COVID restrictions force M-Sport to have skeleton staff for WRC Safari Rally

M-Sport will be without its team principal for next week's Safari Rally as challenging COVID-19 travel restrictions have forced the World Rally Championship squad to send a skeleton staff for the event.

COVID restrictions force M-Sport to have skeleton staff for WRC Safari Rally

Team principal Richard Millener alongside boss Malcolm Wilson and a host of staff are set to be operating the outfit from the UK for the return of the Safari Rally after a 19-year hiatus.

Only a skeleton staff, including members from M-Sport Poland, will be deployed to Kenya while the team has also elected to withdraw its WRC2 entry for Teemu Suninen.

COVID-19 travel restrictions have created a logistical nightmare forcing the team to scale down its on-the-ground staff in Kenya with the African nation on the UK Government's red list, meaning a 10 day quarantine period is required for those wishing to return to the UK.

As a result, a complicated plan has been put in action to conduct the event and ensure its crew that do attend can return to the UK, serve their quarantine period and return for Rally Estonia on 15-18 July.

Staff on the ground in Kenya will travel to Estonia directly after the event, where they will quarantine for three days as per local government laws, before then hopefully heading back to the UK for three or four days, and then returning back to Estonia for the next rally.

Given the extended Safari Rally week that begins with a recce from Monday to Thursday, instead of the usual Tuesday/Wednesday system, staff are expected to be on the road for 20 days or more, prompting the team to limit its footprint on the ground.

The WRC cars, driven by Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux, won't return to the UK at all and will be flown from Nairobi to Amsterdam, where they will be picked up by the crew from Kenya and then transported to Estonia to be repaired and re-prepped - a process that is likely to take at least seven days.

"It is really difficult to be honest and has been stressing us all for the last two months," Millener told Autosport.

"The difficulty is it [the COVID restrictions] are revised every three weeks and the government could turn round next week and move Kenya to amber and then everything would change again but we got to a point where we have to make a decision so we are doing that.

"It does mean that it will be a very different team compared to normal.

Malcolm Wilson

Malcolm Wilson

Photo by: Motorsport Images

"Malcolm [Wilson] is not planning to attend at this moment and I'm not planning to attend because I have a new child only a few weeks ago so 20 days away is not really something I can do right at this time, so we will have a skeleton staff.

"In terms of the management, we think we can do some of it from the UK via the internet and it is a good opportunity to try it.

"It is not ideal and things could change daily as COVID rules change all the time so we will have to be quick and reactive to what we have to do.

"There are still a couple of the higher management guys there in terms of looking after the team. Maciek Woda from M-Sport Poland will be there and some of his customers so there are still people on the ground but it is going to be different to what we normally run.

"We have made the decision this week to not send the WRC2 car for Teemu [Suninen] purely because of the logistics so we are back down to the minimum we can send really.

"We have the smallest team out there because effectively having these people in quarantine or unable to come back to the UK really reduces our flexibility."

Millener added that he was proud of his staff for taking on this challenge, admitting that they simply couldn't compete without their dedication and sacrifice.

"It is a big ask and we knew it was going to be difficult and we appreciate what the guys are going through," he said.

"There is an element of all hands on deck to get things in motorsport done but sometimes there are cases where you are pushing the boundaries as much as we can.

"We fully appreciate what they doing because without them we couldn't do it."

shares
comments

Related video

WRC working on plan for 2022 USA event

Previous article

WRC working on plan for 2022 USA event

Next article

Extreme E star Molly Taylor secures WRC return

Extreme E star Molly Taylor secures WRC return
Load comments
How Finland’s newest rally hero made WRC history in Estonia Plus

How Finland’s newest rally hero made WRC history in Estonia

Kalle Rovanpera broke a decade-old record in becoming the World Rally Championship's youngest-ever winner in a truly dominant performance on Estonia's fast gravel roads. Staving off the challenge of Hyundai's Craig Breen, his committed drive showed a maturity beyond his 20 years that gives Toyota's post-Ogier era a far brighter complexion

WRC
Jul 19, 2021
How WRC's new Safari adventure ended with a familiar tale Plus

How WRC's new Safari adventure ended with a familiar tale

The World Rally Championship’s delayed return to the Safari Rally was always set throw up some surprises, but aside from a spirited showing by Thierry Neuville it became another painful event for Hyundai in 2021. Once again it was Sebastien Ogier who took full advantage as he completed a stunning comeback drive

WRC
Jun 28, 2021
Remembering Colin McRae’s final WRC win Plus

Remembering Colin McRae’s final WRC win

The Safari Rally returns to the World Rally Championship this weekend for the first time since 2002 - when crowd favourite Colin McRae set aside the maximum attack style for which he was renowned to deliver a textbook third win

WRC
Jun 23, 2021
How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2 Plus

How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2

For the second WRC gravel rally in a row, a promising Friday for Hyundai turned into desolation as Toyota gratefully picked up the pieces. This time it was championship leader Sebastien Ogier who took full advantage after Ott Tanak and Dani Sordo retired to score a memorable victory, having swept the road on the first two days

WRC
Jun 7, 2021
How Hyundai's latest self-destruction handed Evans Portugal victory Plus

How Hyundai's latest self-destruction handed Evans Portugal victory

At one point Hyundai held the top three positions in Portugal, but when trouble struck the Korean marque's two leading chargers, a grateful Elfyn Evans was on hand to see off Hyundai third man Dani Sordo and become the third different winner in four rallies

WRC
May 24, 2021
Why the success of AVB's WRC debut won't be defined on the stages Plus

Why the success of AVB's WRC debut won't be defined on the stages

Three years after a Dakar Rally crash resulted in him being airlifted to hospital, Andre Villas-Boas is preparing to make his debut on his home round of the World Rally Championship later this month. His goals for the event are modest, but the same cannot be said for the charities he plans to promote where his true impact could be felt

WRC
May 13, 2021
Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel Plus

Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel

Hyundai Motorsport boss Andrea Adamo was vocal in his criticism of his team's tyre choices on Rally Croatia and declared that he "had better move my ass and solve it". Doing so will be vital to getting Hyundai's 2021 WRC title hopes back on track, but finding the root of the problem won't be the work of a moment

WRC
Apr 28, 2021
How Ogier held on after a shock bump in the road to triumph in Croatia Plus

How Ogier held on after a shock bump in the road to triumph in Croatia

Sebastien Ogier was already in an incredibly tight fight at Rally Croatia before a surprise collision with public road traffic at the start of the final day. But the defending champion held his nerve to take a narrow victory and create further World Rally Championship history

WRC
Apr 26, 2021