As well as being a title-winning driver and a world championship-winning team principal, this season marks M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson’s fifth decade in business.
Malcolm Wilson Motorsport opened its doors in 1979, selling rally car parts, tyres, overalls from Britain’s north-west corner in Cumbria. Those doors have remained open for the last 41 years.
M-Sport ships product across the world, with its range of Ford rally cars just as popular as ever as it mirrors the FIA’s pyramid of progress from grass roots right up to the current WRC machinery.
Known as the team which runs Ford’s interest in world rallying, Wilson’s vision of replicating the model he bought into as an up-and-coming driver, with one brand working at every level of a driver’s progression, has resulted in today’s all-encompassing line-up of Ford Fiesta R1, R2, R5 and WRC.
Working as an independent team, M-Sport has the flexibility to respond to regulation change, deploying the same engineering excellence which helped Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia and the Fiesta WRC to a clean sweep of WRC titles in 2017 to research, develop, build, test and refine class-leading rally cars.
The Fiesta S2000 was a successful class car when it arrived in 2009, but when those naturally aspirated two-litre screamers were replaced by standard-blocked, blown 1600cc R5 regulations four years later in 2013, M-Sport’s response was as immediate as it was impressive. First to market with the Fiesta R5, people flocked through the doors to Dovenby Hall, with an astonishing 337 of those cars sold. In addition to the cars, tens of thousands of parts have been sold to support programmes from northern Scandinavia to New Zealand.
As a business, M-Sport has developed and grown at an incredible pace, with M-Sport Poland opening in 2011. The impressive Krakow facility – which sits virtually on the runway of Krakow airport to make it as accessible as possible – is responsible for all the two-wheel drive development and production, including the Fiesta Rally4, launched in March, as the car which will supersedes the R2. Again, the numbers are mind-boggling with more than 250 of the latest shape Fiestas rallying around the world in two-wheel drive trim, courtesy of Maciej Woda, the man in charge of M-Sport Poland.
Woda is, of course, also the driving force behind the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, the WRC’s junior feeder series which uses M-Sport tended Fiesta R2Ts for all drivers chasing the biggest and most valuable prize in world rallying: a brand new Fiesta R5 MkII.
It’s Wilson’s business brain and global approach that has kept M-Sport at the very pinnacle of world rallying for the last 41 years. And the development of Dovenby Hall to incorporate a private 2.5km test track and 10,732 square-metre evaluation centre has surely future-proofed one of the Britain’s best-loved and successful preparation firms as the go-to company for any manufacturer’s motorsport and road car advancement.