M-Sport has announced an all new driver line-up for the 2016 World Rally Championship season, with Mads Ostberg switching from Citroen and the team promoting little-known Eric Camilli.
Norwegian racer Ostberg has long been linked with a return to the M-Sport team he competed with between 2010 and 2013, peaking in 2012 when he finished fourth overall at the wheel of a Fiesta and notched up a maiden win in Portugal.
Forced to leave Citroen after two seasons in the wake of the French firm's decision to take a sabbatical from the series, Ostberg will side-step back to M-Sport to lead its challenge for 2016.
“I am really looking forward to the season ahead and honoured to have been welcomed back into the M-Sport team,” said Ostberg, who was the highest-placed non-VW driver in the 2015 standings. “The Ford Fiesta RS WRC has formed a big part of my career and it's a nice feeling to be heading back to a team where I have achieved a lot of success in the past.
“Loose-surface rallies are my favourite, and we saw this year that the new Fiesta can be very competitive on gravel. Our first aim will be to get up to speed and challenge for strong results. Sweden is obviously a real highlight for me – and one that I will be targeting – but I think we can also be very competitive on a lot of events that follow.
“I've changed my driving style over the past two years so it will be interesting to see how that works with the Fiesta and whether or not I'll have to go back to my previous style. It's difficult to say how quickly we will be able to adapt, but I remember the Fiesta being really easy to drive. We always had good set-ups and good speed so it shouldn't be too much of a drama.
“I feel as though my driving has progressed a lot recently, and the plan is to continue that progression next year. I want to make another improvement in speed, challenge for more podiums and I think wins could also be a possibility. I want to get faster, and I think I can do that without sacrificing the consistency.
“Another season with a top team was our goal for next year and I would like to thank Malcolm and the team for their continued belief in me. I can't wait to get back behind the wheel of the Fiesta and, if everything goes to plan, it could be a great year for us.”
Surprise singing Camilli, meanwhile, gets a chance to drive on full WRC stage after a season in the WRC-2 championship, the Frenchman scoring two podiums in Germany and Wales en route to seventh overall.
“This is an amazing opportunity for me and I am extremely proud to join the M-Sport team in 2016. I can't wait to get started. We'll have our first test this week and I'm really looking forward to getting to know the team and the car.
“I have only contested a few WRC events so I recognise that I am extremely lucky to have been given this opportunity. Malcolm is such a big part of the WRC so his confidence and faith in me really does mean a lot; it's very special.
“The priority for next season will be to discover the level required to compete in a world rally car and to learn the Ford Fiesta RS WRC. I know it will be fast – faster than anything I've ever driven before – so I will need to take everything step by step and work hard to improve every aspect of what it takes to become a world class driver.
“I want to do the best job that I can, but I know that I can't put too much pressure on myself at the beginning. I am very motivated, but I know that every driver has to start somewhere and that I will require time to be competitive at the highest level.
“This really is a fantastic opportunity and I want to say a huge thank you to Malcolm and the entire M-Sport team. Everyone has been so welcoming and I want to do them proud as I develop my skills as a manufacturer driver.”
Of M-Sport's 2015 drivers, only Ott Tanak is confirmed for the 2016 season with a move to the DMACK Ford, while Elfyn Evans - who took two podiums in only his second full season of WRC competition - is yet to firm his future.