Rally fans have been left wondering what Father Christmas will bring M-Sport this year, or rather which drivers Malcolm Wilson OBE has secured to lead his team in the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship.

Entries for the season-opener at Rallye Monte-Carlo closed last Friday, but there is still no word from the Cockermouth-based team as to who will be driving the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs next year.

Monte-Carlo organisers have, however, confirmed that the Cumbrians will field a three-car team – sparking rumours as to who could be behind the wheel with no fewer than nine drivers to choose from!

Young Finn Teemu Suninen is expected to continue his development with the squad alongside experienced co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen.

Having made his world rally car debut in 2017, secured his maiden podium in 2018 and led his first rally in 2019, Suninen’s development has progressed at pace and many will be keen to see what he can do in 2020.

But who will be sitting alongside him?

Craig Breen is a potential and the Irishman has already won two world titles with M-Sport machinery – namely the FIA WRC Academy in 2011 and the Super 2000 World Rally Championship in 2012.

Breen also won this year’s Irish Tarmac Championship with M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta R5, but rumours suggest he may have an R5 programme lined up with Hyundai Motorsport.

Gus Greensmith was the go-to-guy when Elfyn Evans suffered a back injury earlier this year.

And having made his world rally car debut in Portugal, the young Brit also stood in for Evans in Finland, Turkey and Germany.

Greensmith also completed much of the development work on the team’s all-new Ford Fiesta R5 MkII and knows the team extremely well.

But there’s no one who knows the team quite as well as Jari-Matti Latvala and that could make the experienced Finn a strong candidate for a seat in 2020.

As one of the best-loved drivers in the service park, Latvala started his career with M-Sport and won seven rounds of the FIA Word Rally Championship as a factory driver with the Cumbrian squad.

Former team mate Mikko Hirvonen came back home for his final season with M-Sport – so could Latvala do the same? Possibly, but rumours also see him with five rallies as a privateer with Toyota.

Mads Østberg has been part of the team in the past, and secured his maiden win with M-Sport as a privateer in 2012.

But the Norwegian is likely to continue in R5 machinery next year – hotly tipped to drive a Citroen C3 R5 in the WRC 2 Championship.

Kris Meeke also started his career at M-Sport – albeit as a designer rather than a driver.

The Northern Irishman comes with incredible speed and the ability to challenge for rally wins – but he is prone to a mistake or two and thus not considered a front-runner for the seat.

But Andreas Mikkelsen could well be considered a frontrunner. The Norwegian is another driver who started his career with M-Sport – and was familiar with Cockermouth-built rally cars from the age of just 15!

As a regular podium finisher and proven rally winner, Mikkelsen also finished fourth in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship – despite having only contested 10 events.

Another rally winner considered a frontrunner is Esapekka Lappi who also has past success with the Cumbrian squad – securing the Finnish Rally Championship with the Ford Fiesta S2000 in 2012.

Having lost his drive when Citreon Racing announced their departure from the championship, Lappi is looking for a new home which he could well find at M-Sport.

But one driver who should not be overlooked is Hayden Paddon.

Another rally winner, Paddon came close to making his debut with the Fiesta WRC twice this year – but missed out on both occasions with an accident during his Rally Finland test and bushfires resulting in cancelation of Rally Australia.

The New Zealander is remarkably quick and consistent which makes him a genuine contender. But not being behind the wheel of a world rally car for the past 12 months could count against him.

We’ll have to wait until the New Year to discover who will be flying the Cumbrian flag, but Wilson has already hinted at his intentions.

“Plans for next year are progressing,” he said, “and I’m excited to see what we can deliver.

“We’re not quite ready to announce our plans just yet, but I can say that we’ll be sticking to our core philosophy of supporting up-and-coming young talent.”