Ford Focus RS WRC 03 debuted in the fourth round of the championship, at New Zealand.

New drivers line-up in 2003

Markko Martin became the main driver in the #4 car, with Francois Duval (#5) and Mikko Hirvonen (#6) as full-time teammates while Jari-Matti Latvala participated in four events with #20 Ford. Markko Martin scored his first WRC win at 2003 Acropolis Rally, repeating a triumph two months later at Rally Finland. He was fifth in the drivers’ championship, Ford dropped to fourth in the manufacturers’ classification.

Markko Martin was Ford's leading for two seasons

Markko Martin was Ford’s leading for two seasons

Three wins for Markko Martin in 2004

Markko Martin added three more wins on his and Ford’s account in 2004. He was the winner at Rally Mexico, Tour de Corse and Rally Catalunya. At the end of the season, Martin was third in the championship points. Francois Duval and Janne Tuohino in the #8 car didn’t manage to win, but they scored valuable points for the team, which finished in the second place of the manufacturers’ championship.

No wins for Ford in 2005 WRC season

The Ford Focus RS WRC 04, an evolution of ’03 version, wasn’t competitive any more during the 2005 WRC season, so it was a winless season for Ford. Drivers’ line-up was completely changed compared to the previous season, with Toni Gardemeister as the main driver in the #3 car and four drivers sharing the #4 car. Roman Kresta participated in 13 events, Henning Solberg, Daniel Sola and Mikko Hirvonen participated in one race each. Gardemeister was fourth in the drivers’ standings, Ford finished third among manufacturers.

Ford Focus RS WRC 06 at 2006 Rally Finland

Ford Focus RS WRC 06 at 2006 Rally Finland

Ford Focus RS WRC 06 was a completely new car

At the last event of 2005 season, at Rally Australia, the completely new car was introduced – the Ford Focus RS WRC 06, based on the second generation of road-going Focus. As the 2.5-litre engine from street-legal Focus RS wasn’t allowed, the World Rally Car was using the 2.0-litre Duratec engine from other Ford models, developed by the French engine specialist Pipo Moteur.

2006 – World title for Ford after 27 years

Double world rally champion Marcus Gronholm joined Ford for the 2006 WRC season, with Mikko Hirvonen in another car. Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb was a totally dominant driver in the championship, scoring eight wins until he withdrew because of non-racing injuries and missed four last events. BP Ford World Rally Team captured victories in eight events, with Gronholm winning seven times and Mikko Hirvonen scoring his maiden WRC win in Rally Australia. At the end of the season, Gronholm lost a title by one point but the team took manufacturers’ title, for the first time since 1979.

Marcus Gronholm at 2007 Tour de Corse

Marcus Gronholm at 2007 Tour de Corse

Gronholm and Hirvonen defended title in 2007

The Focus RS WRC 07 was an evolution of ’06 car, with some improvements in the efficiency, driveability and performance. The car debuted in the mid-season of 2007, at Rally Finland, where Marcus Gronholm scored his fourth win of the season. With five wins in total, Gronholm was again the championship runner-up, four points behind Loeb. Mikko Hirvonen added three wins to finish third in the points.  BP Ford World Rally Team defended its world rally title.

Latvala became the youngest-ever WRC winner

As Marcus Gronholm retired at the end of 2007, Mikko Hirvonen became the leading driver, with another young Finn Jari-Matti Latvala as his teammate. Latvala scored his maiden WRC win at 2008 Swedish Rally, becoming the youngest-ever driver to win a WRC event, at the age 22. Later in the season, Hirvonen has won three times to finish second in the championship, behind unbeatable Sebastien Loeb. Latvala was fourth. In the manufacturers’ standings, Ford lost a title to Citroen.

Mikko Hivonen in 2009 WRC season

Mikko Hivonen in 2009 WRC season

Hirvonen lost a title by one point

In the 2009 WRC season, Latvala scored one victory with Ford Focus, Hirvonen was victorious four times. They were using both ’08 and ’09 versions of Focus WRC. The cars featured styling changes and engine improvements in comparison to the previous versions. Hirvonen finished second in the 2009 WRC classification, losing a title by one point to Loeb. Latvala was fourth again.

2010 was the last season for Focus RS WRC

The Ford Focus RS WRC 09 was the last version of World Rally Car based on the Focus, as it was used also for the 2010 WRC season. Ford had two Finish drivers again in the team. This time, Jari-Matti Latvala was more successful, scoring two wins and finishing second in the championship, behind Loeb. Hirvonen has won one time, in the season-opening Rally Sweden, finishing sixth in the points. The last victory for Ford Focus RS WRC was Latvala’s win at 2010 Rally Finland.

100 Focus RS WRCs are running all over the world

At the end of the season, after 173 WRC events, 44 wins and 142 podiums, Focus RS WRC went to competitive retirement, at least in the premier rally competition. Ford Fiesta RS WRC debuted in 2011 but Focus remained in the use all over the world until today, in many national and regional championships. According to available data, about 100 Focus RS WRC chassis were built.

Ford Focus RS technical specifications

Length:4152 mm
Width:1770 mm
Heigth:1420 mm
Wheelbase:2615 mm
Track (front and rear):1550 mm
Weight:1330 kg
Chassis:Monocoque, steel construction
Engine:1998cc, 4 cylinder turbo charged
Power/torque:300 hp/550 Nm
Transmission:full time 4WD; front, center and rear electronically controlled differentials
Gearbox:6-speed X-Trac sequential, longitudinally mounted
Front suspension: Independent McPherson struts lower wishbones, coil springs and Reiger gas shock absorbers with separate gas tanks, cabin adjustable antiroll bar
Rear suspension:Independent multi-link layout, coil springs and Reiger gas shock absorbers with separate tanks, cabin adjustable antiroll bar
Braking system:front 380mm vented disks fixed 8 pot water cooled aluminum calipers, rear 300mm vented disks fixed 4 pot aluminum calipers
Wheels/tires:8″x18″ wheels, 225-630/18 tires

Photos: ewrc-results.com, allracingcars.com,

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