As part of the agreement, Nasser Al-Attiyah will drive a Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC on seven rounds starting with February’s Rally Sweden, while two additional Fiestas could appear on all 13 rounds subject to confirmation.
“We are delighted to welcome such a prestigious partner as Qatar on board for 2013,” said M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson, whose firm had been searching for a replacement backer after Ford withdrew its WRC sponsorship following a 16-year association with the British company.
“The partnership with Nasser and the Qatari State will enable M-Sport to continue at the pinnacle of the sport and we are looking forward to working together in the future. Since the 2012 season came to a close, work has not stopped and the entire team is working around the clock to ensure we deliver a strong package for next year.”
Al-Attiyah (pictured right with Wilson) has enjoyed a successful relationship with M-Sport over the years. He took the firm’s Fiesta S2000 to victory on its debut rally in Qatar in 2010 - the same weekend that Mikko Hirvonen triumphed on Rallye Monte-Carlo in a sister machine - and has relied on Fiesta technology for his FIA Middle East championship campaign in recent seasons.
“We are looking forward to building on our strong relationship with M-Sport and working with them in 2013,” said Al-Attiyah. “I have a good knowledge of the car having driven the Fiesta S2000 to its debut win in 2010 and [I am] now looking to secure my eighth title in the Middle East with the Fiesta RRC. I am really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the Fiesta RS WRC and contesting as many WRC events as I can around my other motorsport commitments.”
Al-Attiyah took part on eight rounds of this year’s world championship in a Qatar-backed Citroen DS3 WRC. His best result was fourth place on Vodafone Rally de Portugal in April. Italian Giovanni Bernacchini will continue to co-drive.
Details of the other Qatar M-Sport drivers are likely to be announced soon. Wilson has spoken of his desire to sign Mads Ostberg, while former factory Ford pilot and 2003 world champion Petter Solberg said at the weekend that he would be willing to drive for free if it meant continuing his career in the WRC.