Ford will remain in the World Rally Championship in 2012 and 2013, it was announced today, with M-Sport continuing to operate the programme from its base at Dovenby Hall in north-west England.
Jari-Matti Latvala, who topped the world rankings for special stage victories in 2011 and who won the final round of the championship in Britain last month, will act as team leader. Latvala will be joined by former world champion Petter Solberg, who has signed a one-year agreement to drive the team's second Fiesta RS WRC in all 13 rounds.
Solberg won his WRC title back in 2003 and has 13 WRC wins to his name. This will be his second stint with the 'Blue Oval', having launched his WRC career with the team in 1999. He replaces Mikko Hirvonen, who has switched to Citroen.
The squad meanwhile will be named the Ford World Rally Team and will retain support from Castrol for both 2012 and 2013. The Abu Dhabi tag has been dropped as the deal signed with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority in July 2007 has now ended.
“Ford has a rich history in world rallying and we're excited to continue fighting for titles on the world stage with our great partners at M-Sport,” said Ford of Europe chairman and CEO Stephen Odell.
“WRC is a great fit with the Ford brand DNA of precise handling, fun-to-drive cars with leading technology and we'll continue to leverage rallying to inspire innovation in future vehicles and reach new audiences.”
Gerard Quinn, Ford of Europe's senior manager for motorsport, added: “The WRC is motorsport's toughest competition for production-based cars. Through WRC, we can convey the attributes of our road vehicles and send a clear message to our customers and fans about Ford's passion and expertise.
“We feel that the timing for our announcement is right. We had to be confident about the stability of the championship and to ensure it continues to provide great value and increased exposure globally. We discussed it with our stakeholders and after receiving such assurances we look forward to focusing on competition once again.
“We have a great team with M-Sport and its leader, Malcolm Wilson, and in Jari-Matti Latvala
we have one of motorsport's rising stars. Already regarded by many as the fastest driver in WRC, this year he showed consistency and expertise on all surfaces. We believe he will flourish in his new role as Ford's team leader, and look forward to seeing his pace light up the special stages around the world.
“The addition of Petter Solberg
to the team brings one of the sport's most experienced and flamboyant drivers back to the team where he started his top-level career. A drivers' world title and 13 world rally victories are testament to his abilities and his vast experience will be a great asset to our line-up,” Quinn concluded.