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19 October 2012

Ford and MINI announces departure from WRC in 2013

Words by Christopher Kho
 
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Only weeks after Hyundai announced their return to the World Rally Championship (WRC), Ford and MINI have, sadly, declared that both their factory-backed teams are exiting the championship after the 2012 season. Citing different reasons for their departure, the news has burst our bubble as we had hoped that the WRC will finally return to its glory days with VW and Toyota joining the field next year.
 
With 16 seasons, 52 rally victories, and 2 constructor's championships (2006 and 2007) under their belt, the M-Sport run Ford World Rally Team will exit the sport due to the poor economic climate in Europe. And despite being a part of the One Ford global program, it looks like the currently-run Fiesta RS WRC isn't making enough waves on the rally stages to translate into sales for its road-going counterpart. 
 
"Ford has a long and proud history in the WRC, and this was not an easy decision. At this time, however, we determined that it was better for the company and the Ford brand to reduce our commitment to the WRC and deploy our resources in other areas," remarked Roeland de Waard, Ford of Europe's VP of Marketing, Sales, and Service.
 
On the contrary, M-Sport has plans to continue running the Fiesta RS WRC in the coming years, probably under a privateer team. There have been no announcements though where the team's current drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg will move to in 2013. 
 
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MINI, on the other hand, has not cited a concrete reason for their departure from the WRC. With very limited success, a poor 2012 season wasn't the fairytale they had hoped for when they entered the sport last year. And with their withdrawal, the team's goal of winning the championship in 2013 will be nothing more but a dream. 
 
But because the factory-supported, ProDrive-run WRC Team MINI Portugal will have competed in all the rallies in 2012, the MINI John Cooper Works (JCW) will meet FIA's WRC homologation. This will allow private customer teams to purchase and run the car in the WRC's future seasons. BMW Motorsport and ProDrive will also continue to develop the JCW rally car and its 1.6L turbo engine.
 
Both the team's exit comes at a bad time, because nine-time consecutive WRC World Champion, Sebastien Leob, has indeed confirmed that he is not contesting in 2013. This gives Ford and MINI a clear shot at the title for next year. Bummer.