M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson says his team has shown what it can offer prospective drivers for the 2014 World Rally Championship season after concluding a strong 2013 campaign on Wales Rally GB.
Despite the loss of factory support from Ford, the Cumbrian team was able to take the fight to both Volkswagen and Citroen over the course of the season, securing multiple podium finishes – albeit going without a win for the first time since the 2005 season – and carrying Thierry Neuville to second in the standings.
Rumours are abound as to who will line-up for the team next year, with Neuville having already inked a deal to switch to Hyundai for 2014, but Wilson said the performances this season – and a freeze in homologation for the current cars
- showed that the Fiesta RS WRC was a strong option for drivers seeking a drive next year.
“At the end of the day, our business wouldn't be successful if we didn't invest in and develop the cars,” he told Crash.net
when asked how pleased he was with the way the Fiesta had performed this year. “At the end of 2012 when Ford announced they were withdrawing, I made the decision to look at everything and see how we could reduce our costs, but not affect performance and still be able to invest in development.
“That is what we have done this year and the evidence is there to see that the Fiesta is still as competitive as anything there is out there. We'll continue to do that, as the moment we stop investing and developing is the moment that we will see the start of the decline of M-Sport as a business, which is obviously something that I don't want to see.
“[The homologation freeze] is a big plus for us and it was great news when the manufacturers all agreed to freeze the specification of the cars for next year. As I said, everyone knows we have a car that is as competitive as anything and this season sends out a clear message to potential drivers that we can provide them with a car that is capable of winning next year.
“The fact there are only two jokers available – one on the engine and one on the chassis – is a big help to us when we don't have the full manufacturer support we used to have from Ford.”
Former M-Sport driver Mikko Hirvonen is amongst those linked with a drive with the team for next season.