Ford will continue to contest the World Rally Championship, saying the series enhances its reputation and helps sales, especially of the crucial Focus hatchback
Ford fields works Focus RSs for Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, and will face only arch-rival Citroen in the 2009 WRC following this week’s dramatic announcements that Suzuki and Subaru are withdrawing.
The Focus is a crucial model for Ford globally, and is increasingly important in the US where consumers have shifted to smaller cars.
The 2008 series, won by Sebastien Loeb and Citroen, was effectively on a two-horse race anyway. Subaru has struggled to get on the pace in recent seasons and Suzuki was in its debut year.
In a statement released today, Ford said: "we are naturally disappointed to learn of the withdrawal of both Japanese manufacturers, Suzuki and Subaru, from the FIA World Rally Championship.
"Ford announced during Rally GB earlier this month that we will participate in 2009 and we look forward to renewing our challenge with the Ford Focus RS WRC for both the manufacturers' and drivers' championships.
"We will retain our exciting and dynamic young driver line-up of Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, who have benefitted from another year's experience and maturity, supported by one of the most enthusiastic and hard-working teams in motorsport at M-Sport – which we believe will again make us highly competitive in 2009.”
Ford says contesting the WRC “provides a big impetus to our product reputation and sales, especially for the Focus.
“For Ford to demonstrate our products in a successful way, on a global basis via television and the internet, through involvement in the World Rally Championship represents good value. The WRC continues to represent the pinnacle of our motorsport ladder of opportunity."
There’s been no word yet from Citroen.