WILSON WORKING ON DEAL FOR THE CHAMPION
M-sport has a 2017-specification Ford Fiesta RS WRC ready for Sebastien Ogier to test as soon as the Frenchman gets the nod from his current employer VW.
Team principal of the British team Malcolm Wilson is working flat out to find a way to bring the world champion to Cumbria for next season.
“I’m convinced we have the car for him to take a fifth world championship,” Wilson told Motorsport News.
The pair have spoken about a possible deal already, but Wilson said no date had been set for Ogier to drive the Fiesta.
“That’s something we’ve talked about,” he said. “Obviously Sebastien has still got a fair amount of talking to do with Volkswagen before he knows exactly where he’s at to come and drive our car.”
M-sport was expected to announce Ott Tanak would drive alongside Eric Camilli next season, but last week’s news has put everything on hold while Wilson negotiates with Ogier.
“We’ve suddenly got a lot more talking to do about who’s in what car next year,” said Wilson. “There’s no doubt that what happened on Wednesday [VW’S departure] was very, very sad for the WRC. I think it’s only right to pay tribute to what Volkswagen achieved both on and off the stages – their effort in developing the awareness of what they were doing, their activation off the back of the world championship programme was superb and certainly helped develop a wider awareness of our sport. We owe them.
“With that news, however, comes an opportunity and we now have to make the best of that chance. We have to put the right deal together to get Sebastien and Julien [Ingrassia] in our car to make a world championship-winning combination.” ● Elfyn Evans was testing M-sport’s second prototype 2017 Ford Fiesta RS WRC in Italy last week. An announcement had been expected regarding the Welshman’s future this week. Sources close to M-sport remain confident a deal can be found for this year’s British Rally champion.
Irish Tarmac and National champion Donagh Kelly will drive an M-sport Ford Fiesta on the Grizedale Rally on November 26.
The Donegal driver took a step back from full-time rallying in 2016, having dominated both of Ireland’s domestic series the year before. He had done so in a Ford Focus WRC, but for this year organisers elected to feature R5s at the front of the field. WRC cars could still compete, but couldn’t win the overall Irish Tarmac title.
Kelly, who hasn’t competed on gravel since 2014, is looking at a potential switch to an R5 after seeing the pace in the ITRC this year, which was won by threetime British rally champion Keith Cronin.
“At this stage it’s a run out to see how we like the car,” Kelly told MN. “It’s quite some time since I’ve been on the loose so we don’t expect to be racing anybody. It really is just to find out what the R5 is like. Obviously they’ve been pretty impressive all year. They’ve certainly closed the gap to the World Rally Cars. We’re looking at the options.”
Kelly won 10 of the 13 events he entered in his WRC Focus in 2015, and returns to action with Conor Foley on the notes.
“M-sport are providing the car for us, it’s only down the road from the event so it’s handy,” added Kelly.