TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH DAVID HIGGINS: CLICK HERE

Crash.net columnist David Higgins will go to the Rally GB in a few weeks time in with a chance of winning the 2008 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship and taking the BRC drivers' crown for the second time.

David has had an incredibly consistent season - with four podiums from five events - and while that puts him right in contention, with drivers' only allowed to count five scores from seven the picture is more complex that it might first appear. Crash.net Radio's Rob Wilkins caught up with the Team TQ.com man recently and got his thoughts ahead of the finale in Wales...

Crash.net:
David, the final round of the BRC is coming up and it will mark the end of your first full season running your own team. How would you sum up the year to date?

David Higgins:
Eventful, I suppose. It has been a bit of a challenge with the new car and every event has been about learning. It is quite nice now though going to GB with a bit more of a base - except of course things will change again because we will be on a different type of tyre. But it has been a hell of an experience. Running the team is a lot more involved than you think and what makes it harder for us is we have quite a lot of guests at events. We will have 30 for Rally GB for example and we have got to look after them, get passes, sort accommodation and plan where they are going to go. The car side of it is obviously difficult too and the whole overall package is very difficult as well, especially as the championship has been so much more political this season than it has been in the past. That has made things quite strenuous really for everybody.

Crash.net:
The new Impreza has been competitive and you have had several podiums, but have you been disappointed not being able to challenge for wins?

DH:
Definitely, as a driver you want to go out there and win. When we go out to China we are able to do that against real strong competition. But saying that it is a new car and although it hasn't probably been as good as what everybody had hoped to start with, it is now starting to come good. I think by next year with a few more developments and with the weight limit for the other Group N cars coming up, it will be a stronger package than maybe it was this year.

Crash.net:
You are still in contention to take the BRC crown this season. What is your target for the Wales Rally GB?

DH:
A lot will depend on what happens next week and the outcome of Mitsubishi's appeal [and the subsequent confirmation of the result for the Rally Yorkshire]. Obviously as a team now to try and win the teams championship is very important. If we have to go to Rally GB and drive for the teams' title we may have to look differently at the drivers' championship. But until that is decided we really don't know how to play things. To try and win the overall drivers' championship is going to take a real disaster for my brother, Mark and obviously I wouldn't wish that on him. But GB is a hard rally to finish and at the moment when it comes to dropped scores we are not so strong. But those dropped scores could be very big scores if things don't go very well on GB for my brother. There is a long way to go. Rally GB is one of those events where you are always going to be trying to work out what is going on. We will be focusing not on making the cars as fast as possible but trying to make them as strong and reliable as possible. The first day of the rally, which also counts as a separate round of the BRC, features no real service. You can only carry parts in the car and there are an awful lot of miles to do without a proper service. We need to make the cars as good as we can then for that and may even sacrifice some speed.

Crash.net:
As you said it is a points' double header, does that effect how you will tackle it?

DH:
It is difficult and it is a double header. But the way the WRC rules work is a little bit different to how the BRC works with the SupeRally. You can't retire and then put the car in parc ferme. You have to physically get the car over the finish ramp in the WRC, which is good and something I agree with. As such it is important to get a finish on the first day and try and get a strong result on the Friday night. I think I will just play it by ear and see how the rally goes. For sure we will have to go hard though. We have Juho Hanninen and Patrik Flodin, who are both doing it and there is also the young Norwegian guy - Eyvind Brynildsen, and they are all registered for BRC points. You have three very strong runners there, as well as the normal BRC front runners.

Crash.net:
You will be registered for P-WRC points too - will that influence things at all?

DH:
No, obviously we are delighted to have the MSA spot and to have the opportunity to score Production points. But points in the P-WRC aren't really a concern. But what it does do is give us a higher running position on the road. If we have a good day on the Friday we can be running much higher than what we could have been had we, for example just been leading the BRC, but not been a P-WRC contender. From that side of things it is a big advantage and while it is great to go up against the guys in the P-WRC, the BRC is purely the focus for us.

Crash.net:
There has been a lot happening with the BRC politically this season as you mentioned earlier. Do you think that has spoilt things and how have you found dealing with that, especially as you are now not only a driver, but a team boss too?

DH:
It is difficult. I have got very strong connections with Mitsubishi. I obviously drive for them in China and I have driven for ADR before. I have a lot of friends there and a lot of people I have worked with before. But the bottom line is: if you do a championship, you do it to the best of your abilities and you do it within the regulations. Yes, it has got political - but that is only because some people have taken the attitude that they will win at any cost and that is what has made things negative. At the end of the day you build the car to the rules. The regulations are there so you have a guide of what you can run and if you choose to stick to that it is the same for everybody. If you don't then consequences can be there and it can get political. It is not very nice and it takes an awful lot of our time up and other peoples time up for something that shouldn't really have got to this stage.

Crash.net:
Are you hopeful that things will be sorted out before Rally GB and the result for the Trackrod will become official?

