Calling the original, first-generation Focus WRC a failure is akin to stepping onto the thin ice of a barely frozen pond, then start bouncing about. Ford’s first stab at a purebred World Rally Car took 16 wins and allowed both Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz to challenge for championship honours on several different occasions, while helping to bolster the fledgling careers of drivers like Markko Martin and Petter Solberg. A Citroen BX4TC or Nissan GTI-R, it was most certainly was not.
But for all its promise, the Focus never achieved its full potential; it never brought either a drivers’ or a manufacturer's crown to Ford by way of M-Sport, and in any case, by the midpoint of the 2005 season it was beginning to show its age. Something altogether newer was required, a car able to face-off against the new generation of WRC cars, led by the Citroen Xsara and France’s new rallying king, Sebastien Loeb.
M-Sport and Ford went back to the drawing board, now armed with the then-new Mk2 Focus ST. It might have been a larger car than the model it replaced but that didn’t really matter, not with the new shape handily falling within the FIA’s new size regulations – just. It also gave M-Sport a chance to correct some of the early car’s foibles, the kind of sweeping, wholesale changes only really possible with a new car with an associated new homologation. The most pressing of these were a need to reduce weight (always a Focus bugbear), increase suspension travel and, with one eye on the new regulations intended to cap costs from 2006, chassis and transmission engineering.
The latter was of supreme importance, the FIA having decreed that such transmission fripperies as active front and rear differentials be outlawed from the end of the 2005 season as a way of cutting down the spiralling costs associated with running a World Rally Car programme. This also meant that greater importance would be placed upon the both the lone active centre diff, as well as the conventional front and rear, would in turn place greater demands on those tasked with driving the new Focus.
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