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Welshman Evans, a front-runner in last year's WRC 2 category, returns to the top level in 2017 with the DMACK World Rally Team where he will be reunited with long-term English co-driver Daniel Barritt.

He will be nominated as M-Sport’s third points scoring driver when the championship kicks off this month at Rallye Monte- Carlo (19 - 22 January) and is expected to tackle the full season.

After 12-months away from the headline class, the 28-year-old said he was eager to return: “Being away from the top level for a season has been really hard, but it’s made me more motivated and determined to make the most of this opportunity.”

“I’m really excited to be back driving a WRC car again at an exciting period for the sport with the new generation cars," he added.

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1) Start order reshuffle 

Arguably the most important change concerns the order in which drivers will tackle stages in 2017. 

In 2016, leading drivers started in championship order for days one and two before switching to a reverse event classification on day three. 

This year, drivers will start in championship order for day one only. 

On days two and three, P1 drivers [see below] will start in the reverse order of rally classification at the end of the previous day. This group will be followed by any P1 drivers re-starting under Rally 2 regulations, and then the rest of the field in straight classification order.

The day one start order of the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo will be based on the 2016 championship classification. 

2) A more valuable Power Stage 

First introduced in 2011, the Power Stage offers bonus championship points to the fastest drivers through Sunday lunchtime’s rally-closing live TV stage. 

Up to now, the three fastest drivers have been awarded points on a 3-2-1 basis. This year there's more to play for. The stage winner will be rewarded with five points, with the five fastest drivers taking points on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis. 

3) Manufacturer nominations 

Manufacturers previously nominated two drivers per rally to score points. In 2017 they will instead nominate three, with the top two finishers scoring manufacturer points.

Also, manufacturers are no longer required to nominate one lead driver at the start of the season.

4) New driver definitions 

The FIA has changed some of the priority class definitions that apply to championship drivers. You'll see these on every rally entry list. Here's what they mean in 2017: 

P1: Drivers of World Rally Cars either entered by a manufacturer [i.e 2017-spec] or entered in the WRC Trophy [for earlier-spec cars]

P2: Drivers entered by a competitor eligible to score points in the WRC 2 Championship

P3: Drivers entered by a competitor eligible to score points in the WRC 3 and/or Junior WRC Championships

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Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas will be joined by Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula this year as both crews take to the wheel of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta R5 for campaigns in the FIA World Rally Championship’s principal support series WRC2.
Both Fiestas will carry liveries that draw inspiration from the geometric ‘disguise’ livery which adorned the all-new Ford Fiesta WRC test car and forms the base designs for M-Sport’s lead drivers – Sébastien Ogier and Ott Tänak.
Having amassed 159 victories across 29 different countries, the Fiesta R5 secured more individual wins than any other R5 in 2016. With the highest reliability rating to boot, this combination of performance and durability makes the Fiesta the ideal choice for competitors around the globe.
Pairing the Fiesta’s strengths with two exceptionally talented crews, the team are putting their best foot forward to challenge throughout all levels of what looks set to be an exciting new era of world rallying.
Starting at Rallye Monte-Carlo, Camilli and Veillas will contest a full WRC 2 campaign with an opportunity for further outings as the season progresses.
The Frenchman’s story is one of an incredible rise through the rallying ranks which saw him take to the wheel of M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC last year.
Despite a season of highs and lows, the Frenchman showed real potential – claiming a maiden stage victory on what was only his sixth outing in a world rally car and 12th ever appearance on gravel.
That potential has prompted M-Sport to keep the Frenchman on as an integral part of the team and he will contest a series of events to the gain the vital experience required to further his development.
Suninen and Markkula will start their 2017 campaign at next month’s Rally Sweden. Having secured the runner-up spot in last year’s WRC 2 championship, the Finn has proven himself worthy and will contest at least five events in the WRC 2 category with exciting opportunities for further outings within the M-Sport team.
Starting his career with the Blue Oval in 2013, Suninen spent two seasons in the Finnish Championship with M-Sport’s range of two-wheel-drive Fiestas before progressing to the world stage where he proved a force to be reckoned with.
Securing two victories and four podiums throughout last year’s WRC 2 championship, the 22-year-old now makes a welcome return to the Fiesta and is determined to better his 2016 performance.

