The Cumbrian squad lived up to its pre-Monte billing as one of the favourites to challenge for the win given that their Rally1 test and development programme commenced earlier than both Toyota and Hyundai respectively last year.

In the hands of nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb, the petrol-electric-powered Puma won the Tarmac classic by 10.5 seconds from Sebastien Ogier who saw his hopes of making it a ninth Monte victory dashed by a jump start penalty on the last stage.

M-Sport pulled off a similar feat in the hands of Ogier in 2017; that season also ushered in a new set of regulations and at the same World Rally Championship round, victory went to their way with the Fiesta WRC.

Summing up what the latest Monte success means for him and his staff working on site in Monaco and back at Dovenby Hall in Cockermouth, Malcolm Wilson said: “You can’t imagine the effort and commitment all these guys have put in to make the car the way it is. The support from everybody and Ford Performance in the US has been incredible.

“I was so confident the first time I saw the car running, so confident that we would have a winner on our hands. And, of course, the combination of getting Sebastien Loeb in the car, it has just been incredible.

“When we took the lead of the rally [on the Saturday] it was an incredible moment for everybody in the team, for them to see that their hard work had been rewarded. For me, the rally could have ended in one sense at that moment because we had made so much progress but to win it is just unbelievable.”

Wilson hinted that the closeness of competition between M-Sport Ford, Hyundai Motorsport and Toyota Gazoo Racing looks set to remain as the 2022 season unfolds.

“It has just been an incredible event,” he said. “To come here with new cars and for it [the win] to be battled out on the final stage is fantastic. I think it is great the way the technical regulations and technology with the hybrid cars [have worked out].

“To have such close competition is incredible. That’s the incredible thing about this sport of rallying – it’s unbelievable,” he added.