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

Mark Higgins found himself embroiled in a huge battle for the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship in 2008 as he went head-to-head with Guy Wilks for the crown. Crash.net Radio's Matt Salisbury spoke to Mark about a title battle that has still to be decided as arguments from the season continue to rumble on...

Crash.net:
Mark, before we talk about the coming season, let's reflect on the year just gone - it was an interesting BRC campaign. How would you sum up the way 2008 went?

Mark Higgins:
Interesting is probably one word for it! We had a very good year. We did it with TEG Sport again and on a very limited budget. We were in an older car but they really pulled the stops out and gave us a great car for the championship. We were able to really put the pressure on and we won three rounds on the trot on the tarmac. We missed the first round and it ended terribly with all the controversy that is still going on now. We still don't know who has actually won the championship and obviously Rally GB was probably the worst event of my life. Not a good end. But we are looking forward to this year and hopefully we are going to get something sorted out.

Crash.net:
How disappointing was it the way Wales Rally GB turned out after those errors on days 1 and 2?

MH:
We had such a good year and we hadn't put a mark on a car in probably 20 or 30 events. It was going to be great to end the year on a good high and the team worked wonders to get that car right on the Friday night [after the off on day 1], which they did. We re-started but two sections of ice caught us out both times and that was it. We were passengers really once we had got into that situation and that was the way it went.

Crash.net:
What did you make of the conditions we saw in Wales back in December - especially on day 1 when we saw a lot of stage mileage cut and the front runners were really struggling too? Were the conditions really difficult?

MH:
Yeah they were and I know a lot of people are saying why cancel or shorten a lot of stages. What is rallying all about? I totally understand that. But on the other side of the coin, the tyres that we had to use, there is just one tyre. We are not allowed to cut them and they are a very hard compound in comparison to what we have had previously. As such you couldn't even turn the car in some places. Driving on the stages that were cancelled [as road sections] was incredible - it really was. It was the worst I have ever experienced. In the recce we had about three or five spins and for Sebastien [Loeb] to roll the car in the recce and other people to have crashes, it was very, very treacherous. I think it was a lot worse than what people actually thought it was from the outside.

Crash.net:
You briefly mentioned the controversies with Mitsubishi this year in the BRC and the homologation issues on the Trackrod and that it is still rumbling on. How much do you think that has overshadowed the season's championship battle?

MH:
I think it has towards the end. We had a really good fight and if you look at the times it has been close and it has been a good battle. It had been a very competitive championship. But it just all started going downhill after the Ulster. There was a lot of in-fighting and bickering, which has definitely spoilt the championship. It is crazy that we are here now in January and we are going to the awards presentation on Saturday [January 10] and we still don't know who has won the championship. It is not good for anybody. But we have got to put that behind us and regardless of whoever has won, we have missed out on the opportunity if we have won now anyway, and so we will just crack on and do the best we can this year.

Crash.net:
Have you got anything in place at the moment for this year?

MH:
We have got some good irons in the fire. We are hoping to do something with TEG again. They have been very loyal to us and we are working hard to do another programme in the BRC this year. We are also looking at doing some IRC rounds as well with Bill Gwynne Motorsport. They supported us last year and we will see what else comes about too. We are all complaining about the economy at the moment and it is going to be very, very hard on motorsport. You can see it here already. It is quite quiet. But it will come round and we will stay there and keep on fighting.

Crash.net:
Looking more long term, in the WRC, we are seeing attempts to bring costs down with a move to S2000. Do you think if the costs do come down, it might give you and some of the other Brits a chance to either get back into or make that step into the WRC?

MH:
For me, I think I am probably too old now unfortunately. I have got to be realistic about it. I'd love to have another crack and I'd really enjoy doing the IRC. But Super 2000 cars are still very expensive and you are talking a quarter of a million Euros, which is about a quarter of a million pounds at the current exchange rate. Also to run them they are probably as expensive as a World Rally Car. We haven't actually reduced the costs that much then. It would actually be cheaper to use an older WRC car than what it is to use a current S2000 car. There are still a few things that need addressing. But it is an exciting formula and it will be very close and allow people to be competitive without a factory car because the technology isn't quite as high.

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