Harsh words about the World Rally Championship from a team principal

The World Rally Championship needs to find a new direction quickly to avoid fading away. This is the opinion of M-Sport Ford's team principal, Richard Millener.
Richard Millener
Richard Millener (left.) and Adrien Fourmaux. Photo by: M-Sport Ford WRT
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The future technical regulations for Rally1 cars in the WRC are set to be finalised in June. At the same time, there is discussion about how the format and marketing of WRC events should be revamped to attract a larger audience.

Richard Millener, M-Sport’s team principal, agrees with other team bosses regarding technical regulations: it is pointless to make radical changes for 2025 and 2026 as new teams cannot be attracted to the series in such a short time frame.

Instead, the focus should be on the 2027 regulations. According to Millener, this is a more realistic option for getting more cars to the starting line, as it allows a couple of years for development.

Millener believes that the costs of the cars need to be better controlled. This is easier said than done, as the British team principal puts it: “if my team has more money than somebody else, they’ll always spend more money on the car.”

Millener takes a broader perspective on the issue.

“For me, the question is why don’t we have more cars? And it’s because they don’t see the value in the sport at the moment, because it’s not global enough. It’s not seen enough,” Millener tells RallyJournal.com frankly.

“We actually have so much footage. We have every stage live. What we have is incredible. We don’t seem to be using it in a way that’s good at the moment.”

“If you don’t change, you get left behind”

According to Millener, key players in the WRC need to take action to keep the sport evolving and moving forward. Millener cites golf as an example, which has managed to grow its fan base successfully.

“I like watching golf. It’s so different from what it was ten years ago. The Ryder Cup ten years ago was a very posh gentleman’s kind of event. It was all golf, with very quiet clapping. And now it’s like an absolute party for a week. So, the DNA is still there, but everything about it is so different,” Millener says.

“If you think about it, it’s a similar sport to rally. Golf is a long sport. It goes on over three days. Its matches take four hours. They’re not overly exciting to watch unless you’re really into golf and appreciate how good they are. But there’s still a huge buzz about it,” Millener compares.

“Golf is more in the news than rally. And if you look on paper, it’s not as exciting as rally. So, we need to come up with some ideas that bring it forward and change it dramatically. Some people won’t like that. But if you don’t change, you get left behind. And I think we’re getting left behind at the moment.”

The popularity of golf has been further increased by the documentary series released on Netflix, which tells about the PGA Tour and its personalities. The series has already released two seasons.

Formula 1 also has its own Netflix series, which became a huge success right from the first season. The WRC Promoter announced in April that the WRC has also had discussions about a series to be released on a streaming service, but the matter has not progressed further.

Read more: WRC boss hints at Netflix deal, but one major obstacle remains

The stories are left behind

M-Sport Ford does not rely solely on the WRC Promoter’s plans. A film crew follows the British team at this season’s WRC events.

“If we’re not going to do it as a sport, we’ll do it ourselves. So it will come out eventually this year,” Millener reveals, but does not specify what kind of material is to be expected.

“We need something, we need to build a character. We need more characters. They have Netflix, but they have golfers and they have caddies and we have drivers and we have co-drivers and we have team members. The sport on the stages is fine; we show that all the time. People want to see what the mechanics do in the morning and the evenings. What do they do when they leave here? Do they just go to bed or do they go for a drink? Our guys go go-karting. They want to see this kind of stuff, this fun.”

According to Millener, these stories are completely left behind in the WRC. The team principal does not mince his words when describing the current direction of the sport: “there is no strategy in rally, really.”

“The sport is so good, there’s so much potential. I’m always quite outspoken about it, but it’s because ultimately this is my job and if it doesn’t carry on, then it’s not my job anymore.”

“I don’t really want that to happen. So we need to find ways to better explain what we do,” Millener states.

Read also: Hyundai WRC team boss delivers significant statement – “Not about being behind closed doors”

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