GOODWOOD, UK, 7-9 July, 2006 – Ford's world rally stars Marcus Grönholm and Mikko Hirvonen will drive the new 2006 Ford Focus RS World Rally Car publicly for the first time in Britain at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (7-9 July). They will demonstrate the car, which has already won three times this season in the FIA World Rally Championship, on both the famous hillclimb and the forest special stage at the prestigious historic motorsport event.
Hirvonen will be behind the wheel on both Friday and Saturday while Grönholm will take over for the final day on Sunday. It will be the first time that either has appeared at the festival.
"I have heard so many good things about the Goodwood Festival of Speed that I'm really looking forward to driving there," said Grönholm. "The event has a wonderful reputation and you only have to look at the calibre of drivers in attendance to see how highly it is regarded. I hope the crowd will enjoy their first view of the new Focus RS WRC car in action in the UK."
The Finnish duo has made an impressive start to the BP-Ford World Rally Team's world championship campaign. At the midpoint of the season, with eight of the 16 events held, the team lies second in the manufacturers' standings. Double world champion Grönholm has won three rallies and lies second in the drivers' table with Hirvonen in fourth.
Ford has also extended its record-breaking run of consecutive points finishes in the WRC to 68 – a feat unmatched by any other manufacturer in the sport's history. The run began on the Monte Carlo Rally in 2002 and all 68 have been achieved with the Focus RS World Rally Car.
The newest version of the Focus RS WRC made its full championship debut on the opening round of the 2006 championship in Monte Carlo – the most famous rally in the series. Grönholm claimed a remarkable debut victory and followed that with a second success amid the hostile snow and ice of the Swedish Rally in February.
Thirty-eight-year-old Grönholm continued to set a strong pace as the series moved onto asphalt, leading in Spain and taking a fine second place in Corsica. The Finn also led on the rougher gravel roads of Argentina and Sardinia before dominating the toughest event of all, the Acropolis Rally of Greece, to take a start to finish victory. Such has been the impact of the new Focus RS WRC that it has led six of the eight rounds to date.
While Grönholm has chased outright victory, team-mate Hirvonen has concentrated on developing his experience on events of which he has little knowledge, while continuing to rack up manufacturers' points for Ford. He has excelled, taking a career-best second in Sardinia and third in Greece.