The Irishman – who is making his debut for the Cumbrian squad on this week’s Rallye Monte Carlo having signed a two-year contract last October – is on course to score a podium result after climbing two places from fifth to third during today’s leg.

If the 31-year-old can hold station with team-mate Paul Nagle, it would bump his podium finishes in the competition to date up to seven. Millener says adopting a long game approach on rounds like the Monte could well pay dividends, just as it has done for nine-time champion Sebastien Ogier down through the years.

“Obviously, we are very happy with Seb Loeb and what Craig has done as well,” he said. “Craig has done a fantastic rally so far and finds himself on the podium at the moment, so we can’t be anything but happy.

“Let’s look at the guy who is winning the rally at the moment. One of the key strategies he has to winning Championships is being consistent and knowing when is a good time to go for it [a win] and when is not, and I think Craig has that mentality.

“Starting this morning we were on a sensible pace and we moved that up and now we are on the podium. It’s a long season and we have to remember that the top two guys at the moment are not doing a full Championship so, if you take that away, ultimately, we are lead car [in the Championship standings] so we think he is doing a fantastic job."

Breen found an extra gear at the controls of his Puma Rally1 car across Saturday’s five runs after applying some changes to the dampers – something he wanted to toy with during his pre-Monte test but was unable to due to an accident.

“It has been a rally of attrition more than in recent years and I have been happy with the pace today – we increased it a bit on yesterday and I feel that if we had the same sort of settings we ran today, yesterday, perhaps I could be up another level again,” said Breen.

“But I think that was just a consequence of seat time on the test – my own fault entirely – but it’s good and I am happy. We head into the last day in a podium position and I’m happy with that.”

Millener added: “It has been a difficult couple of years for M-Sport, not to be up there fighting [for wins and podiums] and you kind of forget until you get back to this point how nerve wracking it is watching as you are fighting for those top positions, so it has been very good.

“It is just fantastic to be here. We are really enjoying it as a team and its motivating everyone who has been involved in such a hard 18 months to get where we are. We knew we were capable of doing what we are doing and it’s great to be back, showing that."