MOTORSPORT NEWS Rally

FINNS IN FORDS: DECADES OF SUCCESS

M-SPORT FORD’S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT ESAPEKKA LAPPI AND TEEMU SUNINEN WILL SPEARHEAD ITS 2020 WRC ASSAULT BRINGS BACK FOND MEMORIES OF PREVIOUS GENERATIONS OF FINNS IN FORDS AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE COMPETITION.

In the WRC’s first season, Ford’s Finns were winning immediately with Timo Mäkinen taking victory at home in the 1000 Lakes Rally and on Britain’s RAC Rally.

It was in the British forests that Mäkinen and Hannu Mikkola really showed the potential of the Escort, be it the Mk I or RS1800 Mk II. Between 1973 and 1979, Ford was unbeaten as the Finnish pair gathered six victories between them.

Ford pulled out of the championship as an official manufacturer in 1979, ironically as champion, and Mikkola moved to Audi to sample total traction and turbocharging courtesy of the Quattro. But the success kept on coming thanks to another Finn.

Installing Ari Vatanen behind the wheel of a privately-run Rothmans-backed RS 1800 delivered a first drivers’ title for a Ford-mounted Finn in 1981. Vatanen was one of the Escort’s most famous exponents.

“It is,” he opined, “the glove on my hand.”

More than a decade later in 1994 Tommi Mäkinen was the Finn in full Ford flight. He scored his first-ever WRC win at home in Jyväskylä aboard an Escort RS Cosworth he still talks of as one of the easiest cars to drive.

Since 1997, Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport firm has run Ford’s WRC effort, with Finns flourishing in the family atmosphere and environment.

More than a decade later in 1994 Tommi Mäkinen was the Finn in full Ford flight. He scored his first-ever WRC win at home in Jyväskylä aboard an Escort RS Cosworth he still talks of as one of the easiest cars to drive.

Since 1997, Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport firm has run Ford’s WRC effort, with Finns flourishing in the family atmosphere and environment.

Marcus Grönholm and Mikko Hirvonen and then Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala kept the blue cross flag flying.

The first of those partnerships delivered back-to-back manufacturers’ titles in 2006 and 2007 and Grönholm came close to a third drivers’ title in his final year in the sport in 2007.

Two years later and it was Hirvonen’s turn to take the Ford name close. He missed a world championship by just a single point in 2009.

Those efforts were all made in a variety of Focus RS cars, but since 2011 the Fiesta has been the car of choice. Just as Grönholm gave the Focus a full factory debut win in Monte- Carlo in 2006, so Hirvonen did the same in Sweden five years on.

Finns and Fords, it’s that success story that keeps on giving.

Source: WRC