M-Sport team principal Rich Millener has his fingers crossed that his team’s former driver Elfyn Evans can claim his maiden World Rally Championship title next month.
Evans left M-Sport for Toyota after five full seasons of driving the team’s Ford Fiesta WRC and made an instant impact, claiming a podium on his debut in Monte Carlo and then winning next time out in Sweden.
Another victory later in the season in Turkey when all three of his title rivals ran into varying levels of strife gave Evans a points boost that he defended well on last month’s Rally Italy.
He heads to the Monza season finale in December with a 14-point buffer over his team-mate Sébastien Ogier, who drove alongside him at M-Sport in 2017 and 2018.
Millener isn’t surprised to see Evans performing so well in a Yaris WRC, and believes he was ready to fight for the title regardless of the machinery.
“I think we all knew, and I’ve said a couple of times before, that coming from the end of 2019 where he’d either have been with M-Sport in 2020 or somebody else, everybody thought that was his opportunity to go forward and show what he’s capable of and I think he did that at the start of the season,” Millener told DirtFish.
“He’s now found himself in the position where he’s leading the championship with one rally to go and has to have a very sensible rally to pretty much take the title.
“And I think he is capable of doing that and on a rally like Monza where a lot of it’s on a circuit, it’s a safer kind of level than necessarily on stages all the time, that’s a really good chance for him to nail it.
“But rallying’s difficult and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and defending World Rally Champion Ott Tänak are also in title contention, and both have driven for M-Sport in the past. However of the four protagonists, only Ogier managed to claim the drivers’ title with the British team.
Evans has a long association with M-Sport and even worked for the team alongside Millener throughout 2013 after winning the WRC Academy series (now Junior WRC). Although it’s not in one of its cars, Millener says everyone at M-Sport is hoping Evans can get the job done.
“I think we’d all be really happy for him to win the championship,” he said.
“First ever championship and first time with a different manufacturer outside of M-Sport so it would be great to see him win it and I think we all know he’s got the potential and the talent to do it.
“I’m sure he would have loved to win it in a different way with all the rallies in the calendar but that’s just the way it is this year and at the end of the day a championship’s a championship.
“There’s nothing more we can do for him but I’ll have my fingers crossed, I hope he can do it because it will be really nice to see it happen.”