Rising British rally star Rhys Yates will take the biggest step of his career when he joins the multiple world championship-winning M-Sport Ford World Rally Team for the 2020 season.
The Chesterfield star inked a deal to join the Cumbrian-based outfit which dominated the World Rally Championship through the 2017/18 seasons late last month.
Rhys will drive one of M-Sport’s factory built and run Ford Fiesta R5 MkIIs in the coming season.
The 27-year-old starts his season at the world-famous Rallye Monte-Carlo, where he posted an exceptional fourth in class on his debut in the French Alps last year.
Rhys said: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity for me. Everybody in rallying, everybody in motorsport knows about M-Sport’s history, heritage and pedigree. These are the guys who made such amazing names as Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz and Marcus Grönholm. To have the chance to drive for M-Sport is massive for me.”
Rhys’ full programme for the year ahead has yet to be decided, but the Englishman is looking forward to a first test of the latest specification Fiesta R5 MkII in the coming days.
“Our precise calendar’s still being finalised,” he said, “but it’s a full WRC 2 programme starting with Monte-Carlo and including the other events we did last season (Sweden, Portugal, Wales and Germany) to build on that experience. We’ll also do two more European rounds and one longhaul in either Mexico or Japan.
“Going back to Monte Carlo is great and that event is just one example of where M-Sport’s experience and knowledge will pay dividends and really help me. M-Sport has been a constant, running Ford’s effort in the WRC, since 1997. If anybody knows what’s coming in the French Alps later this month, it’s M-Sport and to have access to that data and understanding is invaluable.
“Driving for M-Sport is a real launchpad for me this year.”
During his rookie season in the WRC, Rhys finished in the top five on two of the six events he started – and posted ever-improving times in both a Škoda Fabia R5 (Rallye Monte-Carlo, Rally Sweden, Tour de Corse, Rally of Portugal and Rally Germany) and Hyundai i20 R5 (Wales Rally GB).
“I learned a lot last year,” said Rhys, “and I know I’ve got a lot more to learn in the year ahead, but I’m looking forward to pushing for more pace, performance and hopefully some podiums. Some of the guys we’re competing against have been running in these rallies for years and we can’t rival that kind of experience. What I can do is learn lots, push myself and enjoy working with world champions.”