What’s Wrong With M-Sport?

September 15, 2023Joe Moore

The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team hasn’t had the greatest luck at recent WRC events, but why is this? 

Reliability Issues

The biggest issue plaguing the M-Sport Puma’s is reliability. With both Ott Tänak and Pierre-Louis Loubet experiencing issues. Tänak’s issues have arguably been worse than Loubet’s however. As mechanical issues have taken Tänak out of the running for the championship. An engine issue in Estonia, broken oil pan in Finland, and a water pump issue in Greece. You may say to yourself the oil pan breaking wasn’t a fault of M-Sport, and you’d be correct. However, that still doesn’t excuse the other issues Tänak has faced. Luckily whenever he’s encountered an issue he’s been able to remain in the event. Pushing back as far as he could in Estonia and finishing 4th in Greece despite penalties. Loubet has also had issues, namely a water pump issue in Greece. What could M-Sport do to fix these issues?

More Funding

It’s no secret that M-Sport is severely underfunded compared to Hyundai and Toyota. With M-Sport having little backing from Ford for the world rally team. This provides a multitude of issues for the team. Namely not being able to develop the cars to be in line with the Hyundai’s and Toyota’s. If M-Sport can get more funding to do more testing and R&D for the Puma it could be more consistent. Obviously, it’s nearly impossible to predict what will happen during a rally. However, the team can work to make their engine more reliable. Getting more funding would also help M-Sport add more drivers to their line-up. Something that is deeply needed.
M-Sport has two options to fix their funding issue, either get more involvement from Ford. Which probably won’t happen seeing as Ford is entering F1. Alternatively, they can look for a large sponsor. This year they have Redbull who gave funding to sign Ott Tänak. Chances are Redbull won’t fully sponsor the team but could give a bit of money like they have in the past with Sebastien Loeb and Ott Tänak among others. Ultimately Redbull isn’t the likely solution to their funding problems, that’ll likely be solved via another source. Who that other source will be is unknown. Castrol could be an option, they’ve sponsored teams in the past. 

Why Is Reliability Worse This Year?

The Puma’s reliability has seemed to have gotten worse since last season. The reason for this is unknown, but it’s probably to do with the car being pushed consistently. Not that Breen and others weren’t pushing the car consistently last season. Tänak is pushing the car in a different manner. He’s trying to get everything out of it, which works sometimes but oftentimes doesn’t when the car isn’t great to begin with.
Tänak has voiced his displeasure with the Puma throughout the season. Even going as far as to say the car can’t win. Although he did win Rally Sweden in the car, that doesn’t mean much. Tänak wants to win, as does anybody. The difference between Tänak and any of the Hyundai or Toyota drivers is the car. The Toyota’s and Hyundai’s are built to win rallies pretty comfortably. The Puma isn’t built to that same level. Forcing Tänak to push the car to 110% of its ability to try and match the other cars. This is where the issues arise. The car isn’t built to be pushed consistently and that’s when the mechanical issues normally happen. You may say to yourself, “Well why keep pushing then?” Because winning is why Tänak and others go out there. 
Reliability likely isn’t any worse than it was last year, it’s just more noticeable. As last season the car was either crashed, out of the event or wasn’t being pushed meaning nothing could happen. Reliability is likely the only thing holding the car back from winning more events. As Loeb and Tänak have proven the car can win and can compete. It’s just finding the consistency in the car and driver.