M-Sport’s Rich Millener on the R5, the passion and the future


M-Sport are at a cross roads at the moment. The release of the new Ford Fiesta R5 Mk2, a new facility at their base and the rebuilding of the team after their Championship success took a toll on their finances.

Their previous era was a golden one. Their first R5 won on debut – as their S2000 did; and their current spec WRC did too. But now, the R5 market place has moved on a lot, as has the current spec cars – development budgets have gone up. The challenges of the class have been shown by Hyundai and Citroen creating cars that have struggled for success.

As team boss, Rich Millener said to RacerViews, expecting to win straight away was always going to be unrealistic.

“The competition over the last five years – the cars are incredibly competitve against you. You can’t produce a car that wins by a minute as you’re only going to win stages by one second,” Millener said.

“If we have to win stages and if we can win stages this weekend I will be happy.”

But the development of the car is two fold for M-Sport. There is both competition and customer reasons why you need to develop.

And allying fears after the first outings in the WRC.

“We have orders until May next year at this stage. That is really positive for us and we need to get some strong results.”

“It is trust from our customers and them trusting that we have made a car that is compettive and we will create a car that they can run.”

But he believes that current driver, Eric Camilli – remember an experienced M-Sport pilot is ideal for the role of developing the new car.

This is in conjunction of Gus Greensmith getting back to his R5 campaign while he develops as a driver.

“There is no one really at the level of Camilli – there are expereinced drivers that might be good at setting up but don’t have the relevant speed. ”

“Then you look at ERC over the last weekend that changes constantly with mistakes. It is hard to find someone that you can give them the car and tell them to come up with something.”

“It took him a long time to get to the point where he is now – he can go get good results and improve the car.”

For M-Sport, the customer program is of utmost importance. The team relies on the R5 and R2 sales. This is inconjuction to the Bentley GT3 and the road technology divisions.

As such, M-Sport must be careful with their business planning. But they too know the value of the WRC.

“If we stop, we never get it back. I know how much Malcolm sacrifices from the company’s profits to allow us to come and do this.”

“We have won two world championships, and it is homolgated for the next few years, so you already have the biggest investment. It is sat right. We own them and they are still competitive.”

It ultimately leaves the team unable to bid for drivers like Ott Tanak or other front running drivers, and returning to the position of developing young talent.

“We don’t have the budget. As much as we would like Ott to come back, We’ve [Malcolm Wilson] have spoken to him as much as we can and offered as much as we can.”

“The decision is down to Ott and there are many manufactures out there looking to sign him. We have to be realistic and we have three very good drivers at the moment with Elfyn, Teemu and Gus.”

“In the past M-Sport has rarely brought people in from the outside, Seb was the first time in a long time we brought someone in the outside. We have brought people though our junior ranks.”

“We have invested so much money and time into them, it would be silly to get rid of them. But we will see what happens in the market but we have a very strong driver combination.”

There is little doubt that M-Sport could do with more investment but they have shown to be giant killers in the past.

It also seems that every rally fan has a soft spot for M-Sport – and that passion is certainly well placed and reciprocated inside the company.

Sam Tickell