A quartet of M-Sport-run Focus RS World Rally Cars will support Ford's official team during this season's FIA World Rally Championship.

Four customer drivers, all of whom claimed points finishes last season, will pilot 2004-specification cars, competing alongside official BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Roman Kresta.

Antony Warmbold will have the most comprehensive programme, the 26-year-old German starting all 16 rounds. He will have a new co-driver for the season, 31-year-old Irishman Damien Connolly. Warmbold tested a 2004 Focus RS in Sweden last month and will test again in France next week before the recce for the Monte Carlo Rally.

"The 2004 Focus RS is a very different car to the one I drove last season," said Warmbold. "It responds much more precisely. The 2002 car was less sensitive in its steering and I had to be aggressive. The new car requires much less input in steering and I need to be much cooler. But it's still a car and has four wheels, like the other one. I have had two years of competition in a proper car, with a proper team so I have a good understanding about set-up. I'm confident that once I get used to the car I can start pushing for top six finishes."

Norwegians Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud will tackle all the loose surface European rounds of the championship in a Castrol-backed Focus RS, beginning with the second round in Sweden next month. The other events in their programme are in Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Finland and Great Britain.

Spain's Dani Sola will compete on six rounds in a programme supported by Telefonica and backed by the Reial Automobil Club de Catalunya [RACC]. His programme starts with the Rally Mexico and continues in Germany, Japan, France, Spain and Australia. Thirty-year-old Sola's co-driver has yet to be confirmed.

Rally New Zealand and Rally Argentina will be the destinations for Argentine Luis Perez Companc, who finished sixth on his home event in 2004. His co-driver has yet to be confirmed.

All four drivers will be located alongside the official BP-Ford World Rally Team service park on rallies, from where their cars will be maintained alongside official BP-Ford drivers Gardemeister and Kresta.

"There has been enormous interest in securing a world championship drive in a Ford Focus RS WRC for 2005," said M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson. "I have lost count of the number of drivers who have spoken with us regarding a WRC programme. It's clear that the Focus RS is the first choice. It has an enviable reputation for both reliability and speed and I believe we will see these drivers scoring regular points finishes during the season."

"Apart from the Monte Carlo Rally, there will be four M-Sport-prepared Focus RS WRCs on every event and that means the team will be operating to full capacity all year. We have run four cars on rallies before but not to the same consistency as we will do this season," he added.

Ford TeamRS director Jost Capito is delighted to see so much interest in the Focus RS WRC.

"Our strengthened relationship with M-Sport, which Ford announced in November as part of our long-term commitment to the WRC, has brought benefits for drivers like Antony and Henning. These four drivers have Ford's continued encouragement and I'm sure we'll see them achieving points finishes as they provide valuable support to the official BP-Ford team," he said.