M-Sport Team Principal Richard Millener has labelled suggestions that Ford Motor Company will pull the plug on its World Rally Championship commitments at the end of this year as “fake news”.
Millener was responding to an article that appeared on the website of French publication Corse-Matin this week where Pierre-Louis Loubet suggested the American automaker was about to step away from the sport. The piece gained considerable traction on social media on Wednesday and sent the rumour mill into overdrive.
As well as unpicking Loubet’s campaign to date at the wheel of the Ford Puma Rally1 car – his first full-time drive in the top-flight after impressing with the Cockermouth-based outfit in 2022 – the story also touched on the young Frenchman’s future involvement, with his most eyebrow-raising quotes coming when asked to open up about next season.
“I do not know yet,” was Loubet’s response to that question. “There will only be two teams in the World Rally Championship next year. We showed good speed, and they [Ford] know that. [But] Ford is unlikely to continue in the World Championship, even if they do not want to say anything.
“Manufacturers must commit to the FIA before the end of September. At that time, we will know. The promoter wants each manufacturer to add a car. Toyota already has four and Hyundai at worst will have four. Would I be in this scenario? I don’t know. We still have to wait,” he added.
M-Sport was awarded the contract to operate Ford’s World Rally programme back in 1997 and has gone on the develop and run various competition-inspired versions of road going vehicles, including the Escort, Focus, Fiesta and more recently Puma.
Over the last 26 years under the auspices of business founder Malcolm Wilson, it has enjoyed considerable success, sealing a combined total of seven drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles and more than sixty rally victories.
Millener insisted “there is no discussion about [Ford] not committing to the FIA World Rally Championship going forward – it is fake news”. He said: “We have a 25-year history with Ford in the FIA World Rally Championship and [there is] no intention to break that.
“Ford are big supporters of the FIA World Rally Championship and although there are always challenges to raise the budgets, by no means is there any substance to these rumours,” he added.