Despite Craig Breen crashing out of last weekend’s Rally Finland to the disappointment of the M-Sport squad, team principal Richard Millener stands by his instruction for Breen to “throw caution to the wind”.
Breen had been running in fifth overall after the first stage on Saturday before running off-line over a crest, clouting a rock and tearing the rear-right wheel off his Puma.
Immediately after the incident, Millener labeled it a mistake the team “shouldn’t really be seeing”, where it appeared Breen was simply too fast for the fast corner.
But speaking to DirtFish later, Millener made it clear that the decision to let Breen off the leash was the right one.
“I wouldn’t want us to stand here and say, ‘Oh yeah, well let’s go round and get fifth and sixth’. We’ve got to show the speed of the car,” Millener said.
And Millener believes Breen was doing that before he crashed.
“Look at the times on Saturday morning,” he argued.
“OK, you could still argue Kalle and Elfyn were six, seven seconds up the road, but we know they are on a pace and a level we would struggle to get to right at this minute, and I don’t think we are expecting Craig to be right in amongst that battle.
“But we want to see the speed he was doing in the morning, but consistently over the course of the day.”
M-Sport’s bid for either the drivers’ or manufacturers’ championship looks ambitious at best, as Breen trails Kalle Rovanperä by 134 points and M-Sport is 165 points adrift of Toyota.
Individual rally results are therefore M-Sport’s best hope of success for the remainder of 2022, and Millener fully believes Breen is capable of it. But he now wants to see Breen convert his strong potential into a strong result.
“We can only give the tools and the team and everything needed to do the job,” Millener said.
“There is an element of everyone has to take responsibility for their role in the team and the crews have the most important part of the whole thing.
“We’re working very hard as a team to get the results we want and the results… there’s no doubt Craig’s got the speed in him, we’ve seen that, but he’s got to get it delivering the results. That’s why he’s in the team.
“So it’s hard for the guys. The team works very hard to get these cars here and we need the results for the good of them and the good of the team going forward.
“But it’s done now. He’s probably got an even harder job now to reset and get himself ready for Ypres where we know he can be very strong.”
Breen was “obviously gutted with what happened” in Finland and apologized to his team for the mistake.
“We were trying our best, trying to obviously keep the speed up. I enjoyed the first stage of the morning, the pace was quite good, I just tried to continue in the same rhythm in that second one but unfortunately in a narrow place I just got off line, the car jumped a bit and of course there was a big bank on the outside which we hit and took off the wheel,” he said.
“Just very sorry for everyone in the team who are working very hard to give us the tools to go and do our thing, so it’s bitterly disappointing but we have to just regroup and focus.
“We can’t give up that easy.”