M-Sport boss samples Puma Rally1 WRC

Malcolm Wilson

It is always a big moment when your boss comes along to cast their eye over your work, but M-Sport’s design team and engineers faced exactly that in the past few days when company founder Malcolm Wilson dropped by to sample their World Rally Championship title contender first hand.

The Puma Rally1 car has a season’s worth of competition below its belt already and has started 2023 in strong fashion thanks to new signing Ott Tanak demanding greatness from everyone working on it.

The Estonian won last month’s Rally Sweden from Craig Breen to end the squad’s 13-month wait for a first win in the Championship and, in the process, move straight to the top of the points’ standings.

Wilson sampled the hybrid-powered car two years ago – but that was during the initial phase of testing and development and could be best described as a work in progress that needed its edges sanding off.

Not that money is an issue for Wilson, but top-flight Rally1 cars aren’t exactly cheap so there had to be a reason for him to don his race suit and crash helmet – and his staff came up with the perfect one.

As well as getting the chance to scratch the itch only a 500bhp rally car can give, the Englishman was also using it as an opportunity to shake down and sign off the re-built Puma Jourdan Serderidis will drive on next week’s Rally Mexico, which is due to get underway on Thursday evening.

The 67-year-old blasted YN71DDL around M-Sport’s state-of-the-art, multi-million pound test facility just a short distance from his Dovenby Hall office and the smile afterwards pretty much summed up the occasion.

“I did drive one of the very early test cars but that was very much in its early stages,” the former British champ said. “I have driven every generation of car and to be honest this does feel the most complete car in every sense, not just security-wise for the driver and co-driver but in everything else it does too.

“Okay, we were on gravel tyres and gravel suspension on a test circuit, so it is a bit different to being on gravel. But you can instantly feel that this is the tool to do the job.

“The whole package feels as if it is made to do the job – it is at least two years since I probably drove the first one, and it is just evolved in every area so much since then,” he added.

Taking the controls of the Puma Rally1 ensures Wilson upholds his record of driving every generation of World Rally Car since he took over the running of Ford’s World Rally endeavours back in 1997. These include every iteration of the Ford Focus World Rally Car and its predecessor, the Fiesta supermini.

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