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FLYING FINN STEERS FORD FOCUS RS INTO SPOTLIGHT

Nov 30,2008 Elton

Spectators at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium for the final stage of the second leg of Wales Rally GB in December will be treated to a world-first spectacle - the driving debut of Ford’s fastest-ever European production car, the new Focus RS.

Behind the wheel of the Performance Blue machine will be a man well qualified to appreciate the Focus RS’s awe-inspiring capabilities – 'Flying Finn' Marcus Grönholm, former double World Rally Champion and ex-Ford WRC driver. But this time he won't be in competition.

The much-anticipated Focus RS, which goes on sale early in Spring next year, will take pride of place at the stadium in a cavalcade of heritage Rallye Sport (RS) cars stretching back nearly 40 years.

The new car is powered by a turbocharged Duratec 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine. With its unique camshafts, revised cylinder head and gasket, intake and manifold system, the unit is designed to deliver 300PS and 440Nm peak torque.

Combined with a six-speed transmission, this translates to 0-62mph acceleration in under six seconds and a targeted top speed of 161mph. Yet the designers have succeeded in combining high performance with a car that is eminently practical for everyday use.

The combination of Quaife Automatic Torque Biasing limited-slip differential and innovative RevoKnuckle front-suspension system allows a class-leading balance of traction, handling and performance to be derived from front- as opposed to all-wheel drive, with consequent power-to-weight advantages.

A wider track, enhanced drive-shafts and rear anti-roll bar, revised springs and dampers, retuned steering and uprated brakes all contribute to outstanding sports handling. A specially developed version of Ford's ESP system provides added safety.

The metallic Performance Blue of the car Marcus Grönholm will drive reflects the livery of Ford's World Rally Championship Focus cars, though the RS will also be available in 'Ultimate Green' and Frozen White.

Similarly, the black twin-blade rear spoiler echoes both RS models of the past and the World Rally-winning Focus RS WRC that inspired the latest version.

The RS badge was last seen on the first-generation Focus RS in 2002. Over 38 years it has also graced Fiesta, Escort and Sierra models, as a Cardiff RS cavalcade will reflect.

The Cardiff stage of Wales Rally GB, the last round of the FIA World Rally Championship, takes place on 6 December. It looks set to attract big crowds, keen to see the much-anticipated Ford v Citroen battle at close quarters.

Until this year, Marcus Grönholm would have been a competitor. The 40-year-old driver started his rallying career in a Ford Escort in 1987, going on to win 30 world rally victories, and becoming World Champion in 2000 and 2002.

In 2006 and 2007 he drove the Ford Focus RS WRC and helped secure two world manufacturer titles for Ford before retiring from full-time competition.



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