How Wilson hit an unbeaten WRC 300

It’s been more than two decades in the making, but M-Sport’s unbeaten 300 is the talk of Poland this week

Wilson 300

To some people, the most interesting thing about the number 300 is the baked bean story. Somebody once ate 271 baked beans with a single cocktail stick in 300 seconds. We don’t care about baked beans. Or cocktail sticks.

To rallying, right now, 300 has just one meaning: it’s the number of consecutive point-scoring finishes the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team has managed in the World Rally Championship.

Stop, wait a minute.

Three hundred consecutive? That’s right. At the current rate of 13 rallies per season, that’s a record that must go back a while? That’s right.

Monte Carlo, 2002.

Rally Montecarlo 17-20 01 2002

Three hundred world rallies ago, this is where the story started – with a Carlos Sainz podium on the 2002 Monte

Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae finished third and fourth in the French Alps, 300 WRC rounds ago. Neither was particularly delighted with the result. The Spaniard had suffered a powersteering issue on his Ford Focus RS WRC02, while the Scot’s sister car had been blighted by a misfire. It was, however, a considerable improvement on where the team had sat 301 rallies ago.

Wales closed out the 2001 season, with McRae looking odds on for a second world title – and a first drivers’ crown for Malcolm Wilson’s team. He crashed out of Rally GB and when Sainz went off the road and collided with officials in Brechfa, the team withdrew his entry and the third car of Mark Higgins.

The top of the 2002 season was, by comparison, a podium-scoring bright start.

But who knew what the team had started? In fairness, the record-breaking run could easily have been over in the next four rallies, when McRae or Sainz scraped a point with sixth place (points were only available down to sixth position until 2010, when they were paid all the way down to 10th). Back-to-back wins in Argentina, Greece and Kenya were the mid-season highlight, but by the end of 2002, M-Sport Ford was the only one of six manufacturers to have scored on every round.

Now they really had started something. Something that simply hasn’t stopped since.

A glorious 2008 Turkish one-two for Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala was a fine way to celebrate 100 consecutive points-scoring finishes.

The double century was achieved in México, eight years later with Grégoire Munster making it 300 with his best ever WRC finish in fifth place last time out in Sardinia.

From Monte 2002 to Italy 2024, the big 300 came up in 22 years and five months, with 29 drivers and 38 co-drivers scoring on events across six continents, 29 countries and 52,424 competitive miles.

The above came together for one enormous achievement – one which is unlikely ever to be seen in motorsport again.

Propecia Rally New Zealand, 16-19 11 2006

Marcus Grönholm was the man who helped delivered global success to M-Sport with the 2006 manufacturers’ title 

Hats off the Wilson and his team as the British squad starts Rally Poland looking to turn 300 into 301.

There were moments where the record teetered, but it never tumbled. Consistency like that is to revered as much as it’s to be respected.

But there’s much more to this number than meets the eye. The point-scoring finishes were only possible because M-Sport Ford World Rally Team was actually present in the championship. And the team was present in the championship because of Malcolm Wilson. Through thick and thin, thicker and thinner, the Cumbrian refused to capitulate – even in the face of commercial realities that dictated a full program might not be the best plan. MW always found a way.

And what a way he found. The obvious highlights are the 2006 manufacturers’ championship, secured with another one-two as Marcus Grönholm headed Hirvonen home in New Zealand. That title was retained in 2007 – but it was a decade on that Wilson’s class truly shone.

Safari Rally Kenia

Few would ever forget Colin McRae’s time in a Ford Focus, his 2002 Safari win was a particular highlight

In the wake of Volkswagen’s departure from the WRC, the world very much expected Sébastien Ogier to fall straight into the arms of Tommi Mäkinen’s super-supported Toyota factory team. Wilson’s efforts to match the might of the world’s biggest car maker looked fanciful. M-Sport’s Chris Williams engineered a thing of beauty in 2017, the Ford Fiesta WRC was a car fit for a champion, but there remained the economic square peg and round hole.

Could this thing really happen?

It certainly could. And 11 months later reward was reaped on that investment as Ogier headlined the best day of Wilson’s career: Sunday October 29, when 15 minutes delivered a home win and maiden WRC success for then M-Sport driver Elfyn Evans, Ott Tänak helping to secure the manufacturers’ and then the Frenchman driving a Ford to the top of the world for the first time since MW took over the Blue Oval’s program in 1997.

300 M-Sport 2

The factory Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrids will remind the world of the true meaning of the number 300 in Poland this week

This 300 story peaks and troughs with every half and century milestone, in the same way a monster innings would in test cricket. But it’s worth putting into the wider context of M-Sport’s longevity in the championship. Yes, Ford’s there and remains very much a committed partner, but it’s the good people of Dovenby Hall who have unstintingly provided a backbone to the World Rally Championship for more than a quarter of a century.

And, while the company has evolved in recent years, it’s still Wilson’s name above the door and him who steers the ship.

Chapeau, Malcolm.


The most unforgettable day of Malcolm Wilson’s career – when his team won his home WRC round and two world titles in Llandudno