Although M-Sport had a World Rally Championship season to savor, claiming another championship title with Sebastien Ogier in its EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC, the team had been facing an uncertain future since Ogier announced a switch to rival Citroen for 2019. However, the UK-based M-Sport group confirmed today that it will continue in the WRC next year with Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen in two full-time entries.
Evans returns to the squad for a fifth season at the highest level and will be joined Cumbrian co-driver Scott Martin, who reconnects with the team that started his international career back in 2004. Suninen returns for a third season and will contest all events with a top-specification world rally car for the first time in his career. He will have a new co-driver in fellow Finn Marko Salminen.
The team will be supported at Rallye Monte-Carlo and Rally Sweden with a third manufacturer entry for Pontus Tidemand. The Swede has a long history with M-Sport and Ford which started with victory in the 2013 FIA WRC Academy – one year after new teammate Evans.
Tidemand took to the wheel of a top-specification Fiesta and fought for a podium position at Rally Sweden in 2014, but this will be his first time behind the wheel of a new-generation world rally car to which he brings undoubted speed and a desire to succeed.
A further change to support the team on a day-to-day basis will see Richard Millener step up to the role of team principal, allowing founder Malcolm Wilson to devote more time to the commercial side of the business.
“It has been a bit of a rollercoaster over the last few weeks, from the elation of winning the FIA World Rally Championship for drivers’ and co-drivers with Sebastien and Julien (Ingrassia) to their emotional farewell, and we have been working night and day to put together the pieces that go into making a team for 2019.” admitted Wilson.
“As I speak we still don’t have 100 percent of the details in place, but because of the huge amount of development work that has been going on behind the scenes, I felt that we had to make a commitment to see the hard work out on the stages. Working in collaboration with our partners in Europe and the U.S., every element has been reviewed and updated.
“The continued financial and technical collaboration with Ford has been pivotal in pushing us forward, and together we are working on a new and improved ‘ladder of opportunity,’ which began with the recently launched Ford Fiesta R2 earlier this month. We have always said that WRC is our shop window, and the development work we do at the highest level filters down to improve every step of the ladder.
“Next year is going to be a very important year for M-Sport. We have a number of new projects coming up including the launch of our Evaluation Centre at Dovenby Hall. We will continue to spread the net and work with existing partners – safeguarding the roles we have and taking advantage of any new opportunities that arise.
“We rely on the support of the whole WRC community to piece together the missing pieces, but we are confident we have the tools to do a good job and so we are making the decision to push forward and work through the challenges as they arrive!”