FORD has answered the call of five-time champion Sebastien Ogier and will return as a manufacturer to support British team M-Sport in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) from next month after five-year absence.
PHOTO: Ford, one of the world’s biggest car makers, will back five-time champion Sébastien Ogier’s entry with M-Sport World Rally Team in the 2018 WRC, including Rally Australia (Jeremy Rogers pic)
After the Frenchman said earlier this year Ford’s involvement was necessary if he was to remain with the team, the car maker’s 2018 registration as a manufacturer was confirmed yesterday by the world motorsport governing body FIA.
Starting with Rallye Monte-Carlo on 25-28 January, the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team will compete alongside Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT and Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, giving the production-based WRC a quartet of some of the biggest makes in global automotive manufacturing. Elfyn Evans will be Ogier’s teammate, while a potential third M-Sport entrant is yet to be announced.
The 13-round 2018 WRC will finish at Rally Australia on the New South Wales Coffs Coast on 15-18 November.
Ogier’s retention at M-Sport was announced late last month, with indications from team boss Malcolm Wilson that Ford would increase the under-the-radar technical support it has provided since withdrawing as a WRC manufacturer after 2012.
Alongside Ogier’s fifth-straight WRC drivers title this year, the British team also won its first manufacturers’ championship as a privateer squad. It has not yet commented on the Ford involvement, but the manufacturer’s contribution could be vital in developing a performance advantage for the new-era Fiesta World Rally Car after a 2017 season described as the most competitive in more than decade.
The Ford news followed the announcement earlier this week of another high-profile WRC returnee, with nine-time champion driver Sébastien Loeb – who also retired from full-time rally competition after 2012 – set to drive rounds in Mexico, Corsica and Spain for Citroën.