M-Sport will field no fewer than six Qatar-liveried Ford Fiesta RSs on next week’s Portuguese round of the World Rally Championship in addition to two more WRC2 cars plus all ten entries in the Junior WRC category.
Dennis Kuipers will replace Juho Hanninen in the British squad’s top-tier WRC line-up. Finn Hanninen had been expected to return after missing Mexico’s recent round but has been forced to stand aside for personal reasons, opening the way for Kuipers to return to the WRC in 2013.
Kuipers, from the Netherlands, finished sixth in Portugal last year in an M-Sport Fiesta and also holds the record for the best result for a Dutch driver on a WRC event with fifth place in 2011’s Rallye de France-Alsace.
Meanwhile promising Brit Elfyn Evans, son of former British Rally champion Gwyndaf Evans, will make his WRC2 debut on the event, also in a Qatar-backed Fiesta RRC (regional rally car). His Fiesta, plus those of fellow WRC2 drivers Indonesian Subhan Aska and Qatar’s Abdulziz Al’Kuwari, will all be run out of M-Sport’s main service area alongside the leading WRC Fords of Mads Ostberg, Thierry Neuville, Evgeny Novikov, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Kuipers.
It is also worth noting that another four Fiestas, all built and developed by M-Sport, will be competing in the WRC and WRC2 categories in the hands of privateer teams. Martin Prokop’s Jipocar WRC-spec machine came from the company’s British headquarters as did the RRC versions of WRC2 competitors Robert Barrable, the just confirmed PG Andersson, Ala’a Rasheed and Eduardo Bresolin.
Furthermore, M-Sport is the exclusive supplier of cars to the WRC’s Junior championship which starts on Rally de Portugal with ten Fiesta R2s. All are prepared by the company at its Polish factory in Krakow and brought to events on an ‘arrive and drive’ basis for competitors.
In total it means 27 of the 71 cars entered on next week’s Rally de Portugal are either being run directly by or have been built by M-Sport.
Rally de Portugal, the fourth round of this year’s WRC, is based in the spectacular 30,000-seater Algarve stadium near Faro. After Thursday’s qualifying stage the action gets under way on the Friday morning (April 12) before finishing on Sunday afternoon (April 14).