M-Sport Ford World Rally Team principal Richard Millener has backed his squad to take up the challenge of January’s Monte Carlo Rally – an event which has the potential to be one of the biggest tests in the history of rallying.
The Monaco-based event will run two full days of competitive action without a lunchtime service – a move that prompted an angry response from Millener’s opposite number at Hyundai, Andrea Adamo, and his boss, M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson.
When the route was revealed, Wilson told DirtFish what he expected from January’s season opener.
“It could be one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced in many years,” Wilson said.
“To leave Monte on Friday morning and then have no lunchtime service – it’s difficult enough in the current car, but with all of the teams launching a brand-new car and that coupled with the real challenges Monte can throw at you…
“Getting the right mapping, the right tires, it will be so difficult. If it’s nice and dry it can be simple, but we all know what Monte can be like.”
Since then, the Automobile Club de Monaco has revealed it will include a shakedown test on Thursday January 20 and it has shortened Friday’s route by 12 miles from 73 to 61.
Millener accepts the itinerary is far from ideal for the first event in cars that have undergone the biggest technical change in the history of rallying. But he said he wouldn’t be wasting time worrying about the potential for technical problems and possible early baths.
“We need to get on with it,” he said. “They [the ACM] have made some changes and that’s that.
“It’s very difficult to expect an organizer to make the sort of wholesale changes you’d need [to include a lunchtime service] once the route is out. It is what it is.
“For me, this adds to the challenge. Yes, the challenge is already a big one, but this is something we just have to be prepared to do and I know our team will rise to this challenge. The organizers are doing what they can, they’re looking to allow more team personnel to come into the tire fitting zones to look over data and things like that. They’re giving us the extra resource where they can.”
Millener added that he was pleased to see shakedown back on the agenda in the French Alps.
“I know the road they’re planning to use,” he said, “and it’s fair to say that if we have a complicated Monte with very mixed wintry conditions, that road won’t be hugely representative of the route.
“But the good thing is that we’ve got shakedown, and we’ve got the opportunity to drive the cars quickly down a stretch of road to give them a systems check.”