South African Haigh-Smith tackled the season-closing rounds in France and Great Britain last season and returns in 2012 with British co-driver Craig Parry.
Haigh-Smith will be in action from the Acropolis Rally in Greece onwards and takes advantage of a new rule for this year that allows drivers to nominate five of the six rounds to score points in their identical M-Sport-prepared Ford Fiesta R2s that use control Pirelli tyres.
Confirmation of Haigh-Smith’s entry means drivers from Africa, Australia, North America and Europe will chase WRC Academy honours and the prize drive opportunities on offer to the winner.
“I believe the WRC Academy is the place to be if you want to learn and eventually progress into top-level rallying,” said Haigh-Smith, who at 19 is the WRC Academy’s youngest competitor. “It brings people from all over the world together and it is a real honour for me to be involved again this year.
“The WRC Academy is the first step towards a career in the WRC and I believe the competition is just as tough in the feeder series as it is amongst the P1 drivers. With an equal playing field for everyone, it is just the driver and the navigator who make the difference, which gives us the perfect opportunity to show what we can do behind the wheel.”
Haigh-Smith and Parry plan to contest rounds of the South African championship in a Fiesta R2 in addition to their WRC Academy campaign.