Is M-Sport’s Puma Rally1 design the best ever?

David Evans explains the power of rally car liveries after all three 2022 Rally1 challengers have been unveiled

Puma Rally1 Cockermouth, England 10th – 11th January 2022Photo: Drew Gibson

Denim aftershave. It’s not a thing anymore. At least I didn’t think it was until I tripped into cyberspace and found 100ml on offer for a fiver. It’s ordered.

Why am I telling you this? It’s very straightforward. It’s because of the 1992 Acropolis Rally. See? Told you it would all make sense.

For those readers a good bit younger than me, you should know Denim was splashed down the side of Prodrive’s factory Subaru Legacy RSs for the Greek round of the World Rally Championship a rather worrying 30 years ago.

It’s for that reason that I went to school smelling marginally better than the damp rugby boots sweating away in a carrier bag next to the radiator in my form room.

920531GR Vatanen 2 rk

Again, why am I telling you this?

I’m getting there… it’s the power of the livery.

For me, there were three big ones. Number one had to be the original white, green and pink Legacy color scheme (with or without Denim). Second? Same car, Rothmans colours. Third? Same car, Elonex livery for Richard Burns and Alister McRae in the 1993 British Rally Championship.

Don’t worry, Martini and Alitalia run the top three very close – I’m not a complete philistine.

Watching the liveries coming in from Hyundai Motorsport and Toyota Gazoo Racing for the WRC season ahead, I couldn’t help but feel deeply disappointed.

Corporate one – imagination none.

Somebody actually took to social media to compare the Hyundai livery through the last eight years. At least its putting different colored wheels on it now…

Toyota’s slightly more hamstrung by a color scheme that runs across its motorsport program, but still it’s not exactly inspired.

Mid-week I caught up with M-Sport’s team principal Richard Millener. Business done, we were chewing that fat about Saturday’s WRC launch and what was coming. Equally excited at the prospect of WRC 2022 lift-off from Hangar-7, I asked about the livery.

Puma Rally1 Cockermouth, England 10th - 11th January 2022Photo: Drew Gibson

“It’s interesting,” he said. “Looking back, I think I’d definitely had a couple of gin and tonics…”

Let’s cut to the chase here, Millener’s work of art has leap-frogged Elonex and Rothmans and might even topple the Denim look.

The bluey-purpley Puma really is that good. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Like all liveries, it might not be for everybody.

There were some sceptics, even in M-Sport, but thankfully Millener and his go-to graphic designer Phil Dixon stuck to their bluey-purpley guns and got it done.

I loved Sébastien Ogier’s 2017 Red Bull-backed M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC, but this is on another level.

Puma Rally1 Cockermouth, England 10th - 11th January 2022Photo: Drew Gibson

One of my favorite ever rally cars was the first ever Subaru Impreza World Rally Car. The brief for designer Peter Stevens back in 1997 was a car that looked like it was doing 100mph while standing still.

He managed that then, and Chris Williams and Millener and Dixon have most certainly managed that today.