Ford’s global motorsport boss has vowed the departure of world champion Sébastien Ogier will not mean the end of M-Sport’s success in the FIA World Rally Championship.
Mark Rushbrook responded to the decision of Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia to quit the British squad for French rival Citroën by pledging to support team principal Malcolm Wilson in rebuilding for next season.
“We will work with our long-term rally partners M-Sport on the 2019 driver line-up and I’m confident we will have a really strong package to continue to deliver the success that we aim for in all the motorsports activities we have around the world,” said Rushbrook, Ford Performance Motorsport’s global director.
The Blue Oval increased its commitment to M-Sport this season, a move which persuaded Ogier to stay for a second year after winning his fifth drivers’ title in 2017 in a Fiesta WRC and leading the team to the manufacturers’ crown.
Rushbrook and Wilson both thanked the French pair for their efforts during the last two years.
“Their professionalism, attention to detail, determination and outright speed is something to be admired and we’re all very sorry to see them go,” said Wilson.
“I am immensely proud of everything we achieved together and their time with the team is something that I think everyone will remember for a long time to come.”
Ogier dropped to third in the drivers’ standings after this month’s Rally Turkey and M-Sport Ford holds the same position in the manufacturers’ points, but Wilson said the team would hold nothing back in the final three rounds.
“We wish them well with the next and final chapter of their careers, but there are still three events left to contest this year and the whole team will continue to give 110 per cent in the defence of our championship titles,” he added.
Attention now turns to who will feature in M-Sport’s 2019 squad, especially as the loss of Ogier’s Red Bull financial backing will hit Wilson hard.
Teemu Suninen is believed to be lined up for a full programme after a strong campaign but Elfyn Evans’ position is less clear. A disappointing year has yielded just one podium in Portugal and the Welshman hopes for a strong end to the season to cement his return.