How To Win The World Rally Championship As A Privateer
Autosport|January 04,2018

Fresh from taking the 2017 drivers’ and teams’ World Rally titles, M-Sport deputy team principal Rich Millener explains what it takes to reach the top.

 When Sebastien Ogier signed for us at the end of 2016, everything changed. Overnight, we once more became a real force in the World Rally Championship.

Through the testing we’d done with our 2017 Ford Fiesta WRC, we really felt we had a good car. It was impossible to predict what was coming, but certainly we weren’t afraid of anything that anybody else had done. And when Seb and Julien Ingrassia tested the car and said yes, they wanted to join us, that was a real shot in the arm.

The Ogier effect

Ultimately, the biggest ‘Ogier effect’ came in points and prizes, but it went way deeper than just scoring those goals.

I’ve worked at this team for 10 years and, with the greatest of respect to the other drivers we’ve had, none have had the same impact that Seb and Julien did. Drivers such as Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz were before my time at M-Sport, but I heard the stories about when they walked in and everything went quiet. It was similar this time. The respect was huge, but at the same time we took real confidence that Seb had come to us and believed in us.

One of the first things he and Julien did when they walked into our M-Sport   HQ at Dovenby Hall for the first time was go around and shake hands with absolutely everybody who works here – that’s more than 200 people. It sounds simple, but it really set the tone well.

I’m not saying he didn’t have reservations, it would be completely natural that he did. He was coming from the best-funded team in the service park to a private team. I’d say it took a couple of rallies before he was convinced we had what it took and, after that, he stopped worrying about us and the car, and allowed himself to focus on the most important thing: winning rallies and challenging for the championship.

The Ogier effect was big in the team, but where it was felt the most was with our other drivers. Ott Tanak and Elfyn Evans learned more in one season than at any other point in their careers. They both grew tremendously as competitors and people; quite literally they became rally winners. We saw this from the start in Monte Carlo, a notoriously tricky event for tyres. Without Seb, Elfyn and Ott would have been worrying about what to go on in a compromised situation. Having somebody with so much experience to call on and follow inspired confidence. Towards the middle and end of the year, that had become a two-way thing, with Seb often absolutely agreeing with points the other two made. In the debrief room, you could see the effect on their self-belief.

Change, but not for change’s sake

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