We have just heard that the legendary MINI is pulling out of WRC by the end of the 2012 season, but it looks like they are not the only ones doing so. Just shortly after MINI’s withdrawal, rally veteran Ford is the next one to follow suit in leaving this dirt-kicking motorsport.
Putting the blame on the “difficult economy environment” in their European business, Ford will close down their WRC factory program at the end of this season, a year ahead than they had originally planned. With their departure of MINI and Ford from the WRC, this will leave Citroën as the only factory manufacturer program left standing.
“Ford has a long and proud history in the WRC and this was not an easy decision. At this time, however, we determined that it was better for the company and the Ford brand to reduce our commitment to the WRC and deploy our resources in other areas”, said Ford Europe’s Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Service, Roelant de Waard.
Although Sebastian Loeb was unstoppable in his Citroën by winning eight rounds and at the same time clinching his ninth consecutive driving title, Ford still managed to squeeze through by taking home three victories this year; two from Jari-Matti Latvala and the third by Mads Ostberg.
But we will still be able to see the Ford rallying machines competing in the future as M-Sport will continue its participation in the WRC. Fielding the works team since 1997, they will run the Fiesta R5 in the WRC-2 series aimed for 2013, and the Fiesta R2 for grassroots national and regional driver programs. Technical support will still be poured in by Ford to assist M-Sport along the way.
“I would like to thank Ford of Europe for their enthusiastic support and the faith shown in the team over the past 16 seasons. We understand that tough decisions have had to be made and look forward to continuing our strong technical partnership into the future”, said Malcolm Wilson, the managing director of M-Sport.