SALOU, Spain - This weekend's Rally de España marks the 200th world rally since M-Sport joined Ford as its partner in the FIA World Rally Championship.
The British-based company took over the day-to-day operations of Ford's programme at the beginning of the 1997 season. Since then the team has twice won the manufacturers' world title in the toughest competition in motorsport for production-based cars.
Double world rally champion Carlos Sainz marked the occasion by presenting a commemorative framed montage to M-Sport managing director and BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson at pre-rally event.
Sainz drove a Escort Cosworth for the team in M-Sport's debut at the 1997 Monte Carlo Rally.
The Spaniard, who flew from his home in Madrid to make the presentation, claimed the first victory of the M-Sport era when he and co-driver Luis Moya won the Acropolis Rally in Greece in June 1997.
Wilson is one of just three M-Sport personnel who have attended all 200 rallies. Tyre engineer George Black and co-ordination manager John Millington are the others and Sainz also presented similar framed montages to them.
Since Ford and M-Sport joined forces, the team has won 46 world rallies with the Escort Cosworth, Escort RS Cosworth and Focus RS World Rally Cars. The highlights came in 2006 and 2007 when Marcus Grönholm / Timo Rautiainen and Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen steered the team to back-to-back manufacturers' world titles.
"M-Sport's involvement dates back to the Monte Carlo Rally in January 1997 when I was a driver for the team," Sainz told Wilson. "It was my first event with M-Sport running the WRC programme for Ford and I knew then that great achievements would follow. Your determination, hard work, professionalism and your wish to always look for perfection was to guarantee you success, and I know that more success lies ahead."
Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn added: "This is a real landmark achievement and I'm delighted that Carlos, who was in the driving seat at the very beginning of Ford's partnership with M-Sport, could be here tonight. We've enjoyed some great moments together and, with the introduction of the all-new Fiesta RS WRC just around the corner, I'm sure there are more exciting times lying in wait."
A surprised Wilson said: "I had no idea this was M-Sport's 200th rally. It was great to see Carlos with us again and to be surprised by his presentation. He made the presentation to me, but in reality it's to the whole company. Every single person at M-Sport, both current and previous employees, has played an important role in these 200 rallies and I would like to pass on my thanks to them all," he said.