- February 17, 1956
- United Kingdom
- Not Active
Malcolm Wilson is a British former rally driver and owner of M-Sport company, which builds race cars and runs motorsport programs for different manufacturers. Currently, it runs Fords in the World Rally Championship and Bentleys in GT competitions worldwide.
Wilson was a champion both as a driver and as a team boss
As a team principal, Wilson took two WRC titles for manufacturers with Ford, in 2006 and 2007. As a rally driver, Wilson's most notable result was the British Rally Championship title in 1994, when he was driving the Ford Escort RS Cosworth. In the World Rally Championship, he collected 42 starts between 1977 and 1995, scoring two podiums.
Malcolm Irving Wilson was born on February 17, 1956, in Cockermouth, Cumbria, England. Today, M-Sport's headquarters and factory are located in Dovenby Hall near Cockermouth, next to Wilson's house. The company was founded in 1979 as Malcolm Wilson Motorsport, changing its name to M-Sport in 1996.
Two UK National championship titles in 1978 and 1979
Wilson started rallying in 1976 with Ford Escort RS, together with John Davies as his navigator. Wilson gained an immediate success in his first years of rallying, becoming the UK National champion in 1978 and 1979. In both seasons, he was driving the Ford Escort RS 1800 MkII.
During 1977, Ron Palmer became Wilson's co-driver and won the 1978 championship title with him. In 1979, Wilson's navigators were Terry Harryman and Bryan Thomas.
WRC debut at 1977 Lombard RAC Rally
Malcolm Wilson debuted in the World Rally Championship at 1977 Lombard RAC Rally, finishing in 12th place with Ford Escort RS 2000. Next year, he returned with Ford Escort RS 1800 but he retired because his half-shaft was broken.
At 1979 Lombard RAC Rally, Wilson finished in 15th place. One more DNF followed at 1980 Lombard RAC Rally, again with Escort RS 1800.
Teammate to world rally champion Ari Vatanen
In 1981, Wilson expanded his international activities, participating with Rothmans Rally Team at three WRC events - Rally de Portugal, Acropolis Rally and Lombard RAC Rally. He didn't finish any of those events, retiring due to an accident in Portugal and UK while the broken gearbox stopped him in Greece.
Class win at 1983 Lombard RAC Rally
In 1982, Wilson participated in two WRC events, driving a private Ford Escort RS 1800 at Rally Portugal (DNF) and Audi Quattro for Audi Sport UK at Lombard RAC Rally. He finished 10th in that race, earning his first championship point.
In 1983, Wilson competed in British events only, finishing a season with a participation at Lombard RAC Rally, where he was driving Ford Escort RS 1600i for the British Junior Rally Team. He finished 13th overall and first in A6 class.
Two seasons with Audi Quattro
In 1984, Wilson switched to Group B Audi Quattro A1, competing with that car at British and Irish rallies. At the end of the season, he participated in Lombard RAC Rally with Top Gear sponsored Audi Quattro A1, not finishing the event due to broken engine.
One more season with Audi followed in 1985. This time, Malcolm was driving for Audi Sport UK. He retired at Swedish Rally and won three national events.
Factory driver of Group B MG Metro 6R4
In September 1985, Wilson had a one-off experience with Ford RS200 Group B car, winning at Marlboro Lindisfarne Rally. In November 1985, he joined Austin Rallying team to drive brand new MG Metro 6R4 Group B car, with Tony Pond as a teammate. It was a test event for the next year, in which Austin Rover World Rally Team competed.
During the last year of monstrous Group B cars, Wilson participated in six WRC events with MG Metro 6R4. After four retirements, he finally reached the finish at 1000 Lakes Rally, taking one point with 10th place. At Lombard RAC Rally, he finished in 17th place.
Two seasons with Vauxhall
In 1987, Wilson continued to use MG Metro in some races of the UK National Championship, switching to Peugeot 205 GTI after that. At the end of the season, he participated in Lombard RAC Rally with GM Dealer's Opel Kadett GSI, not finishing the race.
Kadett was Wilson's car at one more WRC event, the 1988 Swedish Rally, where he finished in 8th place. For the rest of the 1988 season, he switched to Vauxhall Astra GTE, finishing third in the British Championship and retiring in two WRC events (Acropolis and RAC Rally).
Maiden WRC podium for Malcolm at New Zealand
Wilson continued to drive Vauxhall Astra GTE in 1989, both in the British and international rally events. After finishing 13th at Swedish Rally, his greatest success followed in July at New Zealand. Wilson and his navigator Ian Grindrod sensationally finished in third place, scoring maiden WRC podium for the 33-year-old driver.
Wilson achieved two good results that season, finishing 6th at Rally Australia and 10th at RAC Rally. With 19 points, he was 18th in the WRC classification at the end of the season. That remained his career-best WRC result.
Joining Ford factory team in 1990
The milestone change followed in 1990, when Malcolm Wilson joined Ford's world rally team, to drive alongside navigator Nicky Grist. He scored three consecutive podiums with Ford Sierra Sapphire Cosworth in British events, taking fourth place in the BRC standings at the end of the year.
In the World Rally Championship, Wilson's car was the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth 4x4. He participated in three events (Finland, Sanremo, RAC Rally), but didn't finish any of them.
WRC podium with Ford at 1993 RAC Rally
In 1991, Malcolm's schedule expanded to six WRC events. He reached the finish line three times, with the fifth place at Tour de Corse as the best result. In 1992, Wilson's only WRC event was RAC Rally, where he finished 9th with Ford Sierra RS Cosworth 4x4.
