World champion Sébastien Ogier will return to Citroën Racing next season after signing a two-year deal with the French manufacturer.
He returns to the Satory-based team, with whom he spent the early days of his WRC career, after a two-year spell with M-Sport Ford.
Friday afternoon’s announcement was not a surprise after it became apparent in recent weeks that the 34-year-old Frenchman was edging towards Citroën rather than extending his stay with the British squad.
Ogier made it clear last month he would agree one final WRC contract before ending his stay in a championship he has dominated in recent seasons, but there is no confirmation of how long his contact is.
Five consecutive world titles with Volkswagen Motorsport and M-Sport Ford have made him the WRC’s second most successful driver behind former Citroën team-mate Sébastien Loeb.
Ogier said a key factor behind his switch was the desire to win the championship with a third team, something only Juha Kankkunen has achieved.
“There were various factors that influenced my decision. I really like the idea of working again with people with whom things went pretty well a few years back and I’m also excited by the chance to try and pull off the challenge of becoming world champion with a third different manufacturer,” he explained.
“And although I'm not taking anything for granted, I am convinced the car has definite potential and I have great faith in the people at Satory.
“I'm really enthusiastic about the prospect of taking on this new challenge with Citroën. In fact, I can't wait, especially as I haven’t forgotten that this is the team that first gave me the opportunity to compete in the world championship.”
Ogier won the junior world title with Citroën in 2008 before making his first appearance at the top level later that season.
He drove for Citroën’s second-string in 2009 and 2010, claiming his first WRC win in Portugal. He was promoted to the top team in the second half of 2010 but left after the 2011 season following increasing tension between himself, Loeb and management regarding team orders.
Ogier joined M-Sport Ford in 2017 after Volkswagen stepped back from the WRC. The switch from the well-funded German squad to Malcolm’s Wilson privately-run team took many by surprise.
“When we decided to join M-Sport two years ago, many considered it a risk. I considered it a challenge, and together we achieved something extraordinary,” he said.
“Malcolm and his team have such a passion for rallying, and I would like to thank each and every one of them for what has been an incredible two years together.
“It’s now time for another new challenge, but first we will focus on bringing this special partnership to a close in the best possible way. The championship is still extremely close and we’ll keep fighting to keep our chances alive and keep pushing until the very end.”
Citroën team principal Pierre Budar made clear his desire to resign Ogier in a bid to rejuvenate the team’s flagging fortunes following the mid-season departure of Kris Meeke.
“I’m obviously delighted to welcome Sébastien and Julien back into the fold. The fact they are joining us is an incredible boost for the whole team. Everyone is going to be even more motivated than ever.
“We’re already pulling out all the stops to make sure our second stint working together adds to our great history in the sport and showcases the Citroën brand. We feel good!” he said.