Sébastien Ogier, the reigning World Rally Champion, has signed for M-Sport to drive one of the Cumbrian team’s Ford Fiesta RS WRCs next season.
The French driver, champion for the past four seasons, was left without a drive following the sudden withdrawal of the factory-backed Volkswagen team last month.
Having tested the brand new Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC in Wales last month, the Frenchman was sufficiently impressed to agree terms with Malcolm Wilson’s operation. He and co-driver Julien Ingrassia will drive one Fiesta, with Estonian Ott Tänak in the other.
“There will be a lot of new things this season, but I am definitely looking forward to it. We have a new generation of world rally cars, and a new team – it’s certainly an exciting time,” said Ogier.
“There’s not long before we line-up at the start of Rallye Monte-Carlo and we’ve not had a lot of seat time with the Ford Fiesta WRC, but we’ll give it our best to be ready. We’re aware of the challenges, and I can see how hungry Malcolm Wilson and his team are for success.
“It’s funny to think that just a few months ago I was sitting at a motorsport forum at Wales Rally GB saying how nice it would be to work with him one day. I had no idea at the time that it would come quite so soon, but here we are!
“I’m looking forward to working with M-Sport, and we’ll certainly be aiming to return them to the top-step of the podium”
Wilson said: “We go to Rallye Monte-Carlo with the number one on the door of the Ford Fiesta WRC and the strongest driver line-up we have had in years. To say we’re excited about next season is an understatement. We believe that we have produced an exceptional car, and we are in the best possible position ahead of this exciting new era.
“I’ve made no secret of how much we wanted to work with Sébastien and Julien, and it is fantastic to welcome them to the team. We have worked extremely hard to secure them, and they believe that the Ford Fiesta WRC is the car with which they can best defend their championship."
With Ogier’s former team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala having signed to spearhead Toyota’s new WRC assault last week, Andreas Mikkelsen is the only former Volkswagen driver without a full-time drive for 2017.
There is still a possibility that the Volkswagen Polo world rally car will be seen on the special stages in 2017 in the hands of an independently run team.