Richard Millener’s patience was being tested. Sorely tested. Safari week was nearly done, but he was still being goaded by the media. He smiled, delivered a perfectly executed tone of voice and retreated.
Walking back into M-Sport’s command center in the Naivasha service park, he leaned his head against the wall and started to laugh.
“They just don’t get it,” he said. “They, just, don’t, get it.
“Your man there was pushing me on our reliability record here in Kenya, asking me how I felt about sixth and seventh place. Honestly, I think our reliability has been pretty strong on this rally.
“Just remind me, is it us that’s lost, I don’t know how many rear wings and body parts? Is it us that’s gone through four propshafts on one car? Is it us that’s had overheating issues? I don’t think so. We’ve had a couple of punctures on both cars and the boys have stopped and changed them.”
He is, of course, right. Both Ford Puma Rally1s ran without any significant technical issues through Safari Rally Kenya, but deflations did for both of them, leaving Ott Tänak sixth and Pierre-Louis Loubet seventh.
Millener added: “After we saw the fire problems when a car didn’t stop with a puncture last year, our strategy was decided from the very start: if you get one, you stop and change it. No questions.”
He paused, he drew breath, he continued.
“People need to remember we’re running two cars here,” he said. “And we all know where we are with those two cars: Ott can win anywhere. Pierre-Louis is pushing very hard for his first podium, but he’s not at the point where he’s chasing a win down on every event. So, a problem for Tänak’s car effectively rules us out of the win.
“We know that better than anybody, it’s the reality of where we are. The alternative is straightforward: we could just walk away from the championship altogether.
“I get so sick and tired of people continually going at us and attacking M-Sport. Look, we’re big boys and big girls in this team, we know where we are and we know what we’re capable of. But let me tell you, there’s not a harder working team in this championship.
“I’m proud to pull my M-Sport shirt on every morning and to come into this service park and fight for every point we can land. But it doesn’t half p*** me off when people come with half-baked questions about our reliability and performance.”
“I’m ranting now, aren’t I?”
“No, I will. But, honestly, if we’re that bad then tell me, how on earth is Ott Tänak one point off second place in the championship?”
“Yeah, that’ll do. See you in Estonia.”