Top 5 M-Sport WRC liveries

As the Ford squad reveals its 2024 livery, we take a look back at some of its best paint schemes


The covers are off M-Sport’s 2024 World Rally Championship challenger. A fresh lick of paint has been draped over a Ford from Dovenby Hall for the 28th year running.

Over almost three decades, the car lining up for the first time control of the season has changed: firstly, the Escort WRC. Then came the Focus, followed by the Fiesta. And today, we have the Puma.

M-Sport’s livery designs have ebbed and flowed with the arrival and departure of key sponsors. Certain eras stand head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to liveries, as you’ll see with our pick of the bunch below.

5. 1997 Ford Escort WRC

Rally Indonesia Medan (IND) 19-21 09 1997

M-Sport’s very first foray into the WRC as Ford’s official factory team at the top level began in earnest in 1997, taking over from RAS Sport. Carried over from the year before were two elements that ultimately shaped the team’s visual look for that debut season: the paint scheme itself and Carlos Sainz.

By modern standards the 1997 livery was fairly rudimentary: mostly white, with a Ford logo slapped on the bonnet. But look towards the back and the bold, vibrant orange and red of Repsol was splashed over the back quarters. Its funky logo superimposed on the Escort made for a natural side stripe effect. And bonus points for the early rounds of the season when ‘Escort’ was plastered above the front grille, rather than yet another Repsol logo.

Team boss Malcolm Wilson had piloted a car that on looks alone would deserve a place at the top of this list, his striking yellow and blue Michelin Pilot Sport-liveried Escort. Alas, it’s not an M-Sport Ford works car and thus, sadly for this writer, it doesn’t qualify to make the cut.

Perhaps the Repsol livery isn’t quite as iconic as Wilson’s own Escort before it. Or Patrick Snijers’ Bastos-bedecked example. It’s also probably not helped by 1997 being a Mäkinen versus McRae battle royale, a battle of the red Mitsubishi against blue Subaru that remains among the greatest tales of rallying lore.

Sainz and Juha Kankkunen, who was drafted in to replace the sacked Armin Schwarz mid-season, rescued the team’s season with two wins and a plethora of podiums – but it was too little too late for the Respol Ford to challenge for top honors.

But Repsol is one of those brands, along with the plethora of cigarette brands, that when plastered on a car as a primary sponsor, is probably going to pass the test of time.

4. 1999 Ford Focus WRC

Acropolis Rally Athens (GR) 06-09 06 1999

In the pantheon of Martini Racing history, the first attempt at a Ford Focus WRC wasn’t the best of the lot. But it does represent two things: one, it’s a Martini livery. It’s cool by default. But, more importantly, point two: it was the first look for the biggest driver move in rallying history.

Colin McRae had departed Subaru, the team with which he’d become synonymous after an eight-year stint that included what would transpire to be his only world title. Not that the world expected that to be the case; his cult status meant such an outcome seemed unfathomable.

The launch car arguably looked more aggressive than the rest of the first-generation Focus WRCs with its sizable rear wing, which would noticeably shrink until the RS WRC replaced it in 2003. That boldness carried over onto the livery: Yes, it was white and had Martini stripes – but it also had a healthy dollop of red to match, almost as if it was trying to be both the classic Martini livery and Lancia’s 1989 Sanremo special all at once.

There were two wins for McRae, in Kenya and Portugal, after Thomas Rådström had already bagged the car’s debut podium in Sweden. But that was as good as it got: there were more retirements than finishes that season.

3. 2017 Ford Fiesta WRC

WRC Tour de Corse, Ajaccio 06 -09 April 2017

We lionize liveries from the old days. Audi Sport’s white and yellow Quattro, the Martini Lancias, the Castrol Toyotas; primacy bias rules supreme when it comes to motorsport paintwork.

M-Sport’s 2017 livery came in three flavors: Ott Tänak’s ‘standard’ livery, Elfyn Evans’ DMACK alternate and Sébastien Ogier’s Red Bull special.

The ingredients of Ogier’s livery are simple: lots of blue. A dash of white. A charging bull in red and a bright yellow sun. Bring it all together and you’ve got the most important car in M-Sport’s history: the car that delivered a first drivers’ world championship to Cumbria.

Slightly over a decade earlier, they’d clinched two world titles in the rather less visually appealing green, blue and white Focus. But Malcolm had bet the house on red: picking up Ogier from Volkswagen after its sudden departure was a big financial outlay. In terms of success, it paid off handsomely.

Like Martini before it, Red Bull has become an icon of rally liveries. Loeb at Citroën had finally gotten the ball rolling; Ogier’s Fiesta WRC cemented its status.

2. 2022 Ford Puma Rally1

Sébastien Loeb

A new rules cycle has typically been a chance for M-Sport to stand out and shine; even 1999 had started well before it all fell apart in the latter half of the year.

Though Toyota and Hyundai are currently the two dominant forces in the WRC, M-Sport reminded the world at the very beginning of Rally1 that it could be a force to be reckoned with.

M-Sport was making statements left, right and center: they’d been the first team to start developing their Rally1 contender, the Ford Puma, getting underway even before the Covid-19 pandemic had hit in early 2020. They’d signed Sébastien Loeb on a limited program to show what their new weapon could do in expert hands.

To complete the reboot was a complete rethink of what an M-Sport livery should look like. White was reserved only for sponsor logos. And blue was relegated to secondary status behind, to the shock of everyone, purple.

It’s one of those bold design decisions that are either a stroke of genius or so outlandish that it sends traditionalists into meltdown.

This was the former. Corporate colors be damned.

The 2023 livery that followed was more akin to a standard M-Sport Ford livery, evolving the purple into a light but bright blue. It still looked good. But the livery it had evolved from has two ace cards: the sheer boldness of it and its debut win, with Loeb narrowly defeating Ogier in a Monte Carlo classic.

“Looking back, I think I’d definitely had a couple of gin and tonics…” said team principal Rich Millener of his decision to sign off Phil Dixon’s radical plan.

You should never, ever, drink and drive. But drink and draw? That’s another story.

1. 2000 Ford Focus WRC

Cyprus Rally Lymassol 08-10 09 2000

On pure aesthetics alone, the 2000 iteration of the Martini Focus wins the day.

Yes, had McRae not misheard a note and cut his Focus through a ditch to send it barrel-rolling, he may well have become champion in the 2001 car. And Sainz had rocked up to the season finale still in with a shout of taking the crown too.

But 2000 was the year M-Sport Ford got the iconic Martini livery just right for the Focus. Out was the brash red from a year earlier, replaced with more blue to accommodate the returning Carlos Sainz and his Telefonica Movistar backing.

It brought visual harmony to the livery but cleanly followed the lines of the Focus; switching from Martini stripes that followed the bonnet lines from headlight to cockpit to a standard front-to-back bonnet stripe in 2001 was a downgrade.

Though it ultimately didn’t produce world championship titles, the Martini Ford era was ultimately one of M-Sport’s most fruitful along with the Red Bull era. For that, it will always remain iconic.