Novikov and Neuville to contest full 2013 WRC season with M-Sport

Evgeny Novikov and Thierry Neuville will contest all 13 rounds of next year's World Rally Championship with M-Sport

Novikov and Neuville to contest full 2013 WRC season with M-Sport

Novikov, 22, and Neuville, 24, join Mads Ostberg and Nasser Al-Attiyah at the team.

Novikov finished sixth in this year's championship and also became the youngest man to stand on a WRC podium when he finished third on the road - which became second when Mikko Hirvonen was excluded - in Portugal.

Neuville meanwhile has claimed 11 stage wins across the 20 WRC events he has entered, with his fourth place in this year's Rally France his best result.

M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson believes both drivers will impress in 2013 despite their young age and relative inexperience.

"Evgeny [Novikov] and Thierry [Neuville] are young, but they have both shown some real maturity this year - combining obvious speed with a determination to finish all of the events and gain as much knowledge of the stages as possible," Wilson said.

"Both have regularly challenged the factory drivers, and their 2012 results were thoroughly deserved. I am confident that both drivers have more to prove and that we will see more impressive performances from them in 2013.

"We have a young team for next year, but this by no means detracts from their ability to produce some strong results.

"All of them, Mads [Ostberg], Evgeny [Novikov] and Thierry [Neuville], proved their worth in 2012 and, with guidance from Nasser [Al-Attiyah], they can all be fantastic ambassadors for M-Sport and the WRC."

AUTOSPORT SAYS
Matt Beer

The erstwhile Ford works team faces the might of Volkswagen and Citroen with a driver line-up that can boast only a smattering of podiums and one (inherited) win between them.

But that statistic could not be more irrelevant, because in Neuville, Novikov and Ostberg, Malcolm Wilson has scooped up every talent-laden rough diamond youngster he could lay his hands on. It's not about the results this trio has already delivered - it's about the wins and titles they could eventually bring as they mature.

It's a gamble, of course. Citroen knows exactly what it is getting with Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo - but it also knows their limitations compared to a Sebastien Loeb.

M-Sport's drivers are still blossoming and developing. Ostberg needs to produce his world-beating pace across a whole weekend (a full season and testing will surely help).

Novikov needs to deliver fewer YouTube sensation leaps and shunts - but 2012 was a big step in that regard. Yes, he rolled a few cars and erstwhile co-driver Denis Giraudet was sidelined with a back injury, but Russia's rally hope also proved he could take wisely-judged podiums.

The poise Neuville showed when beating Andreas Mikkelsen and Juho Hanninen (another big, big talent now in the M-Sport fold) to Intercontinental Rally Challenge wins in an inferior Peugeot in 2011 was often absent in his WRC rookie season this year.

But the speed remained - it was just all too often hidden by Rally 2 penalties following early mistakes. His second IRC season was a night and day progression over his first. Rivals should fear the same happening in the WRC.

Of course M-Sport could find its service area littered with debris from young guns trying too hard to make the most of their chance. But right now, its scintillating driver choice is another big step in the WRC's revival.

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