Ford will launch its 2003 Focus WRC next month and Ford’s director of European motorsport, Martin Whitaker, claims that the new car could spring “a few surprises” in New Zealand.

Ford will launch its 2003 Focus WRC next month and Ford’s director of European motorsport, Martin Whitaker, claims that the new car could spring “a few surprises” in New Zealand.

The team will embark on a five-day test in Spain this week ahead of the 2003-spec car’s debut at the Rally of New Zealand next month. It is a rally, Whitaker told , that everyone at Ford was especially looking forward to.

“I think there’s a real chance that not only we can win rallies but we can also cause a few surprises come the end of the championship,” said Whitaker. “We’re third at the moment and I think it’s going to be a very, very tight race. What we don’t want is anybody running away with it.

“The most important thing for me is that we bring the new car out in New Zealand, we get the reliability with that car, score points and who knows what can happen when we get to November.

“It’s a brand new car right from the ground up. It’s got some interesting characteristics, but most importantly its going to be quick and the drivers feel really confident with it,” he added.

“Aerodynamically (the 2003 car) is very efficient, it’s going to give us greater straight line speed and that will really help in New Zealand. We've also improved the traction, engine performance and braking, so I think there’s a lot of prospects for this car.”

The new Focus will be flown out to New Zealand at the end of the month. Markko Martin and Francois Duval will drive it in New Zealand, while third driver Mikko Hirvonen will have the 2002-spec car for the remainder of the season.