by Rob Wilkins

Suzuki's Guy Wilks has supplemented his programme in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship with two events in the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship thus far this season. Here he talks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about his events in both the Junior WRC and the BRC, as well as giving his thoughts on the decisions made by the World Motor Sport Council on July 5 with regard to the 2007 WRC calendar and lots, lots more...

Q:
Guy, your last event in the FIA Junior WRC was in Sardinia [in May] and you were looking good for the victory until the end when you had a problem with the oil pipe. Have you got over that now?

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Guy Wilks:
Yeah it is one of those things. You can't drag things like that on with you otherwise you get on a bit of a downward slope in terms of your psychological approach to the whole championship and the next rally. Obviously it was a big headache at the time and a big pill to swallow but we had to do it. We knew the rally was ours and we knew we had done everything right - it was a perfect rally. But unfortunately, as you say, the oil pipe came loose and, well, it cost us the result, simple as that. I think we have got over it. We have had a bit of time to do a couple of rallies in the UK, well one more rally in the UK and had a good result. We know we are on top of our form - so onwards and upwards now.

Q:
We will come to the BRC in more detail in a moment - but your next event in the JWRC is in Finland. How do you expect to do there?

GW:
We are looking forward to Finland. We have always gone really well there. It is one of our favourite events, if not our favourite event, in terms of myself and Phil [Pugh - my co-driver]. We are massively looking forward to it and obviously we will be hoping for a good result. We should have good preparation for it. We are going to the Isle of Man just a couple of weeks beforehand [to do the BRC event there]. It is obviously tarmac but it is still good to be able to get in a car and compete before we go to Finland. Finland has massive jumps and very high speed stages and it suits the front-wheel drive cars exceptionally well. We are hoping for a good result and we are going there for the win.

Q:
We are in the midst of the long summer break in the WRC now, have you had any tests with Suzuki for your remaining events in the JWRC, which of course in addition to Finland, will include Turkey and GB?

GW:
No unfortunately not. We haven't done any testing with the Swift, which is not ideal. But at the same time it has been well documented Suzuki and the team is working on other things. It would be nice from my point of view to do some testing, but that doesn't seem to be foremost on the list at the moment. But hopefully we will be able to get a little bit of time in the car. There is nothing definite inked in the diary but there is a test pencilled it and hopefully that will come off.

Q:
You have also competed in two rounds of the BRC to date, most recently taking the S1600 win on the Jim Clark Rally. Have you enjoyed that diversion from the JWRC?

GW:
Yeah, it has been great because there is a massive break in the World Rally Championship now, as you said, and it has been good to keep our match fitness there. You get very bored if you are not doing it and it is what we thrive on and what we wait for. So we have competed in a couple of British Championship rounds and they have gone very well. The opposition is quite stiff. Roman Kresta is there, he was obviously a Ford works driver last year in a World Rally Car and times wise, both on the Pirelli and the Jim Clark, we have beaten him comprehensively in older machinery. He is in the latest Fiesta, which has a whole new set of homologations on it and it looks to be a better car than it first was and we have got the old Ignis. So we are very pleased with our pace in the British Championship.

Q:
How much will that help you in your battle for honours in the JWRC?

GW:
I think, like I said before, it is a case of keeping match fit. In terms of driving techniques for those cars, people might think, yeah it is another S1600 car and the technique is very similar. But the Ignis from the Swift is a very different feel. You actually drive them quite differently, because the Swift is so much more technically advanced than the Ignis. The Ignis is a very basic car that we are using in the British Championship and it doesn't quite absorb the bumps. The suspension and the geometry are the main thing with the Ignis. Although the Ignis is a very robust car, the suspension and geometry on the Swift works a damn sight better and I think you can obviously carry more speed because the car is much more settled over the fast ground. So yeah, it is good S1600 competition and we are really enjoying it.

Q:
Are you going to do any more BRC events this year or the whole calendar?

GW:
We are definitely penned in to do the Isle of Man, which is obviously in about two weeks. After that we are doing the Trackrod, which we were planning to miss as we were suppose to be going to Japan at the time, but it looks like those plans may have changed now, so we will have to wait and see but we are definitely doing the Isle of Man.

Q:
Returning to the WRC, the FIA announced the schedule for 2007 a few weeks ago, along with various changes to the regulations. The WRC is going to stick with running the calendar from January to December, I'm not sure if you are aware, but Suzuki has just announced this morning [Wednesday, July 19], that although they are going to do some events with the SX4 in 2007, subject to approval by the FIA, they won't actually step up to the 'senior' level proper until 2008. What is your reaction to that?

GW:
Well it is news to me! [laughs]. Well it is one of those things. I am concentrating first and foremost on what I am doing this year. That is most important to me and then yeah, obviously I would be silly not to be looking at next year and what my options are going to be. But at the same time I am concentrating on what I am doing this year and making sure I impress the right people and push the right buttons to try and get in a WRC car. The sooner I can do that the better, so draw your own conclusions from that.

