Not even some mid-summer drizzle could damped the enthusiasm around Dovenby Hall last week. Looking out at grey skies, Malcolm Wilson’s telephone rang again. And his smile broadened further.
The calls were coming from test team engineers, drivers and team principal Richard Millener. Things were looking good inland from the southern shores of the Gulf of Finland. Not far from Tartu, the Pumas were stretching their legs.
“The test has been fantastic,” Wilson told DirtFish. “It’s been the best…”
Another phone call interrupts Wilson just at the point where I feel he’s about to praise round seven preparations as the best yet for the Ford Puma Rally1.
Call done, I encourage him back down the same track.
“It has been,” he said. “The guys have all done 200 or so kilometers and that’s always a sign that things are going well. The feedback from everybody has been amazing. Everything is looking very positive towards the event.”
Everything including Craig Breen.
As much as we might have talked of the next three rallies being the Hyundai season in a season, it’s Breen time. Breen was brilliant in Estonia, Finland and Belgium last year, with a results sheet reading second-third-second. Wilson’s after more of the same from here through August.
“That’s definitely what we’re hoping for,” he said. “We know Craig is really strong on the fast gravel and he’s won Ypres before – we’re expecting some really strong rallies coming up now.”
The Puma is the only one of the three Rally1 cars going to Estonia without engine upgrades, but Wilson’s confident in what technical director Chris Williams and his team have been up to since Safari.
“We’ve got some bits and pieces we found from the test,” added Wilson with a smile. “We’ve done some work with the suspension and, like I said, some other bits and pieces. I feel quite happy going to this rally.”
And so does Breen.
“I’m really looking forward to Estonia,” he said, “it’s a rally that has served us well in the past and the last two years as part of the world championship we managed to bring home two podiums there as well.
“Honestly, I can’t wait for it. It’s a run of three rallies now that I’m very familiar and comfortable with. They are the complete opposite of the last couple of rallies of the season so far.
“I don’t feel alien heading to Estonia, I know what it’s all about.
“We had a really good test last week, the car felt great and I was really comfortable from the beginning, so I’m looking forward to it. The stages look great, obviously with high speeds, big jumps and big crests.”