An evolution model born in the 1970’s WRC
In 1975, the Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk2 was born as the second generation. The new machine was a perfect replacement of the successful first generation, the Escort RS1600 and Cortina Lotus that supported Ford’s rally involvement.
Ford Motorsport was headquartered in Boreham, England. They made changes to the new RS 1800 to be even more successful in rally racing. They left the front strut suspension as is, made the leaf rigid rear a dummy, and added a torque rod to change it into a four-link type suspension which made the handling and rear controlling easier. The engine was changed to a BDA engine made for F2 racing by Brian Hart. With the Weber carburetor, the engine was raised to 240 bhp.
The new Escort entered in the 1975 WRC RAC Rally. Although manufacturers such as Lancia, Opel, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Saab were entered in the round. Timo Makinen and Henry Liddon in an Escort claimed the victory, and in second was also Roger Clark and Tony Mason also in an Escort. The Escort experienced a successful debut in the WRC.
In 1976, the Escort entered in only three rounds: Monte Carlo, 1000 Lakes and RAC. At the RAC, Clark won the round. He was the first British driver to have won his home race. However, Fiat, Ford’s rival, debuted the 131 Abarth replacing the Stratos. Fiat won the 1000 Lakes. For the 1977 season, everybody predicted a Fiat vs Ford battle.
In 1977, Ford entered a factory team from the Portugal rally in an attempt to get the manufacturers’ championship title. They got Bjorn Waldegard, Clark and Ari Vatanen as drivers. The Ford team was great in gravel but were not as good as the Fiat team in tarmac events. As a result, the 1977 season ended with 5 wins for Fiat, and 4 wins for Ford. Ford missed the championship title. However, Waldegard won the RAC rally which gave Ford three consecutive wins at the RAC. In 1978, Ford challenged again Fiat with Waldegard and Hannu Olavi Mikkola as drivers, but they were not successful.
More improvements were added to the Escort in 1979 in order to win the manufacturers’ title. The BDA engine carburetors were replaced with Kugelfischer fuel injection, which increased the power to 280 bhp. The chassis also adopted tarmac-specialized suspension. During the season, team Ford won in Monte Carlo, Rally Sweden, and Portugal. They passed the Safari Rally, but won in Acropolis, New Zealand, Quebec and RAC. Finally, Ford was able to win the manufacturers’ title. Fiat moved down to third in the manufacturers’ ranking, and Nissan racing in a Violet took second.
In 1980, Ford Motorsport decided to hand over the team management out of their company structure. They had to work on developing a new rally car, the new Escort ES 1700T. David Sutton Cars, who took over the team management took Ari Vatanen as their driver. Vatanen’s co-driver was David Richards, who later established the Prodrive team. The Ford team started their season with Rothmans Cigarettes as their main sponsor. Vatanen won Acropolis, placed second in 1000 Lakes Rally and Sanremo. These good performances resulted in second in the drivers’ championship as well as third in the manufacturers’ championship for Ford.
1981 was a difficult season for Ford as the manufacturers’ championship ended between Talbot in a Sunbeam Lotus vs Nissan in a Violet. However and even given these difficult conditions, Vatanen won Acropolis, Brazil and 1000 Lakes, winning the drivers’ championship title. Ford ended up third in the manufacturers’ championship behind Talbot and Nissan. Fiat ended fifth in the series, same as Audi which introduced the 4WD Turbo Quattro.
This was the end of an era for the WRC which competed with powerful naturally aspirated engines and rear wheel drive cars back then.
Results of Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk.2
|1977||1000 Lakes Rally||K.Hämäläinen||M.Tiukkanen|
|1978||Rally of New Zealand||R.Brookes||C.Porter|
|1979||Rallye de Portugal||H.Mikkola||A.Hertz|
|1979||Rally of New Zealand||H.Mikkola||A.Hertz|
|1981||Rallye do Brasil||A.Vatanen||D.Richards|
|1981||1000 Lakes Rally||A.Vatanen||D.Richards|