Cumbria-based M-Sport World Rally Team has reportedly built a brand-new Ford Fiesta World Rally Car for their lead driver, four-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier, thus ramping up their effort to keep the Frenchman at the top of the World Rally Championship‘s standings.
The new chassis, devoid of any technical upgrade, will run to the same specification as the sister cars of his team-mates, Estonian Ott Tänak and Welshman Elfyn Evans on this weekend’s Rally Portugal.
After a four-year winning streak with Volkswagen Motorsport‘s all-conquering Polo R WRC, Ogier landed at M-Sport following the German team’s shock withdrawal this winter, scoring his first win of the season on his début with the British team at Monte Carlo last January. So far, however, his win in Monaco remains the one and only, partly because he had to run first on the road on following events’ first days; despite all that, he still leads the championship by sixteen points over Toyota GAZOO Racing‘s Finnish driver, as well as former VW team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala.
On the latest event, Rally Argentina, Ogier finished a distant fourth overall, prompting team boss Malcolm Wilson and his squad to work through the issues the Frenchman has suffered on the South American rally. According to Wilson, the switch to a new car marks the Cumbrian outfit’s determination to remain in control of the fight for the title.
“A brand new car for Seb is another demonstration of our commitment to him and to the pursuit of this year’s drivers’ title,” Wilson told Autosport.
“There’s nothing different with this car, obviously there are no evolutions or anything with the 2017 car, but we just want to make sure everything is as fresh as it can be.”
Wilson went on to say that Ogier’s choice of differential spec on Rally Argentina was different to Tänak’s and Evans’, a setup he had already tested before the event, even though it was later found to cause uncaracteristic tyre wear on the stages. An issue, this one, that Malcolm claims will be addressed on time for Rally Portugal.
“We’ve done a lot of testing in Portugal over the past couple of months and done some further development work on the car,” Wilson said.
“That’s definitely a confidence booster ahead of this rally. The competition is even closer this year and every team has a chance of victory. Opening the road on the first day will probably make it harder for us, but we come to Portugal with high objectives and a focus on increasing our championship lead once again.”
On last year’s edition of the Portuguese event, won by Citroen’s Kris Meeke, Ogier only finished third, behind his younger team-mate, Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway.