Ford has confirmed that the Fiesta RS WRC will make its debut on the Arctic Rally at the end of January - as predicted by AUTOSPORT on Saturday.
Mikko Hirvonen will be the first driver to compete in a Fiesta RS WRC as he takes the wheel of the Rovaniemi event on the opening day, before handing the car over to his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala for day two.
The January 28-29 event will form part of Ford's test programme ahead of the opening World Rally Championship round of the season, the Rally of Sweden, on February 10-13.
Ford team director Malcolm Wilson emphasised that the car has been entered purely for testing purposes.
"The Fiesta RS WRC has covered thousands of kilometres in testing over the last four or five months," he said. "However, a traditional test cannot truly replicate genuine competition for learning about a car.
"We believe that going to the Arctic Rally will provide ideal preparation for both the team and the drivers ahead of Rally Sweden."
Hirvonen competed in the Arctic Rally in 2001 and 2002, and the 30-year-old Finn said: "The rally has a fantastic Arctic atmosphere, which is difficult to explain until you have witnessed it.
"It has great winter conditions for driving and the stages are fast, but sometimes quite technical. It's an ideal location to test the new car in a competitive way ahead of Sweden and I'm excited that the team is coming to my home country again."
Latvala, too, is looking forward to testing the Fiesta RS WRC in a rally environment: "At a normal test, a driver covers the same section of road continuously and quickly learns how to drive it," he said. "Almost all the roads in the Arctic Rally are used only once, so it gives the team the opportunity to see how the car performs in competitive surroundings.
"The stages will be a similar length to a WRC round so it really will be a perfect test opportunity."