The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team will continue to compete in the World Rally Championship in 2009, Ford of Europe motorsport director, Mark Deans announced last night.

Confirmation came on Wednesday at an official team function prior to this weekend's Wales Rally GB, the 15th and final round in the 2008 World Rally Championship.

Mikko Hirvonen will remain as the lead driver for the M-Sport-run outfit in 09, while Jari-Matti Latvala will drive the other car nominated to score manufacturer points. Khalid Al Qassimi also returns.

Speaking to the official WRC website, BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson noted that decision was a real boost.

"At M-Sport we're very privileged to continue with the programme - especially considering the difficult economic conditions. I think it's a real vote of confidence in the WRC and in M-Sport," he told

"It's pretty obvious who we're going to use next year - we feel we've got two of the best potential drivers for the future in Mikko and Jari-Matti. They've both proved they can win rallies, they've had a difficult year this year but they've learned a considerable amount.

"Also joining the team again next year will be Khalid - so on the majority of events we will have three BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRC cars. Going into next year I feel we can definitely challenge for both titles."

As for the future of Ford's 'B' team - the Stobart squad, Wilson added that while it is looking promising, a few things still need to be sorted before that programme can be confirmed.

"I have received positive signals," he added in a separate story on "We hope to see a continuation of the commitment by Stobart in the World Rally Championship."

STOP PRESS: Radio spoke exclusively to Malcolm Wilson in the countdown to this weekend's Wales Rally GB. TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE.



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