Q:
Suzuki have been testing the SX4 recently, have you heard how that has been going?

GW:
No I haven't heard. Obviously that is going on in Japan and I am sat back here [in the UK]. I think they are trying to keep things close to their chest as to what is going on with the car and it will remain close to their chest! [laughs]

Q:
Final question, two points really, more generally speaking, one: what were your thoughts on the calendar for 2007, the inclusion of Ireland, Norway and Portugal and secondly: the alterations to the regulations?

GW:
The inclusion of those new events is obviously very exciting. I think it will help with a bit of resurgence with the championship, because it does prove if other events around the world want to come to the party then it definitely is possible. I think Norway is a very exciting event, because to have only one winter snow rally in Sweden was little bit crazy. Furthermore although Norway and Sweden are very close, Norway put the effort in and I was out there last year and they did a very good job. Ireland has done exactly the same. I didn't go to there event but they obviously did a good job and impressed the right people and likewise with Portugal, which has been in the championship before and was a bit of a classic. They got shown the red card for a few obvious reasons and I think they have to hold their hands up because of that and they have done a good job in getting the event back. It would have been very easy just to get disheartened and let that event go. It just shows how important rallying is to them, which is what we want. We want that desire and passion from the countries we go to, to want to hold the event and really incorporate everybody and everything into the event. So I think it is very good that new events are coming into the championship and in terms of regulation changes, I am not exactly 100 per cent sure what they are, as I have been away, so you can maybe fill me in on those?

Q:
Well the first one concerns the SupeRally - and from the start of 2007, those returning under the SupeRally will not be classified in the overall standings, although they will be eligible to pick up bonus points, with the fastest three drivers in each leg now getting points for their efforts.

GW:
I think it is possibly a good thing because some people in the past, I remember now, the other regulation is the tyres, with the mousse isn't it?

Q:
Yeah.

GW:
Well I think, with regard to the bonus points, I think it is a very good idea. Some people, not abused the SupeRally situation, but rallying has always been a test of man and machine over a set period of time and distance. I think it has now gone a little bit towards a sprint type of approach. Whereas as, OK, nobody wants the SupeRally, but it is not as big a downer, if you SupeRally on the last stage of the day, lets say, as it would be, if you went out on the last stage of the day. It was an endurance event or rallying is an endurance sport and back in the days, I can remember, even in 2003, when we were rallying a different S1600 car, we use to have to fix the thing, because it didn't matter, you didn't want to go out of the rally. If you lost 15 minutes, you lost 15 minutes, but so did somebody else and so you tried your hardest to keep going. So I think it is a good thing to award bonus points for each day. Like I say, I can't say it has not been my favourite format, but it hasn't really worked for me and especially when you get, let's say, a lot of cars going out and somebody uses the SupeRally and still picks up a fourth or a fifth. I think that is a little bit harsh for the person that wins the event and hasn't put a foot wrong. So bonus points are definitely a good idea.

As for the tyres what will be, will be. It is a pity that Pirelli are obviously pulling out because competition is always good. If you go to the JWRC though we use a single tyre manufacturer and it seems to work. There are no complaints and everybody is on a level playing field so I think it is a good thing. But as I say it is just a pity as it is always nice to have competition from other manufacturers' of products. I think Pirelli will be sorely missed.

Q:
Obviously the other big change is no mousse for the 'senior' WRC from 2008.

GW:
I think that will be a good thing because we are use to driving the cars with no mousse [in the JWRC], and the WRC cars are heavier and they definitely take in a more aggressive line. It is going to be very interesting, because people, not complain, but everybody says WRC cars, they are quick there is no doubt about it, but people say sometimes they are boring to watch. The thing is with the mousse you can possibly cut the corner so much, because you are not worried about getting a puncture to a certain extent, you straight-line the corner and that is why they are maybe not that spectacular to watch because they don't have to keep to the dimensions or follow the road as much they would if they didn't have any mousse in the tyre. Once they have to follow the road, obviously that tightens the bend up so that can make the car go slightly more sideways, so it could be a good thing from the spectator point of view. However from a competitors point of view, I have driven once on mousse and it is the most amazing feeling to know you don't have the risk because you can take those lines and lets say, 95 per cent of the time, you can take those lines with the normal tyres without mousse and get away with it, but it is that 5 per cent that is a worry. With mousse you don't have that worry and you take those lines and it is just the most incredible feeling going in so quickly. Overall I think it will be very interesting to see and I think some of the drivers will have to, definitely not re-think their style, but will just have to be slightly be more cautious in the lines that they take.

Q:
Thanks Guy and good luck in Finland - and of course on those BRC events as well.