M-Sport team principal Richard Millener expects the performances of his World Rally Championship drivers to improve on Rally Italy, following a run of tough results since the series resumed in early September.
Teemu Suninen scored the team’s sole 2020 podium finish on Rally México in March and only one top-five finish has followed since the season resumed in Estonia, with Gus Greensmith picking up fifth in Turkey.
While the drivers have argued that a lack of testing compared to their rivals Toyota and Hyundai has set them back, Millener insisted any result in Italy would be down to the drivers’ performance rather than the car.
“Yeah,” replied Millener when asked by DirtFish if he was disappointed with his drivers’ performances so far this year.
“The disappointing thing I suppose is at the end of Mexico, we thought we were all doing pretty well, challenging for the podium positions and pretty much where we wanted to be on the pace.
“But we seem to have struggled to get back to that level after the break.
“OK, we didn’t do as much testing or any testing compared to the other teams but there’s flashes of stages where we’ve seen the car be as competitive as the others.
“That’s where we’d like to see a bit more. It can only be down to the guys.
“We’re giving them everything we can, they’re got to push as hard as they can and try and get some results.
“Between Estonia and Turkey was difficult because they knew we were using the same cars and if there was an issue then it would affect the next rally.
“But here, and again from Turkey to here because it was such a short turnaround, only a few days in the workshop, but here we have a little more time afterwards, so there’s no rush for getting cars ready and people in the right places.
“This is a perfect opportunity to show what they can do and prove to us that they’re the right decision, the right choice, as the people to be in the cars.”
Esapekka Lappi conceded that his form had dipped since the championship returned from hiatus, though hinted the lack of testing was part of the reason for his drop-off in performance.
“The performance from my side has been… let’s say, quite OK; [but] not really, especially on the last rallies, the best form,” said Lappi when asked to assess his season to date by DirtFish.
“Back at the beginning of the season was quite decent and quite good from my side.
“For sure Mexico [where his car caught fire at the end of a stage] I couldn’t really do much and couldn’t influence that.
“But let’s say one of the toughest things is the lack of testing, to be honest.
“As we managed to do three days; for Monte one, for Sweden one, and then for Mexico one, and then we have been in the car for testing.
“So, it’s been a bit tough, especially for me going into Turkey, I didn’t know which kind of set-up I should have.
“I didn’t have the experience from past years with this car, so that’s made it a bit of a challenge.
“At least now, for this rally, it’s a bit better, as I can start away straight from where we finished in Turkey.”