FIVE-time FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier has ended months of speculation about his future by re-signing with his current M-Sport World Rally Team for 2018.
PHOTO: Deal done! Sébastien Ogier (left) and M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson shake hands after the World Champion re-signed for 2018 (M-Sport pic).
The 33-year-old Frenchman signed a deal with owner Malcolm Wilson in front of 240 M-Sport employees during a post-season celebration at the team’s headquarters in Cumbria, England.
Rally GB winner Elfyn Evans was appointed to partner Ogier in a second Ford Fiesta WRC, stepping up to the main squad from the DMACK-sponsored entry he represented this season.
M-Sport said news on a third driver was expected in the coming weeks.
Ogier kept questioners at bay throughout his recent appearance at Kennards Hire Rally Australia, but speculation on his plans had ranged from retirement to switching to either Hyundai or Citroën.
Much had been made of his reported demand for Ford to resume sponsorship of the team and underwrite his new deal, but this was not mentioned during today’s announcement.
Ogier, who has more FIA World Championships than any other current WRC or Formula 1 driver, said the challenge of the 2017 season and the chance of future success meant an easy decision for him and co-driver Julien Ingrassia.
“This season has been very exciting with some of the closest-fought competition for years. As a driver, I definitely want to be a part of that.
“I still get a lot of emotion from this sport and this team has so much passion. That made my decision clear and we will work hard to chase more success together next year.”
After seeing his team storm to the manufacturers’ title, M-Sport principal Malcolm Wilson said there was no reason the team shouldn’t be confident of adding to its success in 2018, after winning the 2017 manufacturers’ title.
“To have secured both Sébastien and Elfyn is brilliant news for the team. We’ve been working towards this goal for some time,” he said.
“In Sébastien and Elfyn, we have a strong chance of defending our titles.
“It won’t be easy, but they’re both very intelligent drivers. There is no doubting their speed, but they also have a masterful approach to strategy that delivers results time after time.”