Sebastien Ogier will defend his World Rally Championship title with M-Sport next season.
The British team announced Ogier and Elfyn Evans as its frontline drivers on Tuesday evening.
Ogier told Motorsport.com he had known for some time that he wanted to remain with M-Sport and identified the strength of his relationship with team principal Malcolm Wilson as one of the key reasons for his decision.
“I couldn’t talk about this officially,” the five-time champion said, “but for some time now, it’s been clear in my mind that I want to stay with this team for next year.
"It’s good that it’s now official, it means we can focus on next year to work for the future.
“There was a lot talked about and a lot written about my decision and where I would go, I know some of this was about money, but I can tell you the choice was not made only on the money.
"I talked to the other teams and I had to be really convinced, not only on the money side; money can’t buy a great boss and nobody has given me the sort of feeling that Malcolm has.
"I really feel that Malcolm fights so hard to keep me in the team, I enjoy working with him and the team so much – there’s a lot of good feeling for this.”
Ogier scored his fifth drivers’ title with M-Sport this season and helped bring the Cockermouth team its first manufacturers’ crown in a decade.
He will begin testing the 2018 Ford Fiesta WRC in the middle of next month, joined by Evans.
The Welshman returns to competition in a factory car on Michelin tyres for the first time since 2015 after two seasons on DMACK rubber.
“As you can imagine, I’m really pleased,” said Evans. “I can’t speak highly enough of what the team has done in the last year and I definitely learned a lot from Seb, so I’m definitely looking forward to working with everyone again next year.
“At the same time, I’m also ready to take the next step. We’ve got that first victory under our belts now and good experience of most of the events. Honestly, I can’t wait to get the season started!”
Wilson admitted he was both delighted and relieved to have his top two drivers sorted for next season. A further driver announcement is expected from Cumbria later next month or at January’s 2018 WRC launch at Autosport International.
“It’s a real weight off our mind to get Seb and Elfyn all sorted,” Wilson said. “We can now focus all of our attention to the car and the evolutions we’ve got planned for next season.
“This news is definitely worth waiting for. I’m over the moon that we’ve got Seb and Julien [Ingrassia, co-driver] with us again next year.
"The negotiations have taken a while, maybe even longer than last season, but we’ve put everything in order.
"I’ll be honest, negotiating with Sebastien’s a very straightforward process: he told us what he wanted and we had to find a way to get there.”
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|Drivers||Sébastien Ogier , Elfyn Evans|