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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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M-Sport elated as Ford signs for four years

Malcolm Wilson (front) and staff celebrate

M-SPORT boss Malcolm Wilson this week secured the future of his 150-strong Dovenby workforce after months of doubts - and opened the door for new jobs.

It followed threats by Ford, M-Sport’s main contractor, that it could pull out of rallying next season due to increasing financial problems.

But the manufacturer has signed a new year four-year deal with M-Sport, confirming its commitment to the World Rally Championship.

The Dovenby Hall team will now develop a new Ford Focus rally car for the 2006 season, boosting its chances of claiming the world title.

M-Sport will also develop the Ford Fiesta junior world rally car for use by Ford’s customer teams.

Mr Wilson, a former rally champion, has spent months putting together proposals in a bid to secure the massive contract.

He was forced to fly back from the Japan rally in September for crisis talks with Ford president Lewis Booth.

Things got worse last month when parent company Ford announced Jaguar was quitting Formula 1 and shedding thousands of jobs at its Coventry factory.

But now, as well as securing work for the 150 staff already on site, the additional work in the new contract will generate more jobs.

An elated Mr Wilson told the Times & Star that all the sleepless nights had this week been worth it.

“I read a comment somewhere saying this would be the biggest challenge I’d faced in my entire life - well I can absolutely agree with whoever wrote that,” he said.

“It really is unbelievable. We’ve gone from being completely dead in August to this.

“It’s obviously great for all the staff at M-Sport but also, with the added programme, we will be recruiting.

“The ink isn’t even dry and there is so much detail I now need to get my head around that I can’t say how many but there will be more jobs, there is no question about it.”

M-Sport first won the Ford contract in 1997. Without it the Dovenby business would have survived on private contracts, but on a much smaller scale.

As a result Mr Wilson has spent many hours with the M-Sport team coming up with cost-cutting proposals, as well as bringing Ford’s top man to Britain for the Rally of Wales.

“It has been a difficult few months but there was a desire by the president of Ford to try and find a solution,” added Mr Wilson.

“He made it clear what they could afford to invest and basically we’ve now got to a point where we have a lot more areas that can generate revenue and other business opportunities.”

On Tuesday he met Mr Booth in more positive circumstances in Brussels, signing the deal to turn West Cumbria into Ford’s centre for international rallying.

Mr Booth said: “We’ve carried out a comprehensive review of the motorsport scene and Ford’s involvement in it.

“As part of that review we have developed a motorsport strategy which builds on our rallying heritage and we have strengthened our long-running partnership with Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport company.”

The question that now remains is who will drive for Ford next season after both Markko Martin and Francois Duval were released from their contracts in the light of Ford’s uncertainty.

“Our first priority is to try and retain Francois. We have offered him a four-year contract and number one driver status,” revealed Mr Wilson.

“But there is a lot of interest in him because he is the most improved driver this season.

“It would be a good career move for him because we could design and build the new car around him but we’ll just have to wait and see.”

He added that they were not in a position, financially, to retain Markko Martin, who has won three rallies this season.

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