'British Rally Driver of the Year', Mark Higgins, is to drive a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car on each of the seven rounds of the 2001 British Rally Championship - as he aims to capture Ford's 18th title on home ground.

It was also announced at the Autosport International Show that Higgins will be co-driven by Bryan Thomas, and that the Manxman's Focus RS will be prepared and run by Cumbria-based M-Sport, the specialist rallying operation which campaigns the trio of official Ford Martini Focus RS WRC's in the World Rally Championship.

"I'm very excited about driving for Ford," enthused Higgins, the 1997 British Rally Champion, who was nominated National Rally Driver of the Year for the second time last year. "The Focus RS WRC is one of the most advanced rally cars in the world and for me it's a big step forward; giving me the right machinery to win events in 2001."

World Rally Cars have never before been eligible to contest the British Rally Championship. When it was decided to permit this for 2001, Ford was one of the first companies to pledge involvement in the Championship. "I am particularly thankful to Ford and Malcolm Wilson for offering me this very strong chance to bid for another British Rally Championship victory," added Higgins.

Runner-up in the 2000 World Rally Championship, the turbocharged four-wheel drive Focus RS WRC is a sophisticated state-of-the-art rally car featuring complex and sophisticated modern technology.

Specialist Ford rally technicians from M-Sport will ensure that technology is in tip-top condition for Mark's British Championship bid.

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