by Rob Wilkins.

David Sutton is the only man to date to have guided a private team to the pinnacle of the FIA World Rally Championship, when his Rothmans Rally Team took the 1981 drivers' championship title with Ari Vatanen.

Sutton was at the recent Rallyday 2006 where the 25th anniversary of that success was celebrated and Crash.net Radio caught up with him there and got his thoughts on the WRC today - and the fact that it now looks likely he will have to share that record at the end of this season with Kronos Racing, as they are also a private team - officially at least - and currently are on course to win not only the drivers' championship, but also the constructors' too...

Q:
David, you're at the 2006 Rallyday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of your 1981 win in the WRC with Ari Vatanen and David Richards, you must be delighted to be here...

David Sutton:
It's a great day for us. It doesn't seem like 25 years ago. I'm honoured and flattered that Ari and David have given up their weekend to be here. We've had a lot of support from the Rothmans Escort Club, from Beaulieu who have loaned us the original championship winning car and from Ford's museum who leant us some very nice rally cars. It's been an absolutely terrific day.

Q:
Have you been surprised by the response? There was a big queue for autographs...

DS:
I felt very sorry for Ari at one point today because from the minute he arrived he was absolutely mobbed. He was mobbed around the rally car, the audience for his interview on stage was fantastic, he must have signed thousands of autographs and he didn't get a cup of tea or sandwich until 2 o'clock this afternoon! His patience is excellent. Terrific!

Q:
You are the last privateer team to win the World Rally Championship, something which Kronos looks likely to equal this year, is it going to be sad to pass that record on?

DS:
Well, I've held the crown for 25 years, Kronos I think for sure will win the championship this year and I'll be quite happy to hand it over because, although we've been the top privateer team for 25 years, Ford haven't won the world championship during that time. So that's one side of the record which will still stand for a while.

Q:
What do you think about Ford? They've looked strong, if a little fragile, this year...

DS:
I think they should have won it this year because they have an absolutely superbly reliable car and a very, very good driver in Marcus Gronholm, but there's just been a few hiccups where things haven't gone exactly their way and so I think, sadly, they'll finish in second this year.

Q:
Can we get your thoughts on the WRC and the changes recently announced regarding the calendar?

DS:
Well I would support this rotation idea. I think there are more than 16 rallies out there that deserve a crack at the world championship and if an event has to drop out, it will only be once or twice every 16 years, so it's not going to be that bad. There are new events that we need to see - in Norway, Ireland, Jordan, South Africa and Poland - I think it'd be great to have those events in.

Q:
Three new events have got in - Norway, Ireland and Portugal - but on the other hand we've lost Cyprus, Turkey and Australia...

DS:
I think the only one that was a surprise to me was Australia, because I've done that event several times and it is a superb event. There's nothing really very special to say about Cyprus, it's twisty and has got very rough roads, Turkey is pretty much the same and neither of those countries has a particularly strong Automotive industry and I think to lose Cyprus once or twice every 16 years isn't going to hurt them that much.

Q:
What about the regulation changes such as no mousse in the tyres?

DS:
I am amazed at how that's going to work; I mean what's the point in taking away mousse? It's no pleasure for rally drivers to have a high ratio of punctures - that doesn't help anybody - we don't want rallies won on a puncture, we want rallies won on skill on the stages. To take away mousse - I can't see any sense in that at all.

Q:
Sebastien Loeb is in a very good position to win the championship again this year, what do you think makes him so successful?

DS:
If you look back at almost any discipline - whether it's tennis or football or whatever - there's always a man of the moment and at the moment it's Sebastien Loeb. He was last year and he is this year. But let me remind you that only two weeks ago a 17-year-old Norwegian - Andreas Mikkelsen - came out of nowhere, did his first rally at 17 years and 16 days old, won a rally outright here in England and was fastest on every stage. Maybe we'll be having a similar conversion about him soon.

Q:
Looking to 2007, how do you see things turning out?

DS:
I'm hopeful that there's going to be more manufacturers; I'm hopeful that the Super 2000 will get off the ground because we know for a fact that there are eight manufacturers doing those cars at the moment. They're not competing with them, but we know they exist and it would be terrific to see more manufacturers, because I think the current two-horse race between Subaru and Ford isn't really what the public wants.

Q:
With just three manufacturers - Suzuki not coming in until 2008 - it's a bit thin on the ground at the moment...

DS:
That's why we need more manufacturers and I think if we can get eight Super 2000 manufacturers it would be absolutely superb for the sport and the viewing public at home.

Kindly transcribed by Pete McLaren