Ford’s top WRC winners

We run through the list of 21 drivers who have put Ford on the top step of the World Rally Championship podium

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Since the inception of the World Rally Championship in 1979, the service park has only been without Ford presence for three seasons. Naturally then, there are an awful lot of drivers who have won world rallies in Ford machinery.

To be specific, 21 men have threaded either an Escort, Sierra, Focus or Fiesta to victory in world rallying and with Ford still ever-present in the modern-day WRC, expect that number to increase over the years.

While only Björn Waldegård, Ari Vatanen and Sébastien Ogier have won drivers’ titles in a Ford, several more have contributed to manufacturer championships that the marque has also won four times along with the drivers’ crown.

Here, DirtFish lists the most successful drivers in Ford’s illustrious world rallying history in reverse order, based purely on the number of victories they scored. There might be one or two surprises…

=14 Roger Clark

First win: RAC Rally 1976
Last win: RAC Rally 1976
No. of wins: 1
Car: Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2

Roger Clark was one of the most gifted drivers of his generation and was a true staple of Ford’s factory effort with the Escort in the 1970s. After coming close on several prior occasions, Clark won his home round of the world championship – then just for manufacturers – in 1976, over four minutes clear of Stig Blomqvist’s Saab.

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Roger Clark, Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2

=14 Kyösti Hämäläinen

First win: 1000 Lakes Rally 1977
Last win: 1000 Lakes Rally 1977
No. of wins: 1
Car: Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2

Kyösti Hämäläinen won’t be the Finnish WRC winner you first think of if asked in a pub quiz, but he is one of 20 Finns to take victory on their home stages. In doing so, behind the wheel of his Escort, he defeated his more fancied compatiriots Markku Alén, Pentti Airikkala, Ari Vatanen, Simo Lampinen, Timo Mäkinen, Hannu Mikkola and Timo Salonen in 1977.

=14 Didier Auriol

First win: Tour de Corse 1988
Last win: Tour de Corse 1988
No. of wins: 1
Car: Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

The aggressive Group B era of the mid-1980s had ruled rear-wheel-drive cars out of the victory equation and the trend continued into Group A. But it seems Didier Auriol, who would go on to become the 1994 World Rally Champion, didn’t get that memo. Armed with a Sierra RS Cosworth in Corsica in 1988, Auriol was supreme and dominated the rally to take his first of 20 WRC victories ahead of Yves Loubet and Bruno Saby’s Lancia Delta Integrales.

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Miki Biasion, Ford Escort RS Cosworth

=14 Miki Biasion

First win: Acropolis Rally 1993
Last win: Acropolis Rally 1993
No. of wins: 1
Car: Ford Escort RS Cosworth

After a successful and long period with Lancia, Miki Biasion moved to Ford in 1992 but struggled to hit the same highs. His sole victory in a Ford came in 1993 on the Acropolis when he beat Carlos Sainz’s Lancia by over a minute. The following, and ultimately poor, ’94 season would be his last in the WRC.

=14 Franco Cunico

First win: Rally Sanremo 1993
Last win: Rally Sanremo 1993
No. of wins: 1
Car: Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Franco Cunico started just one round of the 1993 WRC season in his Ford Italia Escort RS Cosworth, but it ultimately yielded him his first and only world championship victory. After a slow start, Cunico began creeping up the leaderboard, picking up places as more fancied rivals faltered, retired or were excluded, and eventually led home fellow Escort pilot Patrick Snijers by over 10 minutes.

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Tommi Mäkinen, Ford Escort RS Cosworth

=14 Tommi Mäkinen

First win: 1000 Lakes Rally 1994
Last win: 1000 Lakes Rally 1994
No. of wins: 1
Car: Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Mitsubishi is the brand Tommi Mäkinen is synonymous with, but it was actually on a one-off outing for the Ford team that the Finn claimed his first WRC victory. After an intense fight with Toyota’s Didier Auriol, Mäkinen recorded a narrow 22-second victory. His team-mate François Delecour was over five minutes back in fourth.

=14 Mads Østberg

First win: Rally Portugal 2012
Last win: Rally Portugal 2012
No. of wins: 1
Car: Ford Fiesta RS WRC

The 2012 edition of Rally Portugal presented disgusting conditions, with championship leader Sébastien Loeb crashing out and his Citroën team-mate Mikko Hirvonen being excluded after winning the rally. That exclusion handed the privateer Østberg his first – and so far only – WRC victory of his career.

