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Q&A: Guy Wilks - EXCLUSIVE

1 February 2008

by Rob Wilkins


TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH GUY WILKS: CLICK HERE


Mitsubishi's Guy Wilks will be out to try and defend his crown in the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship this year. Crash.net Radio caught with the Englishman recently and spoke to him about that - and got the latest on his plans to try and compete in the WRC too...


Crash.net:
Guy, at the Autosport International Show a few weeks ago it was confirmed - as expected - that you will be back with the 'works' Mitsubishi team this year. How happy are you to be able to come back and try to defend your BRC title?

Guy Wilks:
I am more than happy to come back in and defend my BRC title. We had a great year last season - myself and Mitsubishi in the UK. Obviously it culminated with me winning the British championship and them winning the manufacturers' crown as well. It was a fantastic year and I am delighted to come back and try and repeat the performance.

Crash.net:
Will it be hard to take the title again?

GW:
It is never easy in rallying is it? Not only are you up against opposition but you are up against yourself, the car and the environment. Anything can happen in rallying. You never count your chickens. I am definitely looking forward to it and while it is never easy I am now much more familiar with the car. I was up against the hardest opposition in the UK in Mark Higgins and Gwyndaf Evans. They don't come much better than those two and we managed to beat them last year. I am fairly confident but I am not getting too far ahead of the game.

Crash.net:
Last year the battle went to the wire on the Wales Rally GB although in part that was due to the points system, whereby competitors only count their best five scores from seven.

GW:
I had nobody to blame really for one of the dropped scores, apart from myself - and that was why it did go down to the wire. On the Jim Clark we slid off while leading and that put some more pressure on us. But fortunately for myself the way the championship works you can only count five from seven points scoring opportunities. However I think if I am honest I shouldn't have made that mistake and it would have been a little bit easier if I hadn't. It was what it was though. We put the pressure on ourselves and we still managed to win it.

Crash.net:
Who do you think will be your main opposition this season?

GW:
It is difficult to know because it is so early with the British championship with it not really starting - or nobody really knowing what they are doing - until April. I don't know what my opposition is. I don't really know who is doing it. Obviously Phillip Morrow is joining the team in Gwyndaf's seat. I will definitely have to watch Phillip. He is in the same machinery and the first thing you have to do is beat your team-mate. Phillip has got a great opportunity coming from the Evo Challenge and I am sure he is looking forward to the year. But other than that I don't know. There are a lot of rumours flying around. However there is no point trying to make any judgements based on speculation. We will see what happens.

Crash.net:
I guess the only other main person confirmed so far is David Higgins.

GW:
Yeah, David is coming back and it will be interesting to see how he does because he is going to use the new Subaru. I think we had the measure of David last year and it didn't matter whether he was in the Super 2000 or a Group N car. But it will definitely still be interesting from the start of the championship. I am sure he is looking forward to the championship and being in a known quantity. I suppose it is a known quantity, as such.

Crash.net:
You will have a new team-mate, as you mentioned, in the shape of Phillip Morrow, are you looking forward to working with him?

GW:
Yeah, when you are involved in a proper team it is always nice to work with different people. Phil is a little bit younger than me - and he has come to the BRC by a slightly different route. He has always really driven Group N cars, whereas I came from front-wheel drive. He is probably more familiar with Group N cars than I am. But I am sure he is going to be relying on some of the experience I have and will want to glean some of that knowledge. It will be interesting. I have never really had a younger team-mate or a less experienced team-mate as such. Not that it is going to be much of a problem for myself. But it will just be interesting because I am probably coming from a different perspective. Somebody is going to be trying to get information from myself as opposed to me trying to get information from them.

Crash.net:
Last year you had Gwyndaf Evans as your team-mate, are you going to miss him - and his input?

GW:
I enjoyed my year with Gwyndaf. It was fantastic. Gwyndaf is a fountain of knowledge in terms of the British championship and I think he enjoyed working with me. We come from, not necessarily different ends of the spectrum, but something along those lines. Definitely in terms of our personality and the way we drive but we always worked together and we always found a good set-up. It was great to be involved with Gwyndaf.

Crash.net:
Phil Pugh is obviously staying on as your co-driver, that wasn't 100 per cent certain last year. How important is that and how much of a boost is it?

GW:
Phil is just milking it! He likes the media attention [laughs]. Yeah he was a little bit uncertain last year and I didn't want to force him into anything. We have been together a few years now and we have travelled far and wide over the world and we have been fortunate in that respect. But it had become more of a frustration than anything that our careers, they didn't necessarily stall as such, but we just got to a level where there wasn't room to go anywhere else at world championship level. That is how the British Rally championship opportunity with Mitsubishi came about. I think perhaps winning the title in the BRC has given us both a bit of an extra boost. It just makes it a little bit easier and that is probably what swayed Phil's mind. It is difficult to walk away from rallying. It is not so difficult when you have to pay for it, but when it is all being paid for you have a different mentality towards it. We are going to keep going together this year and we will see what happens.

