Motor sport enthusiasts with a passion for driving have cause for excitement at this year's British International Motor Show with the announcement of the Ford Focus RS.

The Ford Focus RS will go on sale in the Spring of 2001, and is shown at Birmingham in pre-production form. This new model marks the return of the Ford Rallye Sport brand - an intrinsic part of Ford's rich heritage and famous for delivering a range of thoroughbred road cars and victorious race and rally cars. But the Ford Focus RS is simply the first of a range of high performance Focus models that are under development. A Ford Focus ST model will follow late next year.

The Ford Focus RS has been created as a no frills, no compromise road-going rally car derived from Ford's World Rally Championship programme. It will be, in effect, the closest a driver can get to the Focus WRC driving experience.

"With a 200bhp-plus turbocharged version of the acclaimed 2.0 litre Zetec engine, front-wheel drive and a matched chassis, Focus RS will appeal directly to purists," explains Martin Leach, Ford Vice President of Product Development. "Focus RS is being built by enthusiasts for enthusiasts and will combine all the thrills of a track car in a driver-orientated package that can be driven daily on the road," he adds.

Externally, Focus RS will sport functional aerodynamic aids that also emphasise the clean design aesthetics of the Focus shape. Inside the specification will remain functional, but with a built-for-racing look that will include supportive bucket-style seats, carbon fibre-effect panels and even a start button - just like on the Focus WRC.

Reinforcing the rally heritage, Ford's 'works' drivers continue to develop the RS prototype in the heat of competition. At the forthcoming San Remo WRC event, Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae and Piero Liatti will test drive an RS prototype over a special stage to provide additional technical input for the final chassis specification of the car.

"We've been working hand in hand with Ford engineers on this project to ensure that Focus RS will be a pure driver's car," reveals Colin McRae. "Already, this is a brilliant package and without a doubt the most driver-orientated Ford road car I've driven."

When Ford Focus RS goes on sale in the Spring of 2001, it will be produced as an exclusive special edition model in the same RS tradition as many of its predecessors. Adding to the appeal, customers will be given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collect their car directly from Ford's World Rally Championship headquarters in Cumbria and to take part in exclusive test track driving events.

Prices and technical specifications for the Ford Focus RS will be revealed nearer the time of launch.