by Rob Wilkins

Richard Burns' former, co-driver Robert Reid was one of the stars at the 2006 Rallyday recently and like all those at the event, at mid-day, he fell silent to remember Burns and Michael 'Beef' Park - both of whom passed away at the end of last year, the latter while competing on the Wales Rally GB, while the former lost his battle against cancer in November.

Recently the Richard Burns Foundation was launched at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, in memory of both Burns and Park and to help 'raise resources and awareness of projects that help people of all ages in their fight against adversity'.

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Here Reid speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about the RBF, its second event at Castle Combe and his role as the director of the MSA British Rally Elite programme and the MSA British Rally Academy, both schemes created to help British talent rise to the top of the sport and eventually emulate the achievements of the likes of Burns and Reid, who of course took the FIA World Rally Championship together in 2001 with Subaru.

Q:
Robert, how are you enjoying the Rallyday thus far?

Robert Reid:
Yeah it is great. It is a fantastic day and when you see the people and the cars and the crowd here, it really is an amazing day.

Q:
We had the minutes silence at mid-day for Richard Burns and Michael Park - it was nice to see that all-the crowd respected that. It was quite a poignant moment wasn't it?

RR:
It is - this was Richard's last public appearance. Last year we came with his cars and had various drivers' driving them around. For me there was definitely a bit of a lump in my throat with the whole thing. It is great to see so many of the RB5 owners club at the event too, I think we had 55 or something out of the 444 cars ever sold and Richard's dad, Alex, was driving chassis number one, which Richard personally owned - until today it hadn't actually been out. So yeah - it was a really special moment.

Q:
The Richard Burns Foundation is here as well, which was of course launched at the Goodwood Festival of Speed recently. How did that go there?

RR:
Goodwood was great and like this event it is phenomenal to see some many enthusiasts together and it was good opportunity to launch the Richard Burns Foundation. There are several things with that - it includes the Michael Park Fund, as well. Richard and Michael were two of my closest friends and to have lost them within a couple of months of each other last year... it wasn't the nicest two months of my life. So it was a natural thing to try and do something with it. What we are trying to do is make it truly international and not just rallying, so Goodwood was a great place to launch.

Q:
Any idea how much money was raised from the Goodwood Festival of Speed?

RR:
Everyone tells me they are still counting, which I am taking as a good sign. I don't know precisely at the moment, but I think in excess of ?50-60,000, so that was good [it has since been confirmed that ?50,000 was raised - ed]. We also had money raised at the Beef memorial event in Estonia. I have had several people come up to me today saying we have been doing things and we have got a cheque for you and we have got cash for you, so it is fantastic.

Q:
How can people actually support the Richard Burns Foundation?

RR:
When we were looking at setting the foundation up, one of the important things for us, was to have a facility for people to feel like they were part of it and supporting it. To that end, we have got various different schemes in place, we have got membership schemes, support schemes - all the details are on the foundation website, which is www.richardburnsfoundation.com. The other way people can instantly support is via SMS by texting: 'RBF' to 82344 [full details below - ed]. So lots of different ways - we are really enthusiastic to get people involved and I have had lots of people come up to me and say: 'I want to do this charity thing', 'I want to do that thing' and 'how can we do it' and 'how can we support it', so we are looking to put together easy packages for people to be able to do that.

Q:
You said you wanted to give in an international dimension, how do you plan on doing that?

RR:
Absolutely, motorsport is a great way, with the fact that Richard and Beef were involved at such a high level, in getting that message out internationally. I have had calls from Japan wanting the website in Japanese and the ability to make donations in their local currency and all the rest. So the plan is to use WRC events to get the message out there. I think it is important in order to support the non-British teams and drivers, but also it is a case of not just being international in rallying, I mean, Jenson [Button] came onto the stand at Goodwood and was very keen to help out and do stuff. David [Coulthard] unfortunately couldn't be there, he was going to be, but phoned me to say unfortunately he couldn't come along, but all these guys want to support as well.

Q:
It must be good to have that support from those two British F1 drivers, as Formula One has got a massive audience.

RR:
Definitely and I think what happened to Michael and Richard in their separate ways, really resonates with a lot of young guys involved in motorsport. We all feel a bit 'Peter Pan' at times and believe that is not going to happen to us - and that is accidents and illness. And to have somebody in Richard, who was leading the World Rally Championship at one moment and then is diagnosed with a very serious condition, less than a week later, I know, Jenson came to me at Goodwood and said it had made him go and get properly checked out - just to make sure there was nothing up with him or nothing on the horizon, even that message in itself can save a lot of lives.

Q:
As well as your role with the Richard Burns Foundation, you are also part of the MSA British Rally Elite programme and the MSA British Rally Academy. Tell us how that has been going...

RR:
Again that has been going really well. I was actually at the Swansea Bay Rally this morning [Saturday, July 22 - ed], because quite a few of our academy level guys are doing the event down there. It is good, the MSA British Rally Elite, I am just happy that the MSA have agreed to support it. We are now in our second year and we are starting to really make a difference. The guys in the Elite level, they are different people, than they were a year ago - their confidence is much better and they have all moved on to bigger and better things and they are all talking now about World Championship programmes of some description, whereas 18 months ago, most of them just didn't know where to start in terms of trying to put that together. The fitness side, the psychology side, the whole thing is great and going from strength to strength.

