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How Castrol oil has made WRC winners over four decades

Ever since the World Rally Championship began, Castrol has helped the greatest names in the sport win titles, year after year

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It’s a story that shows no signs of ending any time soon. From when Björn Waldegård secured Ford’s first WRC title in 1979, all the way up to VW Motorsport’s back-to-back championships in 2013/14, Castrol has been the name behind some of the most memorable milestones in rallying.

When Ford added two consecutive manufacturer’s titles of its own in 2006 and 2007, once again Castrol had a hand in its success. It’s an enduring relationship, founded on technical partnership between Castrol and M-Sport, the Cumbria-based race and rally specialists who have overseen Ford’s WRC participation since 1979.

Nigel Arnfield, Head of Powertrain for M-Sport, has a unique perspective on the part that Castrol plays in keeping Ford competitive in such a demanding series.

“Castrol are at the top of their industry. At the top level of rallying it’s vital to have the best of everything on – and in – the car. This is why we work with them. Their attention to detail and constant development makes them the perfect match for us.”

And it’s the mountains of data gained from rallying at this level that gives Castrol a reason to compete.

“First of all, a WRC rally is a three day event,” explains Donald Smith, Castrol’s Global Sponsorship Manager. “Three days of flat-out competition is an excellent test of our products.

“But it’s the extreme differences, event-to-event, that make it indispensible. Back in February, for example, the cars were competing in the sub-zero temperatures of Sweden, on snow and ice. Two weeks later, they were at it again, but this time in the dust and heat of Mexico.”

Nigel Arnfield picks up the story. “In theory you could make changes to the oil on events, to increase performance, but there is always a risk of increasing wear, too.

“Luckily, Castrol provides us with a product we know works in all conditions, so there’s no need to take such risks. Once the specification of the oil has been optimised, we don’t look to change it during the season. It’s the same oil for Sweden as it is in Mexico, which proves how strong Castrol’s product is.”

Exhaustive testing and development is what makes the difference, for both Castrol and M-Sport.

“About five years ago, we really pushed to reduce the viscosity,” explains Arnfield. “The lower the viscosity, the less drag in the engine, which means we have more usable power. Together we found significant gains in testing, evolutions of which we now use in the Fiesta RS WRC.”

It’s a perfect example of Castrol working with a manufacturer to push the limits of performance. Even more impressively, they’ve been doing it now for almost 40 years.

A little bit of history

The World Rally Drivers’ Championship officially began in 1979 – and Castrol played a winning part from the outset. This was the heyday of one of the most famous cars in rally history – the Ford Escort RS1800 – and was the beginning of more than three decades of title-winning success for a host of teams and drivers, all supported by Castrol.

In 1982, just three years after that first World Championship season, the world of rallying was turned on its head as Audi launched the Quattro, a true legend of the motorsport world.

This seminal four-wheel drive car paved the way for an all-new, all-wheel-drive era that continues to this day. Castrol helped the team – and it’s driver, Hannu Mikkola to both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ world titles in that debut season.

It was a similar story the following year and, a decade later, another Finn, Juha Kankkunen, clinched the last of his four world titles with five wins in a Castrol-backed Toyota Celica GT4.

It’s a story that continues to add new chapters, with Sébastien Ogier winning the driver’s title for the past two seasons in a VW Polo WRC, but it’s not a WRC-only roll call of success. Castrol also helped Skoda to become European Rally Champions, for the last three years on the bounce.

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