Ford Racing director Gerard Quinn has praised the work of M-Sport, the British team which took the Blue Oval to two world rally titles, on the eve of Ford's final World Rally Championship outing.
Ford hosted key members of the WRC media at a function in Salou last night, ahead of today's Barcelona start of the Catalunya Rally.
Quinn admitted his time working with M-Sport's managing director Malcolm Wilson had been one of the highlights of his career with the Blue Oval.
Quinn said: "I had the privilege of watching this guy competing when I was a kid, and I never thought at the time that I would have the privilege of working with him. It has been, at times, challenging, confrontational, it has been funny - drunk once or twice - but overall it's been a fantastic relationship with Malcolm [Wilson].
"The people that work in the team are some of the most fantastic people I have met in my life. The team has been hugely successful in terms of spirit as well as achievements and accomplishments.
"Ford won't be in the World Rally Championship in 2013, but that's not to say Ford won't be in rallying - we will continue to support the drivers of Ford rally cars around the world and who's to say that, in the future, we won't step back into the world championship."
After watching film footage of the M-Sport's 50 WRC wins, an emotional Wilson said: "I have to say a big thank you to Ford Motor Company, to have supported the WRC for so long is amazing - we've had an incredible 16 years.
"As for me, well, I don't know anything other than the World Rally Championship, so you're going to have to put up with me for a few years yet!"
This week's Catalunya Rally will be the final event for the Ford World Rally Team, following Ford's decision to withdraw its title sponsorship from the team.