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Elfyn Evans, Ford Fiesta WRC

Photo: M-Sport World Rally Team

=14 Elfyn Evans

First win: Rally GB 2017
Last win: Rally GB 2017
No. of wins: 1
Car: Ford Fiesta WRC

Utilizing his DMACK rubber that was better suited to the conditions than the Michelins his rivals were using, Elfyn Evans put together a dominant performance to win his home rally in 2017 as M-Sport Ford also clinched the manufacturers’ title as well as the drivers’ crown with Sébastien Ogier. Evans would come close to winning again for Ford, only for a final-stage puncture to ruin that in Corsica in 2019.

13 Ott Tänak

First win: Rally Italy 2017
Last win: Rally Germany 2017
No. of wins: 2
Car: Ford Fiesta WRC

Ott Tänak has a colorful history with Ford, being dropped twice from factory seats in 2012 and 2015 before it all came good in 2017. He’d come agonizingly close to a breakthrough win in a DMACK-run Ford Fiesta in Poland in 2016, but it finally happened in Sardinia in 2017.

With the monkey off his back he immediately fought for victory on the next round – again in Poland – only to crash out on the final day when pushing too hard for glory. His second and final victory in Ford colors (before a title-winning move to Toyota) was a real display of Tänak’s abilities as he beat his team-mate Ogier on asphalt to win Rally Germany ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen’s Citroën.

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Timo Mäkinen, Ford Escort RS 1600 Mk1

=10 Timo Mäkinen

First win: 1000 Lakes Rally 1973
Last win: RAC Rally 1975
No. of wins: 4
Cars: Ford Escort RS1600 Mk1, Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2

The original rallying Mäkinen, Timo, had the honor of taking Ford’s first ever world championship victory in Finland 1973, the eighth ever championship rally to be held. He doubled up on his very next start to win the 1973 RAC Rally too.

The RAC Rally was his most prosperous event in a Ford as that 1973 victory proved to be the start of a hat-trick of Great British wins in succession. In an era of no drivers’ championship, Mäkinen’s efforts were enough to help Ford to third place in both 1973 and ’74.

=10 Ari Vatanen

First win: Acropolis Rally 1980
Last win: 1000 Lakes Rally 1981
No. of wins: 4
Car: Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2

Ari Vatanen had been a perennial threat at the front of world rallying for years before he finally broke his winning duck on the 1980 Acropolis. The Finn was fast but accident-prone, meaning it took him five years since first taming an Escort Mk2 on the world stage to bring his machine to the end of a rally at the top of the leaderboard.

That Acropolis victory was a turning point however. A trio of wins – another in Greece, one in Brazil and a final one in Finland – throughout the following 1981 season were enough to land Vatanen the world title, and thus become Ford’s second World Rally Champion in three years.

He returned to the brand in the 1990s in an Escort RS Cosworth and then Escort WRC to support the lead car’s effort with a best result of third on the 1998 Safari.

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Francois Delecour, Ford Escort RS Cosworth

=10 François Delecour

First win: Rally Portugal 1993
Last win: Monte Carlo Rally 1994
No. of wins: 4
Car: Ford Escort RS Cosworth

François Delecour was the WRC’s mercurial talent of the early 1990s. Undoubtedly rapid, he occasionally lacked the temperament of Carlos Sainz and Juha Kankkunen who were kings of the era. But on his day, Delecour was almost unbeatable.

He should have won in a Ford Sierra on the 1991 Monte, but he got the job done in Portugal 1993 to record a Ford one-two ahead of Miki Biasion – the brand’s first WRC victory in five years and on the Escort Cosworth’s second ever event. It teed up a magnificent season that yielded two further wins on the asphalt of Corsica and Spain and second spot in the drivers’ standings behind Kankkunen’s Toyota Celica.

By winning the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally, Delecour announced himself as a real title threat in ‘94 only for first an engine failure in Portugal and then a road crash in a friend’s Ferrari F40 to curtail his season.

He’d return in 1995 but not as quite the same talent, failing to win again in the WRC after switching to Peugeot and then back to Ford for a single season in 2001.

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Hannu Mikkola, Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk2

=7 Hannu Mikkola

First win: 1000 Lakes Rally 1974
Last win: RAC Rally 1979
No. of wins: 5
Cars: Ford Escort RS1600 Mk1, Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2

Before Hannu Mikkola went on to win the 1983 world title with Audi, he was one of Ford’s top drivers in the 1970s. The first victory came in his native Finland in 1974 with the Escort Mk1 before a move away to Fiat, Peugeot and Toyota machines in 1975, ’76 and ’77.

Mikkola returned to drive a Ford in 1978 and won that year’s RAC Rally in Great Britain before a tremendous battle with team-mate Björn Waldegård in 1979.

He took three victories in Portugal, New Zealand and again in the UK to Waldegård’s two in Greece and Canada, but a greater number of mechanical woes for Mikkola meant he lost the maiden drivers’ title by just a single point.

