Mads Østberg and Eric Camilli [above] have been named in an all-new line-up at M-Sport World Rally Team for the 2016 WRC season.
Østberg’s return to the squad, with whom he spent three seasons between 2011 and 2013, was expected after his Citroën team confirmed last week it would not enter the series next year while it develops a new car for 2017.
Camilli’s confirmation is a surprise as he has started only 10 WRC events and never driven a World Rally Car competitively. However, M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson made no secret that he was an admirer of the 28-year-old Frenchman during Camilli’s WRC 2 campaign this year.
Wilson has yet to decide whether M-Sport will tackle all 14 rounds with its Ford Fiesta RS.
“Next year, the development of our 2017 challenger will be of the utmost importance and we need to ensure that this will not be compromised before we make any decision on whether or not to contest all 14 events,” said a team spokesperson.
Østberg and Camilli replace Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans who both had disappointing seasons. It was confirmed on Friday that Tänak will drive all 14 rounds for the new DMACK World Rally Team while the M-Sport door is not closed for Evans.
“The team is still in discussion with Elfyn and there is potential for him to have some form of programme in 2016. News of this potential programme will be announced when known,” added the spokesperson.
M-Sport has not confirmed the length of contract for its new drivers but it is understood that Camilli's agreement is for more than one year.
Østberg finished fourth in the championship this year and believes he could challenge for wins in 2016.
"I've changed my driving style over the past two years so it will be interesting to see how that works with the Fiesta and whether or not I'll have to go back to my previous style. It's difficult to say how quickly we'll be able to adapt, but I remember the Fiesta being really easy to drive.
"I feel as though my driving has progressed a lot recently, and the plan is to continue that progression next year. I want to make another improvement in speed, challenge for more podiums and I think wins could also be a possibility. I want to get faster, and I think I can do that without sacrificing the consistency," he said.
Camilli finished 10th in WRC 2 last season in a Fiesta R5, only missing out on victory at the final round in Britain following final stage mechanical problems.
"The priority for next season will be to discover the level required to compete in a World Rally Car and to learn the Fiesta RS WRC. I know it will be fast - faster than anything I've ever driven before - so I'll need to take everything step by step and work hard to improve every aspect of what it takes to become a world class driver.
"I want to do the best job that I can, but I know that I can't put too much pressure on myself at the beginning. I'm very motivated, but I know every driver has to start somewhere and that I will require time to be competitive at the highest level," he said.
Wilson was excited about his new line-up. "We know what Mads is capable of and I believe he has the ability to put M-Sport and Ford back on the top step of the podium next year. There are a number of events in which he can challenge for victory and that has to be our aim for the season ahead.
"Eric's WRC experience is limited, but I truly believe that he has all the makings of a future world champion. He has already proven how quickly he can adapt to new cars and new events and I think his progression will be swift," he said.