M-Sport confirms 2019 WRC plans and driver line-up
M-Sport has confirmed that it will participate in the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship following speculation it could drop out of the series due to a lack of funding.
Although M-Sport claimed the Constructors' Championship in 2007 and the Drivers' titles for the past two years with Sebastien Ogier, it has lacked the level of funding afforded to rivals Hyundai, Toyota and Citroen despite backing from Ford.
The team will enter three Ford Fiesta WRC cars in the opening two rounds in Monte Carlo and Sweden, but a decision on keeping the third car for Mexico onwards has yet to be made.
Elfyn Evans will remain with the team alongside co-driver Scott Martin, as will Teemu Suninen. He will be joined by a new co-driver in fellow Finn Marko Salminen.
Pontus Tidemand will take up M-Sport's third car for Monte and Sweden. Tidemand hasn't driven a new new-generation world rally car, but claimed a podium at Rally Sweden in 2014 driving a Fiesta.
In another change, Malcolm Wilson will step down from the role of Team Principal to instead focus on the commercial side of the business. He will be replaced by Richard Millener.
"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 Sébastien and Julien 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," commented Wilson.
"As I speak we still don’t have 100 per cent 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 US, 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!"