Ford of Europe has announced that it will withdraw from the World Rally Championship at the end of this season, bringing an end to its works programme.
The company said it made the decision as part of a 'review of its European business in the current difficult economic environment'.
“Ford has a long and proud history in the WRC and this was not an easy decision,” said Roelant de Waard, vice president, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford of Europe. “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.”
Ford's long-term rallying partner, UK-based M-Sport, meanwhile plans to continue competing in WRC with the Fiesta. Ford is in discussions with M-Sport to provide 'continued vehicle and engineering support', including for the recently announced Fiesta R5 for the new-for-2013 WRC-2 series, and the Fiesta R2 for grass-roots national and regional driver programmes.
“We have great respect for M-Sport and Malcolm Wilson, who have run the Ford WRC team since 1997, and there is no organisation with more expertise and commitment to winning,” de Waard added. “Working together, we have reached a point where the Ford Fiesta has become the car of choice in rallying, and we want to see this continue in the future.”
Ford also said it wished to thank its rallying fans, drivers, the FIA, and its many WRC partners, including team main sponsors BP and Castrol, for their support and commitment.
Malcolm Wilson, managing director of M-Sport, added: “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.
“M-Sport is extremely proud of our history with Ford since 1997; 208 podium finishes, scoring points on 156 consecutive events and 52 wins from 225 starts in the WRC along with two world titles underlines the dedication and commitment of the whole team in Cumbria.”
M-Sport has yet to confirm its driver line-up for 2013, although with #1 driver Jari-Matti Latvala
said to be considering an offer from Volkswagen
, this announcement is hardly likely to help.
“My intention is that we will continue to push to secure stage wins and overall results on the forthcoming events for Ford and to push forward with the development work that was started in March this year to improve and refine the Fiesta WRC even further, ready for the 2013 season,” Wilson continued. “We will also continue to work closely with our colleagues at Ford Racing towards the launch of the Fiesta R5 for March 2013 and the improvements that we are working on for the R2 car which will continue to the form the basis of a series of national and regional young driver programmes in the future.
“Confirmation of our key championship programmes for 2013 is our first priority and a challenge that the team here is very much looking forward to. After that we can review all options and determine the right direction for the future,” Wilson concluded.