In 1993, Wilson was driving new Ford Escort RS Cosworth both in the British Rally Championship and World Rally Championship. He scored one BRC victory. In the WRC, after disappointing retirements in Sweden and Finland, the second WRC podium in a career followed at RAC Rally. Wilson and his navigator Bryan Thomas finished in third place, behind Toyota's Juha Kankkunen and Mitsubishi's Kenneth Eriksson.
British Rally Champion in 1994
Subaru Legacy RS was the championship-winning car in the British Rally Championship for three years in a row but Wilson finally managed to beat Subaru drivers and brought British Rally Championship title to Ford. He won four BRC events with Ford Escort RS Cosworth.
In the WRC, he scored points at Acropolis Rally (6th) and Rallye Sanremo (9th). He crashed out in the last event, the Network Q RAC Rally.
Taking Ford's WRC operations in 1997
With BRC trophy in his hands, Malcolm Wilson decided to retire from professional rallying career. In 1995, he participated in only two rallies, at Perth Scottish International Rally (ERC) and RAC Rally (WRC).
After that, he focused on leading his own team and company. In 1997, the team was chosen by Ford as an operating company for their WRC program to run their freshly introduced Ford Escort WRC car.
Two wins in the first season as a team boss
In his first season as a team boss, Wilson led Ford to second place in the manufacturers' standings, sandwiched by championship-winning Subaru and third-placed Mitsubishi. Carlos Sainz was the team's leading driver in the #5 Escort WRC, winning two rallies and finishing third in the drivers' standings. The first victory for Ford under Wilson's guidance was at 1997 Acropolis Rally.
In 1998, the team didn't win any race, with Juha Kankkunen finishing in fourth place of WRC standings.
Ford Focus WRC era started in 1999
In 1999, the Ford Focus WRC was introduced and Colin McRae joined the team. McRae stayed with the team for four seasons, partnered by returnee Carlos Sainz from 2000 to 2002. In that period, Wilson's team took the second place in the manufacturers' standings for three years in a row and was beaten by Peugeot.
In 2003, Wilson promoted the next-generation of drivers, hiring Markko Martin and Francois Duval as the main drivers. They stayed with the team for two seasons and then they were replaced by Toni Gardemeister and Roman Kresta in 2005.
Two world championship titles in a row
For the 2006 WRC season, Wilson opted for the all-Finnish line-up, hiring Marcus Gronholm and Mikko Hirvonen to drive Ford Focus RS WRC 06. It was a good decision because Finnish duo captured manufacturers' WRC title for Ford after 27 years of waiting.
In 2007, Gronholm and Hirvonen, led by Malcolm Wilson, brought one more WRC title to Ford. For their work in the 2007 season, BP Ford and M-Sport received the Rally Business of the Year Award from the Motorsport Industry Association.
Championship runner-ups four times in a row
Marcus Gronholm retired at the end of 2007 season, so Malcolm Wilson hired another Finnish driver Jari-Matti Latvala, promoting him from the satellite Stobart team. Hirvonen and Latvala competed under Wilson's guidance for four seasons, not managing to beat Citroen and Sebastien Loeb.
In that period, Ford was the manufacturers' championship runner-up four times in a row, with Ford's drivers taking the second place in the drivers' standings (Hirvonen three times, Latvala one time). Everything stayed the same even when new Ford Fiesta RS WRC came in 2011 and Petter Solberg replaced Hirvonen in 2012.
Ford withdrew in 2013, M-Sport continued to build` and run Ford cars
The sixteen-year long link between Ford and M-Sport ended after the season of 2012 when it was announced that Ford is withdrawing from the World Rally Championship. Malcolm Wilson's team stayed in the championship as an independent car builder.
Sponsored by the State of Qatar, Wilson's team entered the 2013 WRC season as Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, fielding two cars for Mads Ostberg and Evgeny Novikov. Thierry Neuville was running the third car for the satellite Qatar World Rally Team, finishing second in the championship points.
Wilson seized world champion for the 2017 season
In the next couple of seasons, M-Sport was changing drivers regularly, not managing to beat rivals from Volkswagen, Citroen or Hyundai in a fight for the WRC title. And then, at the end of 2016, after Volkswagen announced withdrawal from the WRC, Malcolm Wilson proved his managing and negotiation abilities, getting the four-time world champion Sebastien Ogier to drive all-new #1 Ford Fiesta RS WRC '17. The full-time driver in the #2 car is Estonian Ott Tanak.
They started a season with Ogier's win and Tanak's podium at Rallye Monte Carlo, so Wilson believes that he has a combination that could bring him another world title, to mark the 20th anniversary of his leadership.
Building rally cars and rallycross cars of all classes
M-Sport is not just a team that runs Ford World Rally Cars. Wilson created a company that provides a complete range of rally cars from lowest to the highest category. Currently, M-Sport is constructing six different versions of Fiesta rally cars – R1, R2, R5, S2000, RRC and WRC.
Above all is a rallycross version of Ford Fiesta, the mighty beast with almost 600 horse powers under the hood. For the 2016 World RX season, M-Sport, Ford Performance and Hoonigan Racing Division prepared new Ford Focus RS-RX Supercar.
Running Bentleys in GT races all over the world
In 2013, Wilson arranged one more job for his company, becoming Bentley's partner for worldwide GT program. The M-Sport was selected to design and develop the Bentley Continental GT3. The first car was completed in just six months and made its first public appearance at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The M-Sport Bentley team debuted in the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series, fielding two cars in all five races, including Spa 24 hours. With two wins, the team finished second in the final standings. The team had the same result in the 2015 BES season.
Malcolm's son Matthew is also a rally driver
Malcolm has been married to Elaine Wilson since 1982. Their son Matthew (born 1987) is also a rally driver, recording 90 WRC starts since 2004. Matthew's most notable result was the third place in the 2004 British Rally Championship.
For all his achievements, Malcolm Wilson was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2009.