M-Sport Ford World Rally team principal Richard Millener says he’s confident and relaxed as the Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid heads into its final development test in Finland this week.
The Puma – albeit in a prototype form – was the first Rally1 car out of the blocks and completed its roll out on Friday March 5. Since then, M-Sport has piled thousands of testing miles across Europe into the car.
This week, it comes closer to sign-off with cold climate running in Rovaniemi.
“Running in and around the Arctic Circle will give us a really good insight into working with the car in more extreme conditions,” Millener told DirtFish.
“We know the parameters of, for example, the hybrid kit, but it’s a good opportunity to get the car out in the field and see how everything works in some really cold weather.
“We’re getting very close to sign-off with the car now and this sort of cold-climate running is always about the last thing in the test plan.
“It’s all getting very real and very exciting now. There’s plenty more to do, as you can expect, but we’ve got through an awful lot of work with this car.
“All of the feedback we’ve had from all of the drivers has been really positive and constructive in terms of reliability and performance. We’ve made a huge amount of progress in a very short space of time.
“It’s for that reason that I think we can go to Finland in a positive frame of mind and confident and relaxed with what we’ve done.”
DirtFish understands Craig Breen and Adrien Fourmaux will shoulder much of this week’s testing between them.
Conditions in northern Finland will include snow and temperatures around minus five degrees.
“Toyota has a small advantage over us,” said Millener, “having a permanent test site which offers these sort of conditions [at its base in Jyväskylä, Finland]. Hopefully we’ll be able to replicate some of the weather we’ve got coming this week.”
However on Monday, Toyota technical director Tom Fowler said the team hadn’t been able to find the “ideal condition” to test its Yaris Rally1 on snow and ice, so will only be concentrating on asphalt running between now and the Monte Carlo Rally in five weeks’ time.