M-Sport is pleased to confirm Evgeny Novikov and Thierry Neuville for the 2013 edition of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Piloting the Ford Fiesta RS WRC on all 13 rounds of next season’s championship, both drivers will represent the State of Qatar alongside Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mads Østberg as the quartet look to make their mark on the world stage.
Partnered by Austrian Ilka Minor, Novikov was a strong candidate for the drive since negotiations began last month and is more than capable of performing at rallying’s highest level. With 36 WRC starts to his name, the Russian secured two podium finishes in 2012 – the first, in Portugal, making him the youngest ever driver to stand on a WRC podium at just 21 years old.
Following an impressive debut season in the WRC, Neuville was another obvious choice to join M-Sport’s latest crop of young talents. Starting his career as part of the Belgian Ford Fiesta Sport Trophy series in 2008, the 24-year-old is no stranger to M-Sport’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars. Due to make his competitive debut in the Fiesta’s WRC guise at the season opener in Monte-Carlo, the youngster will be looking to prove his versatility alongside regular co-driver, Nicolas Gilsoul.
Having contested 20 WRC events to date, Neuville has already notched up 11 stage victories in the world series and claimed a career-best result at this year’s Rallye de France-Alsace when he finished a creditable fourth. Contesting the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2011, the youngster is also no stranger to the taste of champagne having conquered the demanding stages of both the Tour de Corse and Rallye Sanremo where he secured his first international victories.
With the world’s brightest young talents lining up alongside Qatar and M-Sport in 2013, the stage is set for the next generation of world championship contenders. With guidance from one of motorsport’s most decorated drivers in the form of Al-Attiyah, the stars of tomorrow will benefit from the Qatari’s guidance and expertise throughout the year.
“We have a young team for next year, but this by no means detracts from their ability to produce some strong results. All of them, Mads [Østberg], Evgeny [Novikov] and Thierry [Neuville], proved their worth in 2012 and, with guidance from Nasser [Al-Attiyah], they can all be fantastic ambassadors for Qatar, M-Sport and the WRC.”
Evgeny Novikov said: “I am very glad to be representing Qatar and M-Sport next year. I would like to express huge gratitude to all those who supported me and believed in me: my mentor Mikhail Lepekhov, Malcolm Wilson, my family and my fans.
“In 2013 we will fight at the top level and do our best to please those who have supported us all these years.”
Thierry Neuville said: “It is a great honour for me to represent Qatar and M-Sport on all 13 rounds of next season’s championship. Thanks to a great ‘learning’ year in the WRC, I am confident that I will be able to achieve some great results alongside M-Sport and my new team mates.
“I would especially like to thank Malcolm [Wilson] for his confidence in me, and also my friend Nasser [Al-Attiyah] for his fantastic support. I am now focussed on preparing for Rally Monte-Carlo and really looking forward to the start of this new adventure.”