Three days after M-Sport Ford World Rally Team junior driver Adrien Fourmaux won March’s Malcolm Wilson Rally, the sport came to a shuddering halt. On Tuesday March 17, Motorsport UK announced rallying would be suspended.
Saturday marks the lifting of lockdown for UK rallies.
And it starts where it ended five months ago. In Cumbria. On an event with a close association to Wilson and his M-Sport firm. The M-Sport Return to Rally Stages runs wholly within the Greystoke forest complex, the British team’s permanent test site.
The sense of symmetry’s not lost on Wilson.
“Ours was the last event to run in March and we’ll be the first to run out of lockdown,” Wilson told DirtFish.
“We had to do something. To be honest, as much as this is an important event for us all here at M-Sport, it’s also important for the wider community.
“We see with the MW Rally each year, it brings people to the area and they spend money in the hotels and restaurants. Tourism plays a big part in the Cumbrian economy and it’s been decimated by the pandemic – to be able to help a little bit in this direction is very important to us as well.”
As well as getting the sport back on its feet, Saturday will also represent a significant trip down memory lane for Wilson.
“It’s going to be emotional, there’s no doubt about that.
“Seeing so many of the cars which have been such a big part of our story for the last 20 years… there’s a lot of history there and seeing those cars competing again will bring back a lot of memories for me.
“But as well as the cars, it’s going to be great to see the people as well.”
Wilson on Wilson: Win or don’t come home
Wilson has also left his son Matthew in no doubt as to what’s expected when the younger of the two makes his competitive debut in a current-generation Ford Fiesta WRC at the event.
While Matthew has completed plenty of development mileage in the team’s Rally1 car, he’s never started a rally in one. In fact, he hasn’t started a rally in almost three years, his last competitive outing coming on Rally GB in 2017 with a Fiesta R5.
Wilson Sr’s not having any of that talk. With Matthew in the only current Rally1 car, the emphasis is on car #1 scoring a result matching its seeding.
“If he doesn’t win he might be better not coming home,” laughed Malcolm when asked to pick a winner for Saturday’s first rally in Britain for five months.
Fortunately for Matthew, he will have his father’s lines to follow through the stages, with the 1994 British Rally Champion driving a Ford Escort RS as course car directly ahead of him.
Behind the Fiesta WRC comes a pair of Rally2 cars for M-Sport Ford team drivers Fourmaux and Rhys Yates, before a whole host of WRC-honed finery from the last two decades.
Q&A: Getting UK rally running again
How did M-Sport get its new forest rally up and running? DirtFish spoke with Malcolm Wilson to find out