Four M-Sport Ford's will contest the Wales Rally of GB, the final round of the FIA 2003 World Rally Championship this weekend - namely regulars German Antony Warmbold and Briton Alistair Ginley, along with 2003 Swedish Rally Champion Andreas Eriksson, and for only his second outing in his Ford Focus RS WRC, Briton Steve Perez.

This will be the first time Warmbold has competed in the Wales as a driver. In 2000, he co-drove for his father Achim in a Toyota Corolla WRC but retired at the end of the first leg with mechanical problems.

"Last year Gemma [Price] and I did the recce, so the event is not completely new to us," noted Warmbold, "There are so many good drivers competing it will be interesting to see how it all pans out and there will definitely be some surprises.

"I think while some have competed well in their own European Championships, they will find the conditions in GB quite different and I think there will be a number of retirements over the weekend. Rallies are long and those with little experience of the conditions who go too fast too soon, go off. So we will do our best, opt for a cautious start until we get a feel for it and hope for a good speed.

"I would like to finish in the top 20. We have improved so much this year I think this is realistic. We will start with our Australia set up and work from there as we found a good specification for the slippery mud Down Under which gave me a lot of confidence."

Ginley meanwhile will be taking part in his fourth Rally GB, and the young Yorkshireman is looking forward to his final WRC outing for the season.

"This is a great event and one we have done well on in the past and I'm looking forward to tackling it in our Ford Focus RS for the second year in a row. We finished 16th last year, just in front of Jari-Matti Latvala, so we are hoping to match or better that result and still finish in front of Latvala," he said.

Ginley has just completed over 100km of testing at Sweet Lamb in preparation for the battle in the forests and is buoyed by the results.

"We had an excellent test and the car set up is brilliant for the conditions we're expecting. It will be great to get back on gravel again which is a surface I'm more comfortable with, and with previous experience of this event I'm hoping we will end the season on a real high."

For Eriksson, Rally GB will be his second WRC outing this year, having competed on the Rally of Sweden in February. He went on to compete in the Swedish Championship and was recently crowned the 2003 champion, his speed and prowess on the fast gravel roads impressing many.

"It has always been my dream to compete in the Wales Rally of GB and I am delighted we are now able to achieve that," commented Eriksson, "I was happy to win the Swedish Championship this year and my sponsors were keen to support me in coming across to the United Kingdom to finish the year on a high."

Eriksson has competed in four UK based events previously and has a good knowledge of the road conditions to draw on. "I love driving on gravel and I intend to be fast," he added, "I think the roads can be difficult but they are great fun to drive and I am aiming to finish in the top 15. I recently had a short test to finalise our set-up and the car is good on gravel, so I am looking forward to getting to the start line on Thursday."

M-Sport's newest customer, and reigning British Historic Rally Champion, Perez, has only had his Ford Focus RS WRC for two weeks and has already enjoyed success behind the wheel, with a second place finish at the Premier Stages after setting three fastest times.

"I competed in my first Rally GB last year in Group N and we were pleased to finish. This year I am aiming for a top 20 position as I know we have the car that can make that happen for us," he said.

Perez, a regular on the British rally scene, said he is looking forward to tackling his home World Championship event: "The car has taken a bit of getting used to, but we have been lucky to have some time with Mark Higgins as well as competing in the Premier Stages. The Focus is technically different to anything I have driven before, extremely fast and noisy. As the Wales Rally GB is my home event, we have a further advantage in that we have already competed on many of the stages during this year in British National events so I hope that will help."

Wales Rally GB begins this Thursday, with a ceremonial start at 19.30.

 

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