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JWRC: Q&A: Guy Wilks - EXCLUSIVE

23 November 2006

by Rob Wilkins


Britain's Guy Wilks looks all but certain to be one of the front-runners in the Junior WRC category on next week's Rally GB - but Guy could also take the JWRC title in Wales, assuming the FIA's International Court of Appeal upholds the decision to strip Per-Gunnar Andersson of his Turkish victory.

Crash.net Radio caught up with Wilks to talk exclusively about his year to date, his thoughts for Rally GB and looking ahead to 2007...



Q:
Guy, final round of the season coming up, your home event, what can we expect from you on Rally GB?

Guy Wilks:
What can we expect from me? Good question. It has been a while since Turkey and we are still waiting for the results over my team-mate Per-Gunnar Andersson's exclusion from that event. From a personal point of view I think, after all the bad luck that people have had this year, if the decision is upheld it will leave it more open for a fair fight on the Rally GB - and it would obviously all give us a chance of the championship again.

But that doesn't alter the way we approach the event anyway. We won it in 2004 - that was the last time it was held as a Junior WRC round and our aim will be the same as always on every round, to win.

Q:
Obviously you are going to be one of the top home drivers, along with Kris Meeke, Matthew Wilson and Mark Higgins, to mention just a few, the latter two in WRC cars. How much will that 'home advantage' help you?

GW:
Well it is always nice to have home support. They make themselves heard all the time - and it gives you an extra edge. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, not necessarily in the stages, although sometimes it does, but you are concentrating so hard when you are driving, but definitely outside of the stages - the support is fantastic.

But as far as actual experience on the event goes, I think there are people in the Junior WRC who have almost as much as experience of it as myself. My team-mate, P-G, he has done it three times and this will be his fourth and my fifth, so I have only got one more year of experience of Wales over him. And there are a few other people with good experience as well. But I think experience pays less and less and I think if you are a good driver you will always shine through. However, with the experience between myself and Phil [Pugh - my co-driver] of the event - and knowing what it takes to win, hopefully that will pay dividends and we will end up winning it.

Q:
It must be difficult approaching it, especially as the championship is uncertain, pending that appeal. It keeps it right open doesn't it?

GW:
Yeah, it does pending that enquiry and I think there should be a decision by Tuesday. I think the hearing is on Monday and there will be a decision by Tuesday. But it doesn't change the way we approach the event. There will just obviously be more at stake, should the decision be upheld, and then it gives four of us a chance of winning the championship. We will go from there. It is always nice to end the championship on a winning note, whether that be with the title or without, obviously Wales being our home event we are up for it - and we want to win it nevertheless.

Q:
Looking back at the season so far, overall, you have had some notable results - your JWRC wins in Argentina and in Finland - but overall it's not quite come together has it?

GW:
It has been a very frustrating year to be brutally honest. We started the year in Sweden, it was decided by the team that we wouldn't take on any tarmac challenges, which was a bit disappointing for me, but it could have paid off and proved the right decision had things gone more for us. We had a driveshaft problem in Sweden, while we were lying fourth and we were looking like we could have taken third. We lost all of those points with the driveshaft problem.

Then on the second round in Argentina, we led from the very first stage to the last. We led the rally from start to finish.

In Sardinia we had a tactical battle there. We decided we didn't want to lead the rally outright straight away, because we knew punctures would come into play. And we played our tactics out and it proved perfect - only for an oil pipe to come off with three and a half stages to go. Then the engine blew up because it lost all of the oil. That stripped us of ten points. We were 2 minutes and 40 seconds up on everybody else in the rally. It was ours and it just shows what can happen in rallying. It is never over until you are at the finish on the podium.

Finland was fantastic – I have got to say, it was absolutely the highlight of the year. I have been chasing to win that since 2003 and for one reason or another it has always eluded us. But as everybody knows Finland is the fastest rally in the world championship on gravel and it still has the presence of the team managers to be the one, if you are a driver worth his salt, then you will go quick there. We proved that again. We have always gone quick there - but we have usually had mechanical problems and so to get the win at last was fantastic.

