Defending World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier has already warned M-Sport must not set expectations too high at the 2017 season-opening Rally Monte Carlo on the dawn of the sport's 'new era'.
The four-time WRC champion has moved to M-Sport Ford for 2017 after former team Volkswagen Motorsport withdrew from the championship, while this season welcomes a new set of exciting technical regulations.
With a new car, new team and new regulations Ogier concedes it has been a lot to adjust to given a limited timeframe and expects tough competition from rival manufacturers Citroen, Hyundai and Toyota.
“It's a new season in every sense of the word – a new era, a new car and a new team,” Ogier said. “We all know that experience is an important factor in rallying and it would have been nice to have had more time with the team, but we have learnt a lot over the past month.
“Over the years, I have learnt to be pragmatic in my approach and to focus on the job in hand. That is exactly what we plan to do next week. We've not had a lot of preparation, but we go to this first event determined to do our best.”
Ogier has received a timely confidence boost from pre-event testing for Rally Monte Carlo and is relying on his experience at the event having won it for the past three consecutive years.
“We had two days of testing in typical Monte conditions last week and we all know the secret to doing well at this event – it's all about making the right tyre choice, anticipating the conditions and judging the grip levels,” he said. “If we can do all of that whilst continuing to grow as a team then I think we could be in a good position.
“I've had a lot of success at Rallye Monte-Carlo, but I never fail to feel humbled in the face of such a historic and challenging event. It is an event like no other, and if you do well there then you know that you have delivered your best.”
Ogier and M-Sport are set to pursue both the WRC drivers' and manufacturers' titles in 2017 with the French driver hunting a fifth consecutive world championship.
Many consider 2017 to be M-Sport's best shot at the world titles in recent years with Ogier in its ranks. A factory Ford squad last won the WRC manufacturers' title in 2007 while its last drivers' title came back in 1981 with Ari Vatanen.