Laukkanen gets Ford World Rally chance

Tapio Laukkanen will drive a third works Ford Focus World Rally Car on the final two rounds of this year's FIA World Rally Championship.

Laukkanen gets Ford World Rally chance

The 31-year-old Finn will be entered for the Australian and Britsh events by Ford Motor Company. The car will be prepared and run by M-Sport -- the team which operates Ford's world rally programme - alongside regular drivers Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz.

McRae and Sainz will remain as Ford's nominated drivers for the manufacturers' championship.

Laukkanen, who will be co-driven by Kaj Lindstrom, made an impressive Focus debut on his home Rally Finland in August, the first time he had driven a World Rally Car in competition. He was running inside the top 10 before retiring during the second leg.

Although he competed on the Rally Australia last year, Laukkanen has much more experience of the British forests and was British champion in 1999. He will hope to feature strongly on the Rally of Great Britain.

"It's a great opportunity for me to join up with the Ford works team," said Laukkanen. "The more experience I can gain in a team of the calibre of Ford and in a World Rally Car the better it is for me. I'm especially looking forward to the Rally Great Britain given my knowledge of the British forests.

"Australia will be only my second time driving the Focus in competition and so I'm still learning about it. It felt quite easy to handle in Finland and I was quite surprised how quickly I was able to set reasonable times but I know there's still more to come from both me and the car," added Laukkanen.

Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson stated this was currently an agreement for the two rallies only. "This is a great opportunity for Tapio. He impressed many in Finland and while the very slippery gravel roads in Australia will require some caution, I'm sure he'll feel very much at home in the British forests in November, by which time he should have considerably more experience of the Ford Focus."

The next round of the World Rally Championship is the Tour of Corsica which starts this Friday (29 Sept).

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