Ford BP Rallye Sport's Focus RS WRC03 tarmac rally debut at the Rallye Deutschland this weekend marks an historic milestone for M-Sport Ltd as Markko Martin will be behind the wheel of the 50th Ford Focus World Rally Car built by the UK based company.

Proudly sporting the registration number R55 0TH - RS 50th - its first outing in Germany is also the 50th world rally event for the young Estonian driver.

The Rallye Deutschland will also be the 50th outing for the hardest working Ford Focus built by the company. S10 FMC, currently in 2000 specification, made its debut as Colin McRae's Rallye Catalunya entry car in 1999 - and is currently competing in the Czech Championship. It will make its 50th appearance with 22-year old Czech Tibor Cserhalmi at the Rallye Deutschland.

The Cumbrian based company was contracted to develop and manage Ford Motor Company's commitment to the world rally championship in 1996 and over the past seven years M-Sport has produced strong and reliable rally winners. First came the very successful Ford Escort, and more recently the top-selling Ford Focus has been Ford's rally flagship.

The Focus WRC was designed and built in record time and appeared in 1999 with world champion Colin McRae behind the wheel. It immediately sprang to the attention of the world's press by recording fastest stage times on its first rally.

By the third event, the grueling Safari Rally in Kenya, the car scored its first world rally victory. Just a month later an on-form McRae made it two in a row on the Rally of Portugal. During the next three years McRae and co-driver Nicky Grist and Carlos Sainz and co-driver Luis Moya added a further nine Focus victories.

This year saw the introduction of the 2003 Ford Focus RS WRC, widely regarded as the most revolutionary rally car ever built. On only its third outing, Markko Martin and Michael Park raised the number of Focus victories to 12 with an outstanding win in the blistering heat and the rocky mountain tracks of the Acropolis Rally in Greece.

The life of a Ford Focus world rally car varies enormously. Some are built primarily for testing, some for events and many have been used for both. Two are now used only as show cars and one event car, which was damaged during a world rally, is now on permanent display in a museum in Italy to illustrate the strength of the design of the car's roll cage.

The Ford Focus WRC has a remarkable points-scoring record in the FIA World Rally Championship, notching up its 21st consecutive points finish at the Cyprus Rally last month. It is also renown for its strength and durability, winning not only the toughest events on the WRC including Acropolis and Safari but it is also a four times winner of the Middle East Championship.
It takes 1,464 individual person hours to assemble a Ford Focus RS WRC from previously assembled parts - there are 203 individual suppliers that provide parts for the car. There are over 2,200 components in a Ford Focus RS WRC. Of these, 128 of are sourced from the Focus road car but only 58 are completely unmodified.

Of the fifty Focus built since 1999, six have been damaged beyond repair. Twenty-eight are competing in championships throughout Europe with M-Sport customers - with more than 92 customer event starts so far this season.

There are Ford Focus WRCs leading the French Gravel Championship (Richelmi), Spanish Gravel Championship (Jaio), Czech and Slovakian Championships (Pech), Hungarian Championship (Benik), Finnish Championship (Tuohino) and Swedish Championship (Erikkson - joint leader).

The increasing coverage and popularity of the FIA World Rally Championship has seen an increase in the number of Ford Focus WRC entries this season, with a minimum of five Focus appearing at every round this year - Martin, Duval, Hirvonen and a minimum of two customer cars. It is anticipated that Rally Finland will be one of the busiest events so far this season with nine Ford Focus currently entered. This is equalled by the number of customers wanting to compete in the Welsh Rally of Great Britain where it is likely a minimum nine Ford Focus will compete.

The most senior Ford Focus driver is Briton Brian Bell, who is 'in his 60s' and contesting a variety of British domestic championships and is currently second in the Dunlop Gold Star (BTRDA). The youngest, at just 18 years of age, is Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala who is contesting the British Rally Championship and a selection of WRC events in a Ford Focus this season.