After weeks of uncertainty, Ford has committed itself to the World Rally Championship for the next two years, and have simultaneously announced Petter Solberg as their second driver in a one year deal.
M-Sport, who have been in charge of the blue oval’s works team for the past 14 years, were finally able to secure backing for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, and will continue running the current spec Fiesta RS WRC for Ford’s works and satellite teams.
“We feel that the timing for our announcement is right,” explained Gerard Quinn, Ford Europe’s Senior Manager for Motorsport. “We had to be confident about the stability of the championship and to ensure it continues to provide great value and increased exposure globally. We discussed it with our stakeholders and after receiving such assurances we look forward to focusing on competition once again.”
The other big question mark over Ford’s immediate future was also answered in the announcement – that of the second seat at the factory team. After spending the last three years running a privateer CitroÃ«n, Petter Solberg has secured a one year deal to return to the marque which handed him his full WRC debut.
“The addition of Petter Solberg to the team brings one of the sport's most experienced and flamboyant drivers back to the team where he started his top-level career. A drivers' world title and 13 world rally victories are testament to his abilities and his vast experience will be a great asset to our line-up,” added Quinn.
However there is also bad news for Ford on the commercial side, losing one of their primary sponsors in Abu Dhabi Tourism Board. The Middle-Eastern country had backed the works Ford team for several years, with Khalid Al-Qassimi a team regular as part of the deal, but poor performance compared to CitroÃ«n and the uncertain future of the team seems to have worried long term sponsors – with BP also withdrawing their backing. However, Castrol remain onboard as a primary backer.
Regardless of their financial situation, team principal Malcolm Wilson was happy to secure Ford backing for the next two years.
“The performance of the Fiesta RS WRC in 2011 was strong on all surfaces and I'm genuinely excited about what we can achieve in the future,” he said. “We want to challenge for world titles and I have no doubts that our car and driver combination, allied to the infrastructure and expertise of our staff at Dovenby Hall, will allow us to do that.”
Jari-Matti Latvala will pair up with Solberg next year, holding a valid contract for 2012 from his current deal.