Triple-Victory at Wales for M-Sport, claiming World Championship for both Manufacturers and Driver/Co-driver. And adding to that like icing on top of the cake, it was Elfyn Evans brilliant debut rally victory at his homeland, making it triple the fun for the English team.
Winning a championship for manufacturers is perhaps very complex when compared to the drivers & co-drivers, as it counts on various aspects of the reliability of the car, time-management of the service crew, managing most of the cars in the competitive range, logistics, etc, etc. This is where M-Sport made it a class apart without any major manufacturer’s support, keeping the crews on the front, ensuring to finish on the podium in every event so far, and with almost no-retirements.
Sebastien Ogier & Julien Ingrassia‘s coming onboard to the Cumbrian team also helped not just by their presence, but the high hopes which turned it into reality. Ott Tanak and Elfyn Evans also played well as the best team-mates along with Ogier, to make M-Sport today what they were looking forward to in along while. Malcolm Wilson is indeed a happy man and for sure his entire team is the happiest, without a doubt. Maybe, Ford Racing is considering returning to the championship, officially backing M-Sport with full-factory support for the next few years.
Having said that, it was Thierry Neuville who gave everyone ‘the run for their money‘ with the competitive driving he did and showcasing everyone his ‘never-too-late-to-fight‘ spirit. However, it was exactly here the Elvyns real worth came into the team, whose speed never seemed to come down to be caught by the Hyundai i20 WRC driver in this event. Ott Tanak was equally a competition but lost quality ground on the penultimate day’s night stages, when the fog played foul to most of the fore-front runners. Jari-Matti Latvala & Andreas Mikkelsen were the nearest of the threats, but the defending world champ was in control the whole time keep them at bay.
It wasn’t any easy roads for Seb Ogier & his co-driver Julien Ingrassia to secure their 5th title, with the new season and new cars they had the most intricate issue of securing a drive after Volkswagen announced its exit from the championship, which was totally unexpected for everyone, including to its crews. Latvala was perhaps much luckier among them when his home-team, the new Toyota Gazoo WRT headed by his countryman and an 4-time WRC driver’s champion himself Tommi Makinen offered him a ride. Ogier also had the chance to test drive, both M-Sport’s new Ford Fiesta & Toyota’s Yaris new generation WRC spec cars before concluding on the options, although with little kilometers and with a lot of negotiations, he finally got his foot-hold with Malcolm‘s M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC.
With little-to-no experience and testing the new car meant a huge risk in the new season, yet started with a victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo, so far Wales with a narrow margin to claim the elusive looking 5-title. Even that was looking almost lost when his car got a puncture and a damaged brake disc on the front left wheel at the end of Aberhirnant 2 stage. All caked with mud he had to work all by himself frantically to remove the damaged brake disc, well before heading to the final Dyfnant test with no help either on the radio from the service crew due to the remoteness of the location. Left with only three operational brakes he was fifth fastest time in the only remaining stage for the day (Dyfnant 2, SS 16) and made it to the service park with no major drama, however bleeding the valuable seconds to the ever-charging Belgian bullet.
“We were in the middle of nowhere, in the fog, the night and the mud. I thought it was game over. I was trying my best to try to fix this car which was quite bad. The front left was missing the discs, the pads, everything. In a very short time we had to find a solution to find some brakes but we drove the last stage and we made it. It was very last minute. I thought I would lose quite a lot of time in the last stage but with three brakes it was quite manageable.”
Well, in the end, it is never too easy to even guess what it takes to be the world champion right?!