by Rob Wilkins

Matthew Wilson was at the 2006 Rallyday on Saturday flying the flag for the Stobart VK Ford World Rally team. Here he speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about that event, his year to date and his hopes for the second half of the season...

Q:
Matthew, are you enjoying the Rallyday thus far?

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Matthew Wilson
Yeah, it is good - obviously, I think the weather has brought a lot of people out [it was still hot and dry at this point - ed] and it is fairly busy. But it should be good and once we can do a few runs in the car at lunch time as well, that will be even more fun. I haven't had a proper look around yet and hopefully I will go and see what is here and have a good walk around. But from what I have seen so far, it does look good.

Q:
Have you got anything special planned for the fans when you go out on track?

MW:
I don't know. I am going to have to try and find out exactly what I am doing and see what I can do. We will maybe see what everyone else does...

Q:
I assume you are allowed to do donuts here?

MW:
Yeah I think so - it should be a bit more lenient than in Greece, where a few people got punished for that. It is good days like this where you can be a bit of a hooligan and enjoy yourself and show what the cars can do.

Q:
Is it nice to do an event like this, where you don't have to worry about competing and you can mingle with the crowds and speak to all these 'great' journalists?

MW: [laughs] Yeah exactly, like you say, there is no real pressure and you can see all the cars and be with all the people you are with on rallies but it is in a lot more relaxed atmosphere. You are not competing and pushing for stage times or anything. It is good and quite a nice break.

Q:
On a more serious note, the summer break is now about to come to an end. Looking back on the first eight events, how do you assess things so far?

MW:
Obviously it has had its up's and down's - like any season it is going to have that. I think there have obviously been some high points for me, Argentina and Mexico for example, probably even Greece as well, where although I had the food poisoning, we still came away with quite a good result and got tenth. There have been low points too though, like Sardinia, which was just abysmal. We had problems with the car for two days in Italy and we only got one clean run on the Sunday. There have been some difficult rallies as well, but some enjoyable ones too. Sweden was hard for instant, I am not going to say it wasn't - it was my first time on snow in Sweden, but it was enjoyable - it was really fast and good fun. Overall it's definitely been really mixed, but hopefully in the second half of the year it should be more consistent. We are on gravel on seven of the eight rallies left now and we have got the new car as well, which is going to be really exciting. So there is a lot happening in the second half of the year, which should make it a lot better, I think.

Q:
When will you actually use the new car?

MW:
We have got it for Japan, Australia and New Zealand - and hopefully GB at the end of the year, if we can get the car back in time from New Zealand, it all depends on the logistics really. But hopefully we will have it for four of the eight events.

Q:
How much of a difference will it make, in terms of competitive times and so on?

MW:
Don't get me wrong, I think Japan will be difficult, because I have never driven the new Focus properly and I don't think I am going to get the chance to do so before the shakedown - that will probably be the only chance before the rally, which will make it quite difficult. But I sat in on the recent Finland test with Marcus [Gronholm] and Mikko [Hirvonen] and you can just see the grip the thing has and the engine is a big development as well. I am sure by the time we get to Australia and New Zealand and we have got a feel for it, it will be very good.

Q:
The next two events coming up are in Germany and Finland, how do you expect to do on those two rounds?

MW:
I think they are both going to be very difficult. In one sense it is quite good however as I did the recce for both of them last year, which is the only two I have done them for, apart from GB, so that should makes thing a little bit easier. But I think they are two very demanding rallies. Germany hopefully won't be too bad if it stays dry, but if it is wet it is fairly treacherous, you have seen some of the accidents people have had there over the years. I think it is quite a dangerous place - you have got to treat it with a bit of caution. Finland I am really looking forward to, although I don't think you can expect too much the first time you go there, as it is such a specialised rally, but it will be enjoyable as the stages are so quick. I am definitely looking forward to them both, but I think they are going to be two of the most difficult of the year, along with Monte Carlo, which was back in January.

Q:
Some changes have been announced in recent weeks by the FIA on the regulation front. What are your thoughts on these alterations?

MW:
I think there are good points and bad points to all of them. Obviously the new calendar is quite exciting as well, that's another thing. It is fantastic to get Rally Ireland in there. It is an event I have done before and it had a great atmosphere and great stages. Norway as well is going to be another good rally. On the regulations, I think the mousse is the only thing that is a bit of a worry, because, especially on tarmac, it is actually quite dangerous. We have seen some of the accidents that people have had over the years without mousse and you only need a tyre to come off the rim. But also the expense it can cause is bad because if you do get a puncture, people will want to drive until the end of the stage, rather than lose two minutes changing a puncture. So you imagine you rip a wing off, a head-light and a bumper and you are up to thousands of pounds worth of damage - I don't know if it is a bit of a false economy in some ways then.