Crash.net:
The first event, the Pirelli International, isn't until April, what are you going to be doing to prepare for round one of the BRC?

GW:
Good question [laughs]. We definitely won't be preparing by going down the pub! It is something you have to take very seriously and the only real preparation that doesn't cost a lot of money is the fitness and that does amount to something. If you are physically fit then you are mentally fit. I am a great believer of that. We have a few months on our side yet. That is the biggest preparation that Phil and I can do. In terms of testing and getting in the car, that will come much closer to the event. Obviously it will be quite limited. We are dealing with a budget here and as such we won't really be getting in the car until probably early April.

Crash.net:
Looking away from the BRC, are you still hoping to do some events in the WRC this year?

GW:
I always hope to do some events in the WRC. It is just whether that becomes a reality. It is so difficult at the moment. Some people seem to be lucky enough to get the opportunities and some people don't. It is as simple as that. That is the same in every walk of life. But it is not something we are giving up on. We are definitely working hard. We would love the opportunity, Phil and I, to get in a competitive car and really give it a good crack. I think that is the only opportunity we would like to take. We need to get into a really up-to-date car and see what we can do. We need a few events on the trot to really prove ourselves.

Crash.net:
Any idea when your WRC programme might begin, because I know you have been quoted as saying it definitely won't be for the first four events...

GW:
I think that is just common sense more than anything else with what the four events are and the time scale leading up to that. It was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek comment if you like. Being realistic it would be nice to be out there doing something by the middle of the year. But it is all requiring budget as normal. Like I said though, it is not something we are going to give up on.

Crash.net:
Are you still looking for £1 million to finance it?

GW:
No, I was asked how much it would cost to do ten events and that is pretty much what you are looking at and what would give you a good programme. That is the approximate figure. That would be like the lottery coming up. But it is not to say we are close to gaining that figure at all. We are only just starting. You just finish one year and you are straight into the next year. You have just got one lot of budget and then you are looking for the next lot. We will see happens.

Crash.net:
Are there any cars in particular you want to use or is it a case of every option is open?

GW:
Every option is always open but you have to look at the most competitive cars really and the most competitive cars at the moment seem to be the Citroen and the Ford. The Subaru definitely seems to be OK and they have done work on it over the off-season, but they have not made a great change. David Richards [Subaru boss] has been quoted as saying they need to stop work on that car and concentrate on making the new car better now, which I think is definitely a wise move. But they have started the year reasonably well in Monte Carlo with the old car. It would have to be then an S12 or 06 Focus or a C4 really. The Xsara is a good car but you have got to be in or have something similar to what the top guys are using in order to know exactly where you stand against them.

Crash.net:
It is a case of watch this space at the moment then?

GW:
Definitely, but I wouldn't watch too closely too soon! There is nothing coming on the horizon that I can really talk about as such. There is nothing to talk about. But I would like to think by the middle of the year - or just before really – that we will have something in the pipeline.

Crash.net:
Are there any other things in consideration in addition to the BRC and WRC?

GW:
There is nothing else really in consideration. The WRC is where I want to be. People have said about the Intercontinental Rally Challenge and it is not that I discount the IRC. It is just a case of I want to try and get in the WRC. Why look at anything else if that is what you are forging your way towards? I believe we are good enough to be there. It is as simple as that and we will continue to work towards it.

Crash.net:
It is quite interesting with the WRC at the moment, to think that with this rotation system there will be no Rallye Monte Carlo next year and the Monte will actually be part of the IRC.

GW:
Yeah the rotation of events is going to be interesting. They need to bring costs down somehow and I am not saying they have necessarily done that. Obviously they have reduced the events from 2009. But I think the changes with the tyres are good. Now everyone runs on the same ones, there are no manufacturer options which cost a lot more money. The tyres are open to everybody whereas before BFGoodrich use to have a tyre and Michelin before had a tyre that the works guys could get hold of - and it was available to privateers, but it was at a totally different price. I think it is a much more level playing field now and obviously no mousse too, so punctures come into it. It doesn't really matter if you have a stronger car as such as you are still reliant on the tyre staying inflated. That is definitely I think a good thing to have done. It brings in a different dimension. People were saying Sebastien [Loeb] had won the Rallye Monte Carlo after a day and a half. But he hadn't until he had got through the last stage because a puncture would have lost it for him. It adds a bit more excitement to the sport and that is what we need.

Crash.net:
The result on the Monte was all too predictable at the end, but hopefully things will be a bit different in Sweden and Mexico.

GW:
Definitely. I hope and I believe that Mikko [Hirvonen] can really take it to Sebastien on the gravel. He did a fantastic job last year and he definitely was under team orders. But this year I think he will be allowed to crack on. It is going to be interesting to see what he can achieve.


TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH GUY WILKS: CLICK HERE


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