Known for fostering young talent, M-Sport are delighted to welcome Suninen to the team and look forward to working with him as he aspires to reach the highest level of competition.
Éric Camilli said:
“The important thing for me this year is to continue to gain as much experience of as many FIA World Rally Championship events as possible. In rallying, experience is everything and it will be really important for me to continue this progression.
“When you see the drivers who will compete in the WRC 2 category at Rallye Monte-Carlo, it is very impressive. There is a real possibility for us to show our potential against experienced drivers like Andreas Mikkelsen and Bryan Bouffier – who have both been on the podium at this special event. It will be interesting to go head-to-head with them. 
“The objective for the season will be to continue our development and to gain the experience and consistency that could see us back at the top-level as soon as possible. We have a great team around us, who have put their faith in us, and I hope that there will be a lot for us all to celebrate this year.”
Teemu Suninen said:
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity and very happy to join the M-Sport team. They’ve offered me an excellent programme for the year ahead and there are some very exciting times to come.
“M-Sport provides one of the best environments for young drivers to learn and gain experience on their way to the top level. I’m really looking forward to working with this passionate team and to seeing for myself how the four-time World Champion, Sébastien Ogier, works. 
“My goal for this season is to improve on last year when I finished second in the WRC 2 championship. I know that it will be a big challenge, but with more experience under my belt I feel ready and in a good position. 
“M-Sport has a great history in rallying and many Finnish drivers have succeeded in Malcolm's team. I hope, and believe, that I have a good chance of forming a part of this successful story.”
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“From as early as 2002, we have actively strived to create exciting opportunities for talented youngsters at all levels of the sport. This year, we will be fielding two cars in the WRC 2 category and I believe that we have two exceptionally strong candidates in both Éric and Teemu.
“Éric and Benjamin might be taking a step back this year, but it by no means undermines our faith in their potential. This year, Éric will be able to gain experience of as many events as possible without the pressures that come from competing at the highest level. 
“Experience counts for a lot in this game and, if he can perform as we expect, it shouldn’t be too long before we see him back behind the wheel of a world rally car.
“It’s great to welcome Teemu and Mikko to the team. Teemu gained a lot of attention last year and there were a lot of people watching him in the WRC 2 championship. He’s a young guy with a lot of talent, and it’s great to have him behind the wheel of the Fiesta R5.
“We’ve had great success with Finns in the past, and Teemu could well form another chapter of that story. He’s ambitious, and determined, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can deliver.”

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The Welshman will drive one of three M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta WRCs at the season-opener, which starts on 19 January. 

Evans was part of M-Sport's manufacturer squad in 2014 and 2015, but was dropped to the WRC 2 category last year and claimed three class wins in a Fiesta R5.   

This year, Evans's car will use DMACK tyres, while his team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Ott Tänak will use Michelins. 

Defending champion Ogier tops the Monte entries in his number one Fiesta, with Tänak and new co-driver Martin Järveoja carrying number two and Evans three. 

Hyundai's trio of Hayden Paddon, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo are seeded fourth, fifth and sixth respectively in their i20 Coupe WRCs. 

Citroën Total Abu Dhabi drivers Kris Meeke and Stéphane Lefebvre have numbers seven and eight on their new C3 WRCs. After an appearance at November's Rally du Var, co-driver Gabin Moreau will be back alongside Lefebvre for the first time in the WRC since he was injured five months ago at ADAC Rallye Deutschland. 

Craig Breen will drive a 2016-spec DS 3 WRC on the Monte but is expected to take the team's second manufacturer-registered C3 in Sweden. 

The Yaris WRCs of Toyota Gazoo Racing drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hanninen are seeded 10th and 11th. 

Jordan Serderidis is the sole entrant in the new WRC Trophy for pre-2017 World Rally Cars. The Greek will drive a Citroën DS 3 WRC, having stepped-up from the R5-spec car he campaigned in 2016. 

There are 12 entries in WRC 2, headed by former VW team member Andreas Mikkelsen who will make a one-off appearance in a Skoda Fabia R5. 

Frenchman Eric Camilli is another 2016 manufacturer driver to find himself in WRC 2. After one season in the M-Sport World Rally Team's main squad, he returns to the category he contested in 2015. 

Six drivers are registered in WRC 3 and four in the FIA's RGT-class, including a trio of Abarth 124 cars for François Delecour, Fabio Andolfi and Gabriele Noberasco. 

Other notable entries include Kevin Abbring (Hyundai i20) Pontus Tidemand (Skoda Fabia) and last year's Junior WRC champion Simone Tempestini (Citroen DS 3). All will drive R5-spec cars in the RC2 category but are not registered to score points in WRC 2.