Turkey, what can I say? It was just a catalogue of problems. Very frustrating, resulting in the last problem we had, that we hooked up in some very deep ruts after the horrendous weather and the car just slowly rolled over. Fortunately we still managed to keep fourth position and that has potentially kept us in the fight for the championship.

Q:
It is very weird with this appeal still pending, it is a shame they couldn't have held it a little bit sooner isn't it?

GW:
Well, I suppose it adds to the drama doesn't it? For people looking from the outside in, it makes them hang on that little bit longer and I suppose to a certain extent it might create a hell of a buzz. I mean [if the stewards' decision stands] there is one driver, Urmo Aava on 30 points, P-G is on 29 points, Patrik Sandell is on 28 and I myself are on 26. So if I win, I need hopefully Kris Meeke to come second ideally and then it wouldn't matter if P-G or Urmo came third, I would win because I have the most wins in the championship calendar this year.

So it has been very frustrating - just to go back to how the year has gone. We have led four out of five rallies this year and only come away with two wins, which has been quite annoying. But at the same time, if we have a chance of winning the championship, with the things that have gone on, then that is fantastic.

Q:
Looking at things post-Rally GB and to 2007, what's happening on that front? Can you reveal anything?

GW:
Have you got any money? Because that is what it is down to, we are desperately in need of some sponsorship. Obviously we are chasing that at the moment. Ideally I would like to be in a WRC car. My 1600 contact is up with Suzuki, so that leaves me free to chase whatever I like. And not that we won't be in talks with Suzuki over what is happening with the WRC car for next year, but ideally I want to be in a competitive WRC car next year - as soon as possible. I believe in myself and it's not to say, some people believe in themselves even though, we might say they don't have the talent. I know I can do a good job and I believe we could surprise a few people. It is just we need an opportunity to get into a car to be able to prove that.

Q:
You had a chance in a WRC car of course, just prior to Turkey, when you competed in Ireland. And you have been doing the BRC as well, although not of course in a WRC car, as they are not allowed in it anymore. But you have certainly been keeping busy away from the JWRC haven't you?

GW:
Yeah definitely, I have had to invest in my own future if you like. Doing the BRC has kept me match fit and an opportunity arose to go and potentially drive a WRC car in Ireland, against Eugene Donnelly, the current Irish tarmac championship holder, Mark Higgins and Markko Martin. And we thought it was too good an opportunity to miss. I couldn't at that point afford to go and do a WRC event in a World Rally Car, so we thought this was the next best thing. We went out there and proved our pace straight away - and definitely did surprise a lot of people. I was comfortably leading Markko by over a minute on the first day and Mark Higgins by 30 seconds, so our pace was definitely proven.

So it is very frustrating. There are people out there who have been lucky enough to get a chance in a World Rally Car - we just need that luck to get the same opportunity.

Q:
Going back to Suzuki, you said a moment ago you are still in talks with them. I understood, obviously incorrectly, that they aren't going to go with either yourself or P-G Andersson when they step up to the senior level with their WRC car...

GW:
Well a lot of things get said - and a lot of things get taken out of context. It is not a case they won't go with us. It is just a case of at the moment the car isn't testing in Europe and there is not a great deal for us to do. The team are restructuring it would seem in Paris and you have never got to lose contact with these people. I have developed a good relationship with Suzuki over the last three years and I have just got to if you like shout my corner. I haven't got the greatest of WRC car experience but I know I would back myself to do a good job. I have got to prove that to them. So if we can get a couple of drives in a World Rally Car at the start of the year, then we would stand a much better chance of getting that drive.

Q:
So definitely not all over on that front then?

GW:
No, no - absolutely not, it is one of those things, rallying, like motorsport in general, is such a small community that you should never burn your bridges. And we are really looking to try and enhance my own profile by getting us more experience of World Rally Cars, but at the same time trying to gain results. But the most important thing is to get myself into a WRC car as soon as possible.

Q:
Thanks for your time Guy and good luck on the Rally GB.


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