Don’t write us off insists M-Sport boss Rich Millener
M-Sport has proved to its WRC opposition that it is still a team to be feared, says team boss Rich Millener.
After a brief period when the team's continuing presence in the 2019 WRC was left in doubt, the outfit’s driver Teemu Suninen battled with Toyota's Ott Tänak for the Rally Sweden lead earlier this month. Suninen later crashed but Millener said his performance was a "perfect" boost after both Suninen and team-mate Elfyn Evans had gone off the road on year’s first event, the Monte.
"After a bad Monte Carlo, I think some people were saying 'I hope this isn't the future’,” added Millener. “But we've bounced back straight away and shown people immediately what we're capable of. This has motivated and pushed the team on even more - and it's shown everybody that we're not to be discounted. We're here to get in the fight and push for the wins and that's what we're going to do."
M-Sport ran Sébastien Ogier to the 2017 and '18 WRC titles, and won the teams' and manufacturers' crowns in 2017. Before that success it had been winless since 2012.
“Before Seb came, we were perhaps seen as the team that was not fighting for the victories,” he continued. “We got the odd podium here and there, but they came through misfortune. Then we upped the game and won three championships.
"What we did in Sweden showed we are still a threat. We want people to look at the line-up before rallies and say, 'Yes, Elfyn and Teemu are a threat'. We don't want to be the team that might have a chance of the win if everybody else has a problem. The speed's been great. We set Teemu the target of leading rallies, winning stages and he's done that already."
Before the season, M-Sport uber-boss Malcolm Wilson said there would be no let-up in the effort or investment in performance from the team. And Suninen said the Fiesta's Swedish speed was testament to that.
“From last year, the car is fully different,” said Suninen. “The team worked so hard. We have much more grip generally on the car and this is coming from the extra downforce we got from the aero work. This is where the Ford help is really showing. It's great that we keep pushing forward with the car and I really think we can fight this year."