The restructuring at M-Sport has seen the proprietor, Malcolm Wilson, decide to spend more time overseeing the developing commercial world of his company.
M-Sport’s hands-on WRC work is now with Richard Millener, who has been promoted to the position of Team Principal.
He was at the WRC presentation where he had the opportunity to bring us up to date on the rallying operation of M-Sport.
“Malcolm has been very good and allowed me to accept this position, but I think he understands that M-Sport is now more than just a rally team.
"Unfortunately you can't be involved in the rally team and everything else full time, but for sure he's not going to disappear from rallies. For me, I am still doing the same old work I've been doing the last few years.”
Aware that the Ogier regime, coupled with the new direction which Ford are adopting in their mass production car work, has led to widespread uncertainty where M-Sport’s rallying is heading, we asked if Malcolm Wilson has given any guidance of the life term of his WRC team?
“No, he and we don't know where each year will go, but our goal is to be here every year. Malcolm employs over 200 people, none of us want to lose our job.
"We understand that motorsport is a difficult movable platform because one year you can have budget and the next year it's gone. Look how quickly things turned around at Volkswagen, and we don't want to be in that position.
"It is really difficult to be active every year. We won two world championships, but our prize money was zero, we didn't win a thing.”
New M-Sport Team Principal Rich Millener. Photo: Martin Holmes
Teemu Suninen and Elfyn Evans are stable M-Sport WRC fixtures this year, but what is the policy about number three?
“Unfortunately we have no budget to run a third car for the season. We have done a deal with Pontus Tidemand for two rallies, Monte and Sweden. Gus Greensmith will drive a car in Portugal as part of his programme.
"On top of that, however, there are no other plans at the moment. If a customer comes along it makes sense to register them as the third driver.”
Like Citroen, M-Sport is expecting to concentrate only on a two car WRC team.
“Going back to two cars allows us to reduce some of the test days and streamline some costs in that respect.
"At the same time we're very aware that we don't want to reduce the competitiveness of the team. We have to make the most out of what we can do – but sometimes I don't know how much the testing makes a difference.
"When you see stories from Citroen a couple of years ago when the drivers were only getting half a day each, and then they were going on to lead the rally, I sometimes suspect teams go testing for the sake of it!”
This year WRC2 Pro presents a lot of opportunities.
“You have to keep developing new talent. WRC2 was a brilliant platform for that, but if you were an occasional privateer you knew that you were never going to get a result as you were up against guys doing every rally.
"So separating WRC2 out into a Pro category, which has an involvement with a manufacturer, allows a group of young drivers to go on and potentially develop into works drivers and it opens up WRC2 again for pure privateers.
"They now have a chance of getting a podium or a victory, which would encourage their sponsors. That's the key, to keep people coming into the championship and keep them there as well.”
Is M-Sport funding the WRC2 Pro drivers?
“We're not funding anybody this year apart from Elfyn and Teemu, they're the only two people we are supporting.
"We've worked with Gus for quite a while now, coming up through Juniors, but we are doing all we can to help him on as many events as possible. He's shown that he's got the ability to get good results, and once somebody has been committed into the WRC like him for that long, we try to help where we can.”
What do you know about the second M-Sport WRC2 driver Lukasz Pienazek?
“We saw him last year in WRC2 and he had some good performances. Getting more experience in the WRC is still going to be the biggest thing that he needs to work on.
"I think it's his first real time in a big team. We've met him a few times, not much more than that. He is a nice guy and seems to fit in well and knows what he wants to achieve.
"Our idea is to help him with everything we can and get some good results.”
What is the future for the Fiesta R5?
“The next step is the new car which is currently being tested. We've done about 10 or 12 days testing at the moment, and have the same amount again still to do.
"The idea is that it will be released with July homologation, so hopefully from Finland onwards we'll be seeing some new cars appear.
"That is the next big step for us, because that's where we were making the budget which allowed us to go rallying in WRC. It is all linked together, so it's really important that the R5 is successful as well.”
And the Fiesta R2?
“The new R2 was launched at the end of 2018 with another tweak on the performance. Apart from the new bodywork there is a lot on the mechanical side of things which have been improved and changed as well.
"The Junior championship has been very successful and its looking like a really healthy number of entries, which is great.
"At the moment our goals are focused on WRC and WRC2 activities and the R5 and R2 cars. Apart from that we don't have much else going on in rallying, but that's keeping a lot of people busy.
"We need to concentrate on what we know we're good at and what we can achieve so we don't want to go too far away from these cars.
"So I think the WRC is in a good position, keeping us all incredibly busy and the goal is still to be there for years to come.”
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