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Q&A: Guy Wilks - EXCLUSIVE

20 March 2007

by Rob Wilkins


Britain's Guy Wilks has taken the step up to the 'senior' level in the FIA World Rally Championship this season, having put together a privateer programme with a Ramsport-run Ford Focus World Rally Car. The former Suzuki and Junior WRC front-runner will take in his second event with the Mobil 1-backed Ford at the of this month in Portugal and here he speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about that and lots, lots more...


Q:
Guy, your next event in the WRC with the Focus is coming up. How are you feeling ahead of the Rally de Portugal?

Guy Wilks:
I am looking forward to it. Obviously it is a gravel event, which we are use to. Also after what happened last time in Norway we are looking to make amends. We want to find our feet on an event that not everybody has done. Hopefully it should be OK.

Q:
What are your targets then, to get to the finish?

GW:
Yeah, I want to get mileage. I am desperate for it in the new car - that is the most important thing. Like you say, to get to the finish, is a good thing. We want to see exactly where are pace lets us go too. We do not want to take any risks though. To be truthful we don't want to happen this time, what happened in Norway. We don't want to go off the road with what was a minor error. We can't afford to do that – it has consequences. So we have got to play a safe game.

Q:
You of course did your first event with the Ford in Norway, have you done or will you do any testing prior to Portugal to further familiarise yourself with the Focus?

GW:
Hopefully we are doing a day this Saturday [March 24], which should be great. It is just the right time - it is perfect to do a test five days before the event starts. It is a good time to get in the car, just to refresh myself and get a few miles under my belt. I will then have the car in my mind when I am writing the pace notes. So it is ideal. Probably a better situation than we had in Norway. I am really looking forward to that.

Q:
Staying with Norway, I know you retired early on day two, but could you still take some positives from that event?

GW:
Definitely - when the car was right and Phil [Pugh – my co-driver] and I knew we were comfortable, we set some good times, some good split times. That was a real positive. The pace was there and we were beating Dani Sordo and Chris Atkinson, who are both works drivers, in some of those stages - and if we weren't beating them we were very close to them. That was a good point. It was the first time I had stepped in the car too and it was in circumstances I am not to use to and everyone else was use to [following the Swedish Rally - the only other WRC event on snow, which took place the week before]. When you are a privateer you are never in an ideal situation and we have just got to take the opportunity we have and our next opportunity is Portugal. We have to really make it work.

Q:
Will it be easier being on gravel, as opposed to snow?

GW:
I'm sure it will be - although you can get caught out on gravel as easy as you can on snow. But of course there are no snow banks and you can see what is at the sides of the roads, there is nothing hidden.

We will have to see what the roads are like though. It is obviously a new event for everybody and it is in a different part of the country than it previously ran in. So, who knows what the roads are going to be like - and the weather. The weather could play a determining factor in obviously the road conditions and how everybody plans to take the event. That will, I believe, be the most interesting thing - the weather.

Q:
Now I believe you have an eight round programme lined up for this year with the Focus, is that correct?

GW:
We are hoping for eight, but we have got four or five definitely planned and the rest are due to follow on. We have a programme in mind at the moment but we are maybe looking at trying to switch it. It is definitely not set in stone.

Q:
Can you give us some more details?

GW:
At the moment after Portugal we go to Finland and so it would be nice to have one in between. We might switch one of the events later in the year for one slightly earlier on in the year, as that might be more advantageous to try and fill a gap. That would help to take a bit of the pressure out of the end of year programme, which we are possibly going to undertake. So that is the idea.

Q:
Do you have anything else planned - any BRC events, IRC etc, etc?

GW:
Not at the moment, possibly some Irish tarmac stuff but that has not been decided. I have been asked whether or not I would like to do it – and I would in a WRC car, but it just has to be sorted out and the sponsors have to be put together.

Q:
Prior to this year, you were of course competing in the Junior WRC with Suzuki, how useful is all that experience?

GW:
It has been a brilliant experience. I was a very lucky boy to be honest. I had three years with Suzuki and travelled far and wide with them. It was all in S1600 cars but I still gained a lot of experience of working with a manufacturer, because it was more or less a works team effort, a professional team and attitude. The mileage on the different events Phil and I were able to compete on was a huge bonus. I have no doubt at some point this year it will pay dividends or it will benefit me.

Q:
Have you been keeping an eye on the Junior series this year?

GW:
Yeah, I have but I have to say it is a little bit boring really isn't it? The strength in depth in terms of competition is all of a sudden just gone. In the Junior championship we have always had a strong top five and this year it is not really there. With the regulations allowing Group N 2 litre cars - and Renault decided that was the way they wanted to go - and there is a whole host of different cars there too, those cars aren't quite as competitive as the Super 1600 cars. A lot of the drivers have either just tried and tried again, but just run out of sponsorship and money or have gone away to do other things. The strength in depth in drivers' just isn't there anymore. It is a bit disappointing, because it is a great formula.

Q:
Finally, how critical is it that you make an impression this year with the Focus WRC? Is it make or break?

GW:
[pause] …It is always make or break depending on what your circumstances are. It is not in the most serious sense of the term, but I really want to prove what I am capable of and I just have to be careful I am not too eager to do that – or we are not too eager to do that, Phil and myself. We know we can do it. It is just having everything right around us. Like I said before, when you are a privateer, you have to make the extra effort with the team, with the car, with everything, to make everything click. Works drivers are very lucky and that's what we are aiming for. We want to make an impression this year and that is the biggest thing.


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