The test opportunity WRC is failing to exploit

M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener wonders whether the WRC is deriving the maximum benefit from testing

Test WRC Rally Monte Carlo 2019

Testing in the World Rally Championship? Waste of time. That’s the verdict from M-Sport team principal Richard Millener.

OK, before every technical director this side of Jyväskylä reaches for the telephone and starts shouting down it, he’s not saying it’s complete waste of time. He can see the benefit. What he wants is the world to see the benefit too. Literally.

Between the three teams, these sensational Rally1 cars will run relatively unnoticed for more than two months this year. Each manufacturer is permitted 21 days’ running in Europe (long-haul testing remains a no-no); combine those and you’ve got 63 days when folk could be watching the best of the best rally drivers in the world’s fastest cars.

As a sport, what do we do? What do we do, Richard?

“We hide away,” he told DirtFish. “You see the odd video from some fans, but that’s it. We’re not utilizing it for what it is. Nobody goes to get anything from it.


Very few are on-hand to witness testing in its current form

“The teams have started to do footage and take video from it and do their own passenger rides, but we don’t actively promote it as a championship, which is a bit crazy. It costs us an arm and a leg to go testing, like £50,000 a day, and we get nothing back from it that can be commercialized apart from a bit of filming.”

Millener is an advocate for combined testing. Such a plan was mooted when the Acropolis Rally of Greece organizers prepared a plan for pre-event Turkey testing. The idea was to bring roads together with a central service base for the teams – and, crucially, plenty of promotion off the back of having the teams, cars and crews together outside of WRC events.

“It’s another big area we need to look at,” said Millener. “We’re trying to work on a lot in a short period of time at the moment, but it’s something we’ve said before – and we’ve discussed combined testing a number of times.

“You know, we’re testing two days, for example, where all the teams are there and we can rotate across the roads. So everybody has an opportunity to be first, second and third on the road and then make it an event away from WRC rallies. It’s more low-stress, but offers good commercial opportunity.”

Testing WRC Rally Monte-Carlo

Teams could benefit from sharing logisitics

Drilling deeper, Millener does have questions over the sense of testing – especially when, like now, the WRC is very much in the middle of a current homologation cycle and the cars are running near optimum trim.

“Drivers,” said Millener, “will want to drive as much as possible to test every possible set-up and alternative. How important is that? Look at Sardinia this year – we had one of the closest finishes in the history of the championship and most people didn’t test [in Sardinia]. At this point in the car’s [homologation cycle] we’re looking for very minute things.

“I know others will have a different opinion and have different budgets from what we have, but I think we need to look at this. If we’re going to spend the money, let’s at least make it as worthwhile commercially as we can.”

He’s banged this drum before and there’s no sign of him putting the sticks down anytime soon.

“What I’m saying makes sense,” he said. “Tell me it doesn’t. Combined testing offers something for everybody.”