M-Sport, the team that has run Ford's WRC programme, is to enter the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this year, it has been confirmed.
The news means any driver in a Ford car will be able to score points in the Drivers and in the Manufacturers classification for both the main IRC series and the IRC 2WD Cup.
M-Sport will make its IRC debut on the Monte Carlo Rally from January 19-23, with an entry for its star WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen in the all-new Ford Fiesta Super 2000.
In addition, a number of private clients are lining up entries with the brand new Ford Fiesta, which first appeared on the IRC as zero car on the RAC MSA Rally of Scotland last year.
The two-wheel drive variants of the Ford Fiesta are also expected to figure prominently on the IRC 2WD Cup.
"Joining the IRC allows us to offer our customers the chance to make the most out of their participation on the series, as well as the opportunity to showcase our products in new markets," explained Malcolm Wilson, managing director of M-Sport.
"Initial testing with the Ford Fiesta S2000 has gone extremely well, and we're very much looking forward to seeing our car make its competition debut with Mikko Hirvonen in Monte Carlo later this month."
Marcello Lotti, the general manager of the IRC, is delighted by M-Sport's announcement and it means the number of represented brands in the IRC will rise to eight for the 2010 season, with Ford drivers joining Abarth, Honda, Peugeot, Proton, Ralliart, Skoda and Subaru among the ranks of the IRC competitors. Five of them, including Ford, will be represented by state-of-the-art Super 2000 machinery.
"We're extremely happy to welcome M-Sport, one of the most successful and prestigious teams in the history of rallying, to the IRC family," Lotti added.
"With this important news, the 2010 IRC season promises to be the most exciting we have experienced so far, with breathtakingly close competition for all the spectators, whether watching the action on-site or live on TV."