(M-Sport Press Release)
M-Sport didn't just enjoy a successful weekend on home soil last week. As the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship came to a close in Wales -- with M-Sport built cars dominating the overall top-14 -- so too did the Cumbrian firm witness a fruitful weekend at the season-closing Garden Route Rally in South Africa.
Ending their championship winning season in style, Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton piloted their Ford Fiesta S2000 to another victory -- bringing their tally of wins to an impressive seven from a possible eight this season. The pairing's latest victory also marked their fifth in succession -- a feat which had not previously been equalled since 1996.
With seven of the eight rounds counting towards the championship, the duo also secured maximum points -- that's 175 from a possible 175 on offer. Most impressively for M-Sport's range of Ford Fiesta rally cars however, the only round Cronje failed to win saw Jan Habig's Fiesta S2000 emerge victorious -- making M-Sport the first outfit to secure a clean-sweep of season wins since Audi's 1983 performance.
Adding to the success of the mud-strewn stages either side of the equator, there were two Ford Fiesta R2s present on the S1600 podium in South Africa -- Ashley Haigh-Smith and Emie van der Walt securing second and third in class respectively -- whilst Euan Thorburn took his Ford Focus RS WRC to victory in the three-day national event at Wales Rally GB.
Elsewhere in the world, M-Sport machinery secured two double podiums in Italy -- Simone Romagna and Luciano Cobbe finishing first and third at Ronde Balcone delle Marche, and Paolo Porro and Luigi Fontana securing the same feat at Rally Die Valli -- all at the wheel of the Ford Focus RS WRC.
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"It is fair to say that last week saw a very impressive weekend for M-Sport. What Mark [Cronje] achieved as a privateer in South Africa is nothing short of sensational.
"I was lucky enough to be in South Africa for one of Mark's victories and I can say first hand that he is truly deserving of the crown. He has taken more than 50 per cent of the stage wins throughout the season and - given that the South African stages are so diverse and that a number of these were secured whilst consolidating a lead on the final day - it is mightily impressive.
"The whole M-Sport team sends a big congratulations to Mark and Robin [Houghton, co-driver] and look forward to further successes in 2014."