WRC’s future changes key for M-Sport moving forward

M-Sport is eagerly awaiting confirmation of the World Rally Championship’s plans to improve the series as the Ford-supported team continues to work on securing its Rally1 future.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

The British operation’s participation in rallying’s top tier was called into question during the Acropolis Rally earlier this month.

Team founder Malcolm Wilson has since reiterated that M-Sport has no intention to stop its Rally1 programme and “will be doing whatever we can to try and find a way to stay in at the highest level”.

The Ford-supported team has endured a challenging 2023 season with a victory in Sweden and second place in Croatia its podium results to date.

To compound its misfortune on the stages, the team’s core business model is based around selling cars to customers and currently it has sold only two Rally1 cars, and only one of those to an active competitor in Jourdan Serderidis.

The WRC stalwart team is working to secure budgets for 2024 and is yet to announce its plans for next season, although this is not an unusual situation for operation.

M-Sport, along with rivals Toyota and Hyundai, have been united in a push to improve the championship’s overall appeal, which has followed Thierry Neuville’s criticism of the series earlier this year.

The FIA and WRC Promoter has since collated a raft of proposals, including event format tweaks, to improve the championship, some of which are expected to be introduced next year. These were discussed at last week’s WRC Commission meeting, although any potential changes will require FIA approval.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: M-Sport

Asked if there was any update on the team’s future ahead of this weekend Rally Chile, team principal Richard Millener said: “We have nothing exciting to say at the moment and obviously it is the same as what we normally talk about at this time of year, we are still trying to put things together to be here [in the future].

“I still think we are waiting for news from the WRC Promoter to be honest about what is going to change and what is going to be made better.

“I think everybody is getting a little bit frustrated about there not being so much news, there is a lot of talking, but not so much news.

“But we have to look at the realities that we can’t attract sponsors very easily, whether that is [because] we need better results, which you could argue. But in general at the moment in this sport there is not enough enthusiasm and we have to change that quickly. If we are not going to change that then it is going to affect our ability to be here.”

Millener is however hopeful that the championship’s expected move to retain its current hybrid Rally1 car platform until 2026, before a move to new technical regulations in 2027, will offer much needed stability.

He believes this positive decision will allow time for the championship to improve its promotion, which in turn could help attract more manufacturers to the series ahead of the 2027 regulation changes.

As previously reported, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem revealed that Subaru is considering rejoining the championship.

Rich Millener, Team principal M-Sport Ford Rally

Rich Millener, Team principal M-Sport Ford Rally

Photo by: M-Sport

“I think if you take away the difficulties every team has had with the [hybrid] suppliers, the actual technology and what it is doing is still good,” Millener added.

“I think the electric revolution in general is having some difficult times at the moment and in the UK the plan where people must buy a hybrid or electric car has been pushed back to 2035.

“I think that shows the combustion engine will still be around for a while and rally has found good mix between that technology and what we have now, to keep the sound and the [WRC] experience.

Read Also:

“There is actually a really good opportunity for us now that more manufacturers seem to be open to combustion engine motorsport again.

“Keeping this stability from now until 2026 is good. We now have this time period with new cars coming in 2027. Let’s concentrate on building the promotion over the next few years so that hopefully when we get to 2027 and we can get a couple more manufacturers.”

Previous article Rovanpera focused on Evans head-to-head not WRC victory in Chile
Next article Toyota “looking good” to retain WRC driver line-up for 2024