WRC ORLEN 80th Rally Poland
Poland
Starts: Thursday, June 27, 2024 at 8:00:00 AM
ERC Delfi Rally Estonia
Estonia
Starts: Friday, July 5, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM
Ferratum World RX of Sweden 1
Sweden
Starts: Saturday, July 6, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM

Sat 30 Jul 2022

How to become a WRC team principal

Rich Millener has opened up on the events which led to him becoming the team principal of M-Sport Ford World Rally Team.

Speaking to WRC+ All Live’s Becs Williams in a thrilling WRC Backstories podcast, Millener recounted his journey from being a self-professed farm boy from Somerset to rising through the ranks to eventually lead the British squad. 

Millener packed his bags and made the near-500km trip from Nailsea to Cumbria in 2006 to join M-Sport’s parts and sales department. It was - by his own admission - a big risk at the time. But one which paid off. 

He took up the reins as team principal in 2019 from Malcolm Wilson, who headed M-Sport’s day-to-day WRC operations since his company took over the running of Ford’s championship programme in 1997. 

Millener had big shoes to fill - his predecessor and mentor Wilson had just led the team to three manufacturers’ titles and two drivers’ crowns in 2017 and 2018 with Sébastien Ogier.

“I was working fairly high up with Malcolm at the time during those two years and helping with a lot of things that were going on,” explained the 38-year-old. “But then Séb [Ogier] left us at the end of 2018 and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. 

“I had an offer from somewhere else to go and work in the sport and I was completely torn. I’m always open to opportunities, but I’ve always been honest with people and said it would have to be something really special because I’m not going to walk away from Malcolm - he’s got me to where I am now and it would be a big decision to do anything different.

“I’ve always just gone and sat down with Malcolm face to face about these things and he’s always been very respectful and honest. We were discussing things and I went back to him with some ideas for what I thought I could potentially do in the future, because I had told him a number of times I want to keep challenging myself. 

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” he continued. “So I gave Malcolm a document to read through over the weekend with a couple ideas - one of which was I'd love to be team principal at some point.

“We had a chat the following week and he kind of said ‘well, if you want to do the team principal role you can do it’. That’s really where it came from - me always suggesting and asking and him turning around and saying ‘okay, we can do that’.”

With the 2019 season just weeks ahead, it was a busy time for Millener and his colleagues. He explained how - even today - it’s very much a team effort, with Wilson still heavily involved and in attendance at many WRC rounds to keep a watchful eye on progress. 

“I didn't see it as a huge change in the way we were doing things, and I don't think either of us really knew how it would be seen or how we would approach it.

“I didn't want to be seen to be taking jobs away from Malcolm or anything - I just wanted to try and push myself a little bit more. Malcolm is still on nearly every event and it's very much a team effort to get things done. 

“It was important to me to get the chance to do this role because it was a dream and, like I said, I want to keep challenging myself. I felt I was ready for that challenge and Malcolm was kind enough to give me the opportunity to do it."

Millener goes on to talk about his future goals and aspirations as well as recounting his own experiences as a competitor in both the driving and co-driving seats. He also explains how his interest in the sport was sparked by none other than Petter Solberg. 

You can listen to all of this, plus a host of other exciting stories here on WRC.com, iTunes or Spotify.