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Carlos Sainz, Ford Focus RS WRC

=7 Carlos Sainz

First win: Rally Indonesia 1996
Last win: Rally Argentina 2002
No. of wins: 5
Cars: Ford Escort RS Cosworth, Ford Escort WRC, Ford Focus RS WRC

‘El Matador’ was supposed to drive for Toyota in 1996 but had to seek refuge at Ford, which was now being run by Malcolm Wilson, as Toyota was banned from the ’96 season due to its turbo cheat in 1995. It took Sainz just three rallies to win in a Ford though, conquering the WRC’s inaugural trip to Indonesia.

In 1997 at the dawn of the new World Rally Car era, Sainz again won in Indonesia and in Greece in the Escort before he moved on to Toyota in 1998. But when Toyota pulled out of WRC in 1999, Sainz was back in a Ford but this time without his de facto team leader status.

Paired with Colin McRae, Sainz was the more consistent hand in a Focus WRC but wasn’t the same victory threat as in his earlier career. However he did lead the Cyprus Rally from start to finish in 2000 and scored a final Ford victory in Argentina when both Marcus Grönholm and Richard Burns’ Peugeots were excluded for separate offences in 2002.

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Markko Martin, Ford Focus RS WRC

=7 Markko Märtin

First win: Acropolis Rally 2003
Last win: Rally Spain 2004
No. of wins: 5
Car: Ford Focus RS WRC

Along with Petter Solberg and Sébastien Loeb, Markko Märtin was part of a new generation of WRC drivers in the early 2000s that were destined to go on to dominate the series. Unlike his Subaru and Citroën counterparts though, Märtin never lifted the world crown but he did win five rallies in a Focus WRC before moving to Peugeot in 2005 and ultimately calling time on his career early when co-driver Michael Park lost his life.

All five of Märtin’s Ford victories were superb. Victory on the Acropolis was a long time coming, but he had to fight for it as the hood flipped up over his windshield on one of the stages, severely hampering his visibility. He then went one better in 2003 by winning Rally Finland. Embroiled in an intense fight with Marcus Grönholm, Märtin pressured Grönholm into a mistake and became just the then third non-Scandinavian driver to win the classic event.

Three further victories would come in 2004, including on the WRC’s first visit to México, and then his first pair of back-to-back victories, and first on asphalt, in Corsica and Spain. Märtin and Ford was a partnership that could have achieved a lot more had the cards been dealt differently.

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Björn Waldegård, Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2

=5 Björn Waldegård

First win: Safari Rally 1977
Last win: Critérium du Québec 1979
No. of wins: 6
Car: Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2

Waldegård has a major part to play in Ford’s rallying history as he was the first man to secure both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles for the marque, both claimed in 1979. That personal success over team-mate Hannu Mikkola (see above) also earned him the distinction as the first ever World Rally Champion driver.

The Swede was an impeccable performer who would win 16 events over an incredible career, and he joined Ford in 1977 at the peak of his powers. After his first three rallies in an Escort, Waldegård had already won two of them (Safari and Acropolis) and rounded out the season with a victory on the RAC.

The following 1978 season was leaner though victory therein at home in Sweden was sweet. Waldegård then strung together a consistent campaign in ’79 to net another Greek victory and one in Canada to seal the title.

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Sébastien Ogier, Ford Fiesta WRC

Photo: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool

=5 Sébastien Ogier

First win: Monte Carlo Rally 2017
Last win: Rally GB 2018
No. of wins: 6
Car: Ford Fiesta WRC

Ford’s third and final world drivers’ champion to date ties with Waldegård on six rally wins, but Sébastien Ogier has the distinction of being the only man to win two drivers’ crowns with Ford.

Ogier won on his debut in Monte Carlo after a late switch to M-Sport Ford after Volkswagen suddenly withdrew from the WRC. A second victory followed in Portugal but Ogier’s title-clinching campaign was ultimately built on consistency as opposed to victories.

The succeeding 2018 season was more prosperous as Ogier took three of the opening four rallies of the year to ease into an early points lead. His sixth and final victory in Ford colors came on Rally GB in 2018 when, with the chips down, he capitalized on a retirement for his main title rival Ott Tänak to fend off Jari-Matti Latvala’s Toyota and seal a narrow win.

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Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford Focus RS WRC

4 Jari-Matti Latvala

First win: Rally Sweden 2008
Final win: Rally GB 2012
No. of wins: 7
Cars: Ford Focus RS WRC, Ford Fiesta RS WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala was an integral part of Ford’s attack in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and brought home seven victories for the squad. The first of those was a special affair as, on just his second event in the main team, he won Rally Sweden and with it became the youngest winner in WRC history.