DH:
The appeal is on Wednesday November 26 and as far as I am aware I don't think it is one of those things that can go on and on. You can't re-appeal after an appeal. I think the outcome will be sorted there and we will know where we stand. Obviously you want to know where you are in the points in terms of the drivers' and teams' championships and what you need to do when you go to Rally GB.

Crash.net:
Nick Rowland has competed for Team TQ.com this season in the inaugural Suzuki Swift Sport Cup - how pleased have you been with him?

DH:
Nick has had an up and down year really. He is very, very young and he had very little experience before he went into these events. Maybe he took on too much doing China and the Suzuki Cup. In hindsight he might have been better off concentrating on just one and maybe getting more miles in that car. But Nick on a good day can drive really well and can set really competitive times. He has shown that this year. But he does have a tendency to lose a lot of time on some stages and he doesn't really know where that has gone or where that has happened. Obviously the Tempest Rally happened while I was away in China and I was watching closely on the computer. He went into the last stage in the lead and I thought: 'Great he is going to win it and pull it off'. But then he had a bad stage on the last one and lost it [due to brake problems after hitting a rock]. Obviously he is absolutely gutted about it and we are, not because of the result, but just because it would have been great for his confidence to do that. I think as a driver once you get a few wins your confidence goes up massively and you become much stronger once you get into that situation. Hopefully next year he can get the budget together and do the Suzuki Cup again. Then he will be able to go out there and rather than drive to get experience go and battle for wins.

Crash.net:
You have been competing in the Chinese Rally Championship this year again of course. Your last run there on the Longyou Rally didn't go to plan and the weather was really bad. That could be good preparation for Rally GB couldn't it?

DH:
I am sure it will be. It was foggy and it was really, really wet. Unfortunately though, the rally there was a bit of a disaster for us, especially as things had gone so well earlier in the season. We tried some suspension developments on the first few stages and it wasn't as good as we would have liked. However we were still in a strong third overall and leading the CRC runners. Then we got the car better and we started to challenge more for the overall honours against the A-PRC guys. But on the last stage on the Saturday it was so muddy you could barely stand up. We just slid into a ditch on the inside. If we had been more aggressive we would have drove through it. But we went a bit cautious because we had a 43 second lead and then we went off and went down into a ravine. We got stuck against a bamboo tree that probably stopped us going another 200 foot straight down. It wasn't very nice because the rescue crews couldn't get to us and we were stuck in there for 7 hours. It was not the nicest of experiences. But you can't win them all, although we had won seven in a row before that. The teams' championship wasn't looking so good after the last event though, when Fumio Nutahara stood in for me [as I was competing on the Trackrod] and he didn't have a good rally. It is a shame as we have sort of lost the championship now. It is gutting when you make a mistake. But I think the championship was always going to be a long shot after what happened on the previous event. But it is still not nice to lose something when you have been so close again.

Crash.net:
Can you tell us anything about your plans for 2009?

DH:
Not really. At one point the BRC was all sorted again and there was talk of a possible P-WRC campaign too. But now obviously with the way things are financially all over the world I think the P-WRC will be knocked on the head fairly quickly. We have to work hard now to try and get the budget secured for next year. We all want to be out there again doing something. It would be a shame to waste what we have learnt this year by not doing anything else again. But we need to work hard to get some more sponsors and some more funds so we can go out on the BRC and have a good go at it. The BRC looks really good next year with the format of events they have and GB not being in there is a massive saving in terms of costs.

Crash.net:
You tested the new Lancer Evo 10 recently - how did that go?

DH:
It was very good. It wasn't the full spec car because they are still waiting for the proper ECU's for them. But the engine of the car feels very strong. Obviously it feels a fair bit bigger than the existing Evo 9, but not so dissimilar to the new Subaru really. All the cars are getting bigger and heavier and you do feel that. But I am fairly sure in time the car will be very good. Whether it will go through some of the same sorts of problems as the new Subaru did to start with who knows. I still think the Evo 9 is a very competitive Group N car and it takes some beating on a fast rally. But on a more twisty and slippery surface the Subaru's are very good. Where the new Evo 10 will come in I don't know. It is one of those things where until it gets out there on the events regularly we really won't know although my first impressions were positive. As I said the engine was strong and it is probably not full spec yet either.

Crash.net:
Are you considering switching to that in '09?

DH:
It is difficult because I am committed to China again next year and we are starting development with the car. We have just been doing the design of the new roll cage and we will just have to see what happens. The WY Rally team, who we drive for in China, are quite keen to sell their cars and products in Europe and there may be a chance where we might run one in the BRC next year. Obviously a lot will depend on what we do with the Subaru's. In an ideal world we would like to expand the team a little bit more. We have obviously got the use of some very good Evo 9's, which I have been using in China. Also there is some Evo 10's being built. We have got a choice of three cars there then between the Subaru, the Evo 9 and Evo 10. It would be great to try and get some more drivers on board to do the BRC with us and see where we can go from there.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH DAVID HIGGINS: CLICK HERE