Martin Whitaker, Ford's director of European Motorsport, spoke for the first time today on Colin McRae's split with co-driver Nicky Grist.

Whitaker has said that he is sad but not surprised the famous WRC pairing had parted company.

McRae and Grist announced the break up last week, after the 1995 World Rally Champion said the in-car relationship with Grist had become strained over the past 12 months.

McRae's former co-driver Derek Ringer will read the notes for the Scot on the season's two remaining rounds.

Whitaker comments, "Colin and Nicky felt that it was time to part and while I'm sad that it was at this stage of the WRC season, if it means that Colin is going to approach Australia and Great Britain in a renewed frame of mind then hopefully it will be to our benefit."

"What we have to recognise is that these two guys spend more time together than they do with their respective families," explains Whitaker, "and the pressure and the strains on that relationship, especially when you are competing at the sharp end, are immense."

"Co-driver and driver parings do change and there are many examples of this over the years so perhaps we shouldn't be too astonished this has happened. It's a real shame to see Nicky go," continues Whitaker "He's a great ambassador for the sport in general and not just for the Ford Rallye Sport team."