Grapevine: Ford marks 200th rally with M-Sport

Ford celebrated its 200th World Rally Championship event with M-Sport by holding a surprise party in the Catalunya Rally service park last night - with Carlos Sainz making a special presentation to Malcolm Wilson

Grapevine: Ford marks 200th rally with M-Sport

Sainz drove one of the M-Sport-prepared Ford Escort WRCs on the Cumbrian firm's first event running Ford's programme, the 1997 Monte Carlo Rally. The double world champion went on to win four rallies at the wheel of an M-Sport prepared car - and he was delighted to present Wilson with a framed montage of rally plates from Monte, 1997 and Catalunya 2010.

Only three M-Sport employees have attended all 200 world rallies, with co-ordinator John Millington and tyre engineer George Black also being presented.

Sainz said: "M-Sport's involvement dates back to the Monte Carlo Rally in January 1997 when I was a driver for the team. It was my first event with M-Sport running the WRC programme for Ford and I knew then that great achievements would follow. Your determination, hard work, professionalism and your wish to always look for perfection was to guarantee you success, and I know that more success lies ahead."

Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn added: "This is a real landmark achievement and I'm delighted that Carlos, who was in the driving seat at the very beginning of Ford's partnership with M-Sport, could be here tonight. We've enjoyed some great moments together and, with the introduction of the all-new Ford Fiesta RS WRC just around the corner, I'm sure there are more exciting times lying in wait."

A surprised Wilson said: "I had no idea this was M-Sport's 200th rally. It was great to see Carlos with us again and to be surprised by his presentation. He made the presentation to me, but in reality it's to the whole company. Every single person at M-Sport, both current and previous employees, has played an important role in these 200 rallies and I would like to pass on my thanks to them all."

Since Ford and M-Sport joined forces, the team has won 46 world rallies with the Escort Cosworth, Escort RS Cosworth and Focus RS World Rally Cars. The highlights came in 2006 and 2007 when Marcus Gronholm and Mikko Hirvonen steered the team to back-to-back manufacturers' world titles.

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