Wilson seeks the Ferguson effect

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The Independent Online

It has been 27 years coming, so you can forgive Ford for wanting to sing about it. If you are put on hold at their rally team headquarters prepare for a blast of Queen's "We Are The Champions".

The obligatory triumphal anthem has been accompanied by champagne and sore heads all the way from New Zealand, where Ford wrapped up the World Rally Championship 12 days ago, to their bolthole in Cumbria.

Malcolm Wilson, head of the M-Sport organisation that runs the Ford factory effort, admits the achievement of this long elusive goal brought as much relief as pleasure. It means he can confront Wales Rally GB today without the additional burden of having to secure the manufacturers' title.

But, as ever in sport, the next challenge always beckons and Wilson, a Manchester United fan, aspires to the sustained success accomplished by Sir Alex Ferguson's side after the club's first championship for 26 years in 1993. Although the pressure is off Wilson at this final event of the season, he senses the opportunity, on home ground, to put down a marker for next year. "The whole team is on a high and now we want to finish the year with the best possible result,'' Wilson said.

"Ford have waited a long time for this championship and I don't mind admitting it's a weight off my shoulders having done it before Rally GB. But you can see the difference that winning can make. Everybody is confident that we will be even more successful. You saw what happened at Manchester United once they had got the League title after so long. We have a great chance of finishing the season by winning this rally and believe we can be even stronger next year. I know we'll be going to every rally in 2007 capable of challenging for victory.''

If Ford are follow up their breakthrough with the WRC version of the double, they have to beat not only a regrouped Citroën, but also the driver who may just be the best of all time, Sébastien Loeb.

Citroën, entering the new C4, will be intent on reclaiming their mantle in 2007 and Loeb is determined to equal Tommi Makinen's record of four consecutive titles.

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