As expected, the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team has named Russian youngster Evgeny Novikov as full-time partner to Mads Østberg in 2013. It has also named Citroën youngster and former Peugeot IRC frontrunner Thierry Neuville as its third driver, contesting all 13 rounds of the 2013 WRC season.
That’s three Qatar-branded Fiestas running all year, with a fourth car for former IRC winner and S2000 world champion Juho Hänninen taking part in the first two events of the year plus team sponsor and former PWRC world champion Nasser Al-Attiyah joining for seven events. This gives team boss Malcolm Wilson three young men all eager to prove that they can step up to the top step of the podium on a regular basis plus a pair of established performers.
The signing of Neuville was a surprise, although his absence from the Citroën launch event in Abu Dhabi was telling. Clearly throwing in the towel with the PSA Group, which has nurtured the young Belgian’s career so far, in favour of a non-works Fiesta, was a gamble worth taking in his mind. Certainly Neuville has the full backing of Al-Attiyah, with whom he campaigned the third Citroën on this year’s world championship. Whether or not he also brings the stipulated $2-3 million that M-Sport requires for a full year in 2013 is not yet known.
There is plenty of scope for over-anxious young drivers to bend their cars in 2013 as they seek to make a name for themselves. Nevertheless it also has plenty of excitement in store on the stages – and that’s what the WRC is all about.