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Former British rally champion Mark Higgins will join the official Ford Rallye Sport team for next month?s final round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The 31-year-old Isle of Man-born driver will be at the wheel of a Focus RS World Rally Car on the Rally of Great Britain (14 - 17 November), joining Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz and Markko Märtin in a four-car squad.

Higgins is the team?s current test driver and his experience of the Focus RS and the forests of south Wales, where the four-day rally is based, will add extra strength to a Ford line-up which boasts three world drivers? crowns.

Higgins, who lives in Newtown, mid-Wales, enjoyed a sensational debut for Ford?s world championship team on last year?s Rally of Great Britain. On his first outing in a World Rally Car at the sport?s highest level, he climbed to fifth overall before being retired by the team.

This season Higgins has won two rounds of the Pirelli British Rally Championship. He drove a Focus WRC to victory on the opening round, the Pirelli International Rally, in April and also won his home Manx International Rally in August. He has driven for Hyundai in this year?s United States national championship and hopes to steer the team to the manufacturers? title on this weekend?s Lake Superior Rally in Michigan.

?I?m delighted to be given the opportunity to compete with the Ford Rallye Sport team again,? said Higgins. ?Last year?s Rally of Great Britain was my first world event in a World Rally Car and the thrill of holding a top six position is one I will never forget. If anything, that performance will put me under more pressure this year as the competition will be even stronger.

?I?ve been driving this year in the United States and a limited season in Britain has given me additional experience behind the wheel of a World Rally Car. Driving those type of cars is so different to traditional four-wheel drive machinery but I now feel comfortable in them and I can?t wait until the rally starts,? added Higgins, who will be partnered by Bryan Thomas.

Ford Rallye Sport team director Malcolm Wilson said: ?Mark is a very accomplished driver. His speed on last year?s rally surprised many but I?ve worked with him for many years and know he?s capable of that level of performance. He will have a latest specification 2002 car, which will be used by the team for testing before the rally, and his presence will clearly strengthen our team for the event.?

Higgins will be supported by Rhubarb Inns, a small pub chain based near London, Clarion, MVT and Pirelli.
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