A brief history of Ford RS

Many will have heard of Ford's RS cars, but what do those initials mean? We take a tour of the great RS cars of the past

Almost every carmaker’s range has at least one sporty version in its line-up. Some of them just look fast, while others have the speed and handling to back up their lairy looks. There’s no doubt that sportiness sells, and one major manufacturer to have always taken the art of going quickly very seriously indeed is Ford.

The Ford Focus RS has power and handling far beyond the humble hatchback it’s based on. Achieving this is no easy task – the Focus is designed for comfort, economy and safety, and to avoid sacrificing these while adding serious driver appeal takes some skilled of engineers. It also helps if your company has an illustrious motorsport heritage – and Ford certainly has.

It also has the legendary RS badge. These famous initials – which stand for Rally Sport – were first seen on cars intended for one purpose only: to dominate rally stages. It’s a badge that has been very carefully used over the years, only ever being applied to cars that really deserve it.

Today’s Ford Focus RS undoubtedly belongs to that category – it’s an excellent driver’s car with serious speed and fantastic handling that’s the latest in a long line of high performers from Ford’s rally experts, which in some cases only faintly resembled the family cars they had evolved from.

Before the RS name appeared, Ford collaborated with Lotus to create the Lotus Cortina. This sixties antecedent of today’s Mondeo was an instant motorsport legend and its twin-cam engine went on to power the Escort Twin Cam, a hot version of the first Ford Escort introduced in the late sixties. It was this car’s replacement, the Escort RS1600, that was the first car to bear the RS badge, with help from another famous name: Cosworth.

From the beginning, one of the main aims of the RS series was to allow Ford cars to participate in certain production-based motorsport categories through a process called homologation. This is where a certain number of roadgoing versions of a racing car have to be sold to make it eligible for competition. Many of these limited-run specials have become bona-fide classics and are highly sought-after today.

Ford is one company that definitely realises that motorsport success is an invaluable publicity asset – something which continues with the current Le Mans-winning Ford GT supercar. Visit the gallery below to find out more about some of the greatest Ford RS cars of all time.

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