27 July 2006
Q&A: Mark Higgins - EXCLUSIVE.
by Rob Wilkins
Mark Higgins was at the 2006 Rallyday on Saturday with Mitsubishi. Here he speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about that event and the current state of the WRC, including the new calendar for 2007 and the new rules and regulations. He also talks about his season thus far in the BRC and his hopes for the next round - the Rally Isle of Man, which runs from August 3-5...
Mark, how are you enjoying things so far at the Rallyday?
It's good - it is a great atmosphere, I was here last year for the first time driving some of Richard [Burns]'s cars and the weather was atrocious, but it is a very different day today - very hot [at least it was until around 1pm when the rain arrived - ed] and a good turn-out and plenty of good cars here.
Last year it was very wet wasn't it, at the moment it is a complete contrast?
Yeah from one extreme to the other, we were on wet tyres all the time last year, but now we can get the speed up as it is dry. The main thing on days like today is that the spectators get to see everything and when the weather is good they can do that.
Like you say, it is a fantastic turn-out so far.
Yeah, it is only early too. We came in here at half nine and already there is a very good crowd and lots of car are queuing to get in. It should be a very good day I hope.
Last year in addition to doing the BRC, which you are again doing this year and which we will come to in a moment, you competed in the FIA Production Car WRC. I know it didn't exactly go to plan, but are you missing competing in the WRC?
Yeah very much so. I am working on all the rounds this year with Pirelli, so I have been to every rally so far this year although it is frustrating to be working on the sidelines and not doing it. But we have been very, very busy and I think it is like everybody, a budget is very hard to find nowadays and the cars are getting more and more expensive to run. However we are working on things for the future and hopefully we will be able to do some rallies again. We will just see what happens.
The FIA has announced some changes for the WRC recently, on the regulation front and with regard to the schedule. What are you thoughts on those alterations? Let's begin with the three new events on the calendar...
I think it is good to bring in new events, especially for the younger drivers'. The problem we have got at the moment is the rallies are staying the same every year, so if you have been doing these events for ten years it is very, very hard to be competitive first time out. So it gives the young stars a chance to shine, which is great. The new events coming in, Rally Ireland, I think, will be fantastic - it is a shame about the time of year it will be run, but it will make it a real challenge with the shiny tarmac which we all know about. Also I think they have got rid of a couple of events, which I not sure should have been there, so it has worked quite well and I think it should make it an exciting championship.
Obviously the big loss was probably Australia. Wasn't it?
Well they were talking about moving from Perth anyway, so I think there was a bit of that involved. Australia has always been a fantastic rally from the point of view of the atmosphere and the organisation, but to lose rallies like Cyprus, which has been very hard on cars and I don't think the roads have been re-graded for five or six years, is maybe, not a massive loss. But you need to change things around a bit - it is a shame to lose Australia, but I am sure they will come back, if they get a good venue in the future.
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