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PHOTO: Ogier and Tänak will pilot the wild-looking new Fiesta WRC for M-Sport in 2017 (M-Sport pic).

FOUR-time FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier will drive the all-new Ford Fiesta WRC for M-Sport in 2017 – and he will be partnered in a second car by Ott Tänak.

The Frenchman’s widely-expected signing was announced overnight and includes his long-time co-driver and fellow champion Julien Ingrassia.

It came after Ogier tested the Fiesta in Wales last month, just days after winning Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

The announcement from the Cumbrian-based team settles the biggest question remaining before the new season, which is just 38 days from opening at Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Ogier and Ingrassia had been free agents after their Volkswagen Motorsport team unexpectedly ended its WRC involvement last month and they became targets of M-Sport, Toyota and Citroën.

Toyota is expected to announce its 2017 driver line-up at its home base in Finland today, with Ogier’s former teammate Jari-Mattui Latvala likely to be the number one signing alongside Juho Hanninen and new WRC2 champion Esapekka Lappi.

Citroën is due to launch on 21 December.

Ogier and Ingrassia how been the dominant duo since starting their WRC assault in 2008, have secured 38 victories, 56 podiums and 475 stage wins.

Ogier will lead the M-Sport team with 2016 Driver of the Year Tänak and with just 38 days until Rallye Monte-Carlo, the defending champion cannot wait to get going.

“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,” Ogier said.

“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, M-Sport Managing Director, added: “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.”

Tänak, lining up with new co-driver Martin Järveoja, showed incredible speed in 2016 while capturing the hearts of rally fans around the world. Driven and ambitious, he secured two second-place finishes and 30 stage wins on gravel – a statistic bettered by his new team mate, Ogier.

Having come painstakingly close to securing his maiden FIA World Rally Championship win in Poland earlier this year, the Estonian is hungry for more and determined to secure an elusive first victory behind the wheel of the car he has had a considerable hand in developing.

“I’ve done a lot of testing with the new Ford Fiesta WRC, and it’s a massive step forward. This is the first time that I’ve had a hand in developing a new car completely from scratch and it’s been great to work with the engineers,” Tänak said.

“I have a long history with M-Sport. They know how to build a competitive car and we’ve all worked together to produce something we hope will be quite special.

“The power is insane, and almost every aspect of the car has been completely redesigned. At first, I thought the increased power would make it a bit of a handful, but the guys have done such a good job. Every component works together to give incredible control – it really is the full package.”

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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