Q:
How exactly does the scheme work in terms of helping those drivers?

RR:
We took a look at it, along with the MSA, and we reckon you need skill, you need money and you need all the other stuff. The skill we take as a given, the money we can help by increasing the credibility of the pupil and we are always on the look out to attract scheme sponsors and find ways of helping people by attracting people to the group in total rather than to the individuals. So what we concentrate on is all the other stuff and what we would like is, we have talked to all the top teams and we know their wish list for drivers' and money at the moment, unfortunately is on the list, but if we can get somebody that ticks all the other boxes, then they certainly move higher up the list and that is the whole objective - to get people so that they are in a position to make the best use of any opportunities that either we can create or that come along.

Q:
Obviously Matthew Wilson is one of the most noticeable names in the Elite programme. He is currently in his first full-season at the 'senior' level in the WRC. How do you think he is getting on?

RR:
I think he is doing a cracking job. He has made some mistakes but to be perfectly honest, if he wasn't making mistakes, you would be saying he is going to slow. I know for Matthew it is frustrating. 16 rounds in the World Rally Championship, you learn on every one and I said to him at the start of the year, I said: 'You will know what you need in your pace-notes and you will know what you need from the car, once you get to the end of each rally - and if you knew that three-days previously, it would make a big difference'. That is what he is going through at the moment, that whole learning process and I think he is keeping his chin up. He is being positive about it, it would be easy to get down but he is doing a top job.

Q:
The other two Brits most noticeably in the WRC at the moment are in the JWRC, namely Kris Meeke and Guy Wilks. What do the need to do to step up to the 'senior' level - is it just money?

RR:
That is a good question and I think for these guys, they have both been at that level for quite a while. We have seen people like Dani Sordo come along and get the opportunity before Kris and Guy have. It is about contacts and it is about being in the right place at the right time. It is about coming in and making a mark fairly quickly. I would like to see them both get an opportunity. Guy may well get an opportunity with Suzuki when they move up to the 'premier league' with a World Rally Car. Kris I think would have been in a good position with Citroen had Dani Sordo not come along. But there are other opportunities in rallying now, there is Super 2000 cars with the International Rally Championship, there is various bits and pieces, so we will just keep an eye on them and try and point them in the right direction as much as we can.

Q:
You mentioned Dani Sordo, how impressed have you been with him?

RR:
He has done a great job. It is not easy to come in at that level, as we were saying it is all about learning the events and learning the car, but he is with a top team, which makes a difference. It is easier to learn in a factory team than it is in a private team, because they have got all the data and they have got all the information from previous years. But that said he is doing a really good job.

Q:
Sebastien Loeb is currently the man of the moment still - do you think anything can stop him?

RR:
I think Marcus [Gronholm] in a Focus is the best opportunity to stop Seb. Sebastien is in the zone. He is happy with the car, he is happy in the team, he and Daniel [Elena - his co-driver] work well together. It reminds me of Richard and I back in 1999, 2000 and 2001, that period. It doesn't come along every year and it doesn't last forever, so you have got to make hay while the sun shines and certainly make the most of these opportunities. But again you just watch the way Sebastien is approaching these events and he is an absolute master at work. He doesn't take any risks in the first couple of stages and he pushes when he has to, he is fastest when he has to and when he doesn't need to, he just backs off a bit.

Q:
What makes him so good?

RR:
I personally believe that part of it is his gymnastic work he did before. I am not saying you need to be a gymnast to be a top rally driver, but you see people come in from mountain biking and from gymnastics, and swimming is another one, where they have been very dedicated to their sport in their teenage years. They are used to a lot of discipline, used to thinking about an approach and I think that pays dividends. It is something we are looking at MSA Elite wise, how we can install these virtues into people. And also the people that we choose and which we try and get into rallying, if we can do some cross-discipline stuff and try and attract people from karting for example, where traditionally they go straight into circuit racing, but there is no reason why it can't be into rallying - mountain biking the same, skiing, even swimming too, all these different sports.

Q:
Final question, how do you think the second half of the season will unfold in the WRC?

RR:
I think Seb is going to win the championship - but it is still interesting and there is definitely an opportunity for other people to win events; Marcus for example and Mikko [Hirvonen] is getting stronger all the time. Subaru have obviously had a bit of a tough time, but Petter [Solberg] is still more than capable of winning rallies. Chris [Atkinson] is setting some good times too and is more than capable of an upset come Japan and Australia, where he starred last year. So I think all to play for and definitely exciting.

STOP PRESS - STOP PRESS.

Donations to the Richard Burns Foundation can be made via SMS by texting RBF to 82344, which will make of donation of ?2.50 - of which appromimately ?1.80 will go to the Richard Burns Foundation*.

All donations made to the foundation during July will go to the Youth Cancer Trust - a charitable trust providing free, fun activity based holidays for young people aged 14-25 suffering with cancer or any malignant disease. More information is available at www.yct.org.uk.

For more information on the Richard Burns Foundation, visit www.RichardBurnsFoundation.com.

* - Messages charged at standard rate. You will receive a confirmation message, charged at ?2.50. The Richard Burns Foundation will receive your donation net of charges applied by mobile network operators and a processing fee. Further info is available on RichardBurnsFoundation.com, or contact Richard Burns Foundation Ltd., PO Box 687, Oxford, OX1 9LD, United Kingdom.