The first all-new 2006 Ford Focus RS World Rally Car completed almost 500km during its initial three-day test session in England last week. The car, which will spearhead the BP-Ford World Rally Team's challenge in the FIA World Rally Championship next season, will undergo a second test this week before it is seen for the first time in public during next month's Rally Australia.
After a brief asphalt shakedown several days earlier, the car was driven on gravel forest tracks close to M-Sport's Dovenby Hall base in north-west England by newly-crowned British rally champion Mark Higgins. The car completed 200km on the first testing day, 160km on the second day and 130km on the final day with no major problems.
"We are delighted with the way this first functional car behaved on what was a pretty demanding test," said Malcolm Wilson, director of the BP-Ford World Rally Team.
A second gravel test is due to be completed this week. The team will then send two cars to Australia for regular BP-Ford drivers Toni Gardemeister and Roman Kresta to drive on the final round of the 2005 championship.
For the team, the Rally Australia will be treated as a 'real world' test for the new Focus RS WRC. The car's first competitive outing will be on the opening round of the 2006 World Rally Championship, January's Monte Carlo Rally.
The 2006 Focus RS WRC is based on the new Focus ST road car, which is currently being launched across Europe.
"It is really exciting for us to be testing a brand new rally car at the same time that we are launching its spiritual sibling, the new Focus ST," said Jost Capito, Director of Ford TeamRS. "Everyone in Ford TeamRS and at M-Sport has worked hard to deliver the new WRC in time for the Rally Australia, and we're looking forward to seeing it in action.
"But we're not going to Australia to win," added Capito. "We want to evaluate how the car will behave in the heat of a real competition before it enters its first competitive event next year."
The new Focus WRC has been designed and built at M-Sport, with the full involvement of Ford Team RS. M-Sport operates Ford's rally programme with an experienced and innovative engineering team led by technical director Christian Loriaux.
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