M-Sport to bring 'big change' to WRC engine, plots return to wins

David Evans, Jack Benyon
M-Sport to bring 'big change' to engine in 2020
M-Sport to bring 'big change' to engine in 2020

M-Sport is targeting a return to World Rally Championship wins this year, with the "biggest change" made to its engine since the current regulations began in 2017.

The Ford Fiesta WRC was an immediate contender when the WRC's new rules came in three years ago, as Sebastien Ogier, Ott Tanak and Elfyn Evans all took wins using the car over the following two seasons that included two drivers' titles for Ogier (2017-18) and a manufacturers' title in '17.

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But last season the team struggled after Ogier's exit to Citroen, and it failed to post a victory with Evans and Teemu Suninen as its main drivers.

Team owner Malcolm Wilson is hopeful that the upgrade, which is slated to arrive for the fourth round of 2020, will move the team forward once more.

"This is the biggest change we've made to the engine since we started work with this car [in 2017]," Wilson told Autosport.

"It's a big step. As you'd expect, we've worked closely with Ford on this, with Ford doing a lot of the modelling work on the engine.

"When it comes, we'll have more power, torque and driveability - like I said, it will make a big difference. "Once we've got that in place, I don't see any reason really why we shouldn't be challenging [for victory] on all remaining rounds of the series.

"We know where we are coming into this year and I'm looking forward to it.

"We won't have three cars on every round, so we won't be in the position to fight for the manufacturers' [title], but we will have some target events where we'll be looking for victories."

M-Sport to bring 'big change' to engine in 2020
M-Sport to bring 'big change' to engine in 2020

M-Sport confirmed its driver line-up last week, with ex-Citroen driver Esapekka Lappi joining Suninen in the Fiesta WRC, while Brit Gus Greensmith gets nine outings in the car over the course of 2020.

Tanak left M-Sport to switch to Toyota in 2018, while Ogier moved teams the following year to head to Citroen.

Both drivers have made moves again for 2020, with Ogier replacing Tanak at Toyota now the WRC champion has opted to switch to Hyundai.

Evans left M-Sport to move to Toyota alongside Ogier this year, leaving a seat available at M-Sport for Lappi.

A winner in his first full season in a world rally car in 2017 with Toyota on Rally Finland, Lappi scored the last remaining full-time seat in the WRC ahead of the likes of Kris Meeke and Andreas Mikkelsen.

Despite the talent available, Wilson says it was not a "difficult choice" to chose the "proven" Lappi.

"Esapekka was one of the few current drivers that had never driven for me," said Wilson.

"Beyond saying hello to him in the service park, I'd never really met him.

"We sat down and talked things through and I could very quickly see that he would fit into what we're doing here and the environment we have in the team."

"He's got good experience of the WRC and he's a proven rally winner - there's a mindset thing that comes with that.

"I think he'll settle in quickly with the team and he'll find our car pretty easy to drive.

"There were a few different guys around, but this one wasn't a difficult choice once I'd sat down with him."

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