M-Sport team principal Richard Millener has drawn parallels between Sébastien Loeb’s Monte Carlo Rally win to the team’s ‘super Sunday’ on Rally GB in 2017, where it clinched both world championships and the rally win on the same stage.
Ott Tänak crossed the Brenig powerstage finish-line in sixth place to net the manufacturers’ championship, followed a few minutes later by Sébastien Ogier in third to mathematically wrap up the drivers’ title. Finally, Elfyn Evans came through as the last car on the road to clinch his first ever WRC win.
With Loeb clinching a debut win for the Puma Rally1, Craig Breen scoring a podium on his first M-Sport start and Gus Greensmith breaking new ground with a first career stage win on Friday, Millener drew similarities between the two Sundays – albeit with a very different set of circumstances at play.
“It’s almost a bit like GB 2017 with everything happening in one afternoon, but on a completely different scale,” Millener told DirtFish.
“It’s horrible to be out of the game for two years and do the best you can and just not get results, stage wins or anything.
“Coming here, quietly the ambition for the whole team was to get a win, albeit realistically the ambition for the team was to show the pace and get some stage wins. But we’ve ended up with the win.
“And to beat the might of the other two teams, it’s something to be really proud of. It’s really nice.”
Millener admitted he had barely slept in the lead up to and during the rally, such were the stress levels from getting his team ready for the first round of the new Rally1 era.
“You know what my feeling is towards rallying, my passion towards the sport compared to anything else.
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“There’s been so much going on. Not being able to announce things, still working to pull everything together, everything’s last second. Just the pressure for the last three months has been really big for everybody.
“Soon I’ll relax. I’ll probably sleep for a week. You just don’t sleep through the timetable but also because of everything that’s gone on.”
M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson couldn’t quite rank Loeb’s Monte win as on a par with Rally GB 2017 given the title success – nor was he sure this weekend was M-Sport’s best car debut.
“The trouble was Monte in 2017 was special as well!” Wilson quipped to DirtFish.
“In terms of debuts, this was a very special one. It’s such a change of concept from the previous World Rally Cars: the technology, the tubular steel frame chassis rather than using a production body shell.”
More importantly for Wilson, it was a happy ending after two very difficult years financially for his company during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s a lot of new things, so it’s very special. Especially after what we’ve gone through as a company, making 100 people redundant, and the people that have been left [over] to put the commitment they have into developing this car. It’s just incredible.”