This would prove to be a slight false dawn however as Latvala went on a mixed run of results, waiting over a year for victory number two in Italy. Two more victories were secured in a Focus WRC; first after a dramatic final stage in New Zealand in 2010 and then the one every Finn wants to win: Rally Finland of the same year.

As Ford switched to a Fiesta in 2011, Latvala took three more wins (Rally GB twice and Sweden for a second time in 2012) before leaving Ford behind to join Volkswagen’s all-new program in 2013. While Latvala never landed the world title his talent deserved, he can be proud to be fourth on such an esteemed list.

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Colin McRae, Ford Focus RS WRC

3 Colin McRae

First win: Safari Rally 1999
Last win: Safari Rally 2002
No. of wins: 9
Car: Ford Focus RS WRC

As Ford replaced the ageing Escort with the Focus WRC in 1999, it poached Colin McRae to spearhead its new chapter. It was a big money move, but came with big rewards as McRae took the Focus to nine rally wins across four seasons. Sadly, the title would evade both parties.

The first win came on the rough, tough adventure in Kenya, just three events into the Focus’s competiton life. That was backed up with a victory in Portugal on the very next round, only for a dismal run of nine retirements from the next 10 rallies to ensue.

The 2000 season yielded two more wins in Spain and Greece before a gravel hat-trick in 2001 (Argentina, Cyprus and Argentina) that were all claimed in succession. That season will however remain the most galling given the title slipped away from McRae and Ford as he violently crashed out of the season finale.

Back-to-back Acropolis and Safari victories in 2002 brought McRae’s winning run with Ford – and ultimately with the WRC – to an end.

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Marcus Grönholm, Ford Focus RS WRC

2 Marcus Grönholm

First win: Monte Carlo Rally 2006
Final win: Rally New Zealand 2007
No. of wins: 12
Car: Ford Focus RS WRC

Marcus Grönholm’s mammoth 12 Ford victories were all concentrated into just two seasons with the team, making it incredible that he is as high as second in Ford’s roll of honor. It is worth remembering though that throughout Grönholm’s spell in 2006 and ’07 the WRC calendar was swelling at 16 rounds, but ‘Bosse’ winning 12 of these means he has a startling 37.5% strike rate in a Focus WRC.

Grönholm won on his debut on the Monte Carlo Rally after Loeb slid off the road, and backed that up with a win in Sweden on his 38th birthday. Further wins in Greece and Finland followed before three more in Turkey, New Zealand and Great Britain with Loeb absent due to a mountain bike accident. Grönholm missed the open goal he was presented however by crashing in Australia and losing out on a third world title.

The following season was an epic tussle between Grönholm and Loeb. Grönholm won five rallies (Sweden, Italy, Greece, Finland and New Zealand) but Loeb won eight, and Grönholm’s crash on the penultimate round in Ireland handed Loeb an initiative he wouldn’t surrender.

Grönholm retired after the 2007 season but his final win in New Zealand was epic as he edged Loeb by 0.3s after a final superspecial stage shootout. The Finn’s efforts also helped Ford secure back-to-back constructors’ titles.

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Mikko Hirvonen, Ford Fiesta RS WRC

Photo: M-Sport World Rally Team

1 Mikko Hirvonen

First win: Rally Australia 2006
Final win: Rally Australia 2011
No. of wins: 14
Cars: Ford Focus RS WRC, Ford Fiesta RS WRC

Hirvonen may not be a World Rally Champion, but he ranks higher than 11 champions on this list as the driver to win the most world rallies behind the wheel of a Ford. Despite spells with Subaru beforehand and then Citroën afterwards, it’s with Ford that Hirvonen had his most successful WRC spell and indeed he also rounded off his career with the brand for a single year in 2014.

A debut victory came in Australia in 2006 and that truly opened the floodgates. Edging Grönholm on the snow of Norway in 2007 was a real statement of intent, and Hirvonen would go on to claim another two wins that year in Japan and Great Britain to seal a clear third in the standings.

When Grönholm retired, Hirvonen assumed the role of team leader and won a further eight rallies from 2008-10 (Jordan 2008, Turkey 2008, Japan 2008, Acropolis 2009, Poland 2009, Finland 2009, Australia 2009 and Rally Sweden 2010) as he looked to take the challenge to Loeb.

He came close in 2009, winning four rallies on the bounce only for a hood pin to wear loose on the final round of the season, forcing Hirvonen to stop and cost him the shot of passing Loeb and taking the crown. Wins in Sweden and Australia with the new Fiesta WRC in 2011 also culminated in a title challenge that ultimately failed with another Rally GB mishap.

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