by Rob Wilkins.

1977 and 1985 British Rally champion, Russell Brookes was at the 2006 Rallyday on July 22. Brookes, who was sponsored throughout most of his career by Andrews Heat for Hire, retired from professional competition in 1991, but he still dabbles occasionally, competing in historic rallies in a Porsche.

Here he talks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about the Rallyday and gives his thoughts not only on the BRC but also on the WRC and one thing is certain, he doesn't rate the Wales Rally GB...

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Q:
Russell, you're a former British champion, how are you enjoying the 2006 Rallyday?

Russell Brookes:
I think it's been absolutely incredible. I have never seen as many enthusiasts turn out for a rally day like this and the atmosphere is sensational. People are really enjoying it, despite an absolute downpour around midday, and it's just great fun. I'm meeting so many people I haven't seen for many years, there are at least four of my old cars here - it's great to be reunited with them - and there's so much to see and do. I've just had a long chat with former world champion Ari Vatanen; we used to compete against each other in Ford Escorts in the British championship back in the '70s.

Q:
You mention you've been reunited with some of your old machinery, have you been out on track as well?

RB:
Yes, we've got two Opel Mantas here - they are the tarmac and forest car that I used in 1985 to win the British championship for the second time. They are in absolutely brilliant condition - one of them is totally original, it's been in a museum until two years ago, and the other one is full restored. It's like a bit of history revisiting you.

Q:
And is this your first time at the Rallyday?

RB:
It is and I'm sure I won't be missing it again.

Q:
Looking at the British Rally Championship this year, what have you made of the rule changes that got rid of the WRC cars, leaving just Group N and the Super 1600 cars?

RB:
I think in the long run it's got to be very good for rallying. The problem with running WRC cars is that they are very expensive - people have been paying half a million pounds for a car and you've got all the running costs on top of that. It means that nobody can break into the sport at the top end. A lot more people can afford to run a Group N car and that will be very good for British rallying long term because people will have that experience of fighting tooth and nail. It'll be the driver that scores and not the car so much.

Q:
What do you make of the Brits in WRC at the moment; we've got obviously Kris Meeke and Guy Wilks in the Junior WRC and Matthew Wilson doing his first full WRC season?

RB:
I think you've got to really look a generation beyond that to people brought up in tighter competition. If you think back to the last time there were a lot of British drivers competing very successfully, we all grew out of the Mexico championship of the 1970s. All the cars were identical, very low cost, and it really honed peoples' skills when they had to look for every second.

Q:
Who would you tip then to be the next Brit to make it from the BRC?

RB:
I've got a feeling that George Thomas will do very, very well in the long term. I'd like to see how he gets on and watch him.

Q:
What have you made of the WRC this season?

RB:
I think WRC has lost its way a little bit, I mean in Corsica you had a situation where one stage was run at 10 o'clock in the morning and there wasn't another stage that day until 2 o'clock in the afternoon. It just seems a crazy world to me.

Q:
What would you like to see done in the WRC to improve things?

RB:
Maybe I'm old, but I'd love to see it return to a lot more rallying and a lot less just driving around public roads to fixed service points.

Q:
We've got three new events coming into the WRC next year, with the most significant - from our point of view - Ireland, what's your reaction to that?

RB:
I think that the Rally of Wales GB are going to have to look carefully behind their backs because I can foresee a situation where, although the events are twinned together this coming year, in future you might have a very, very good Irish Rally and you find that it supersedes the Rally of Wales GB - unless the Rally of Wales GB bucks its ideas up.

Q:
Do you think Rally GB needs to buck its ideas up?

RB:
Yes, very much so. It doesn't attract the hoards of people that rallying used to attract in this country. I think they feel it's a very parochial event. They still feel ripped off by the organisers in terms of the costs of spectating on it and, like all these rallies, it's very circumscribed by the FIA format which doesn't make it spectator friendly.

I think that unless it changes radically and makes itself into a much more popular event it could well run into trouble, because they've got 16 or 18 events - whatever it is - at the moment and I don't think that they can sustain that number long term. They will have to return to a championship format of something like twelve events and so somewhere along the line, to my mind, five or six events will have to go.

Kindly transcribed by Pete McLaren