by Rob Wilkins
BP Ford team director, Malcolm Wilson realised one of his dreams in New Zealand, when his M-Sport-run operation clinched the manufacturers' championship for the 'Blue Oval'. Crash.net Radio
caught up with Malcolm to gets his thoughts on that success and to get him to look ahead to Rally GB and beyond...
Malcolm, first up congratulations on your success in the manufacturers' championship, BP Ford really took it in style didn't they, with that dominant one-two finish on the Rally New Zealand?
Yeah, if you think about it we had a fantastic start to the season winning in Monte Carlo and Sweden, and then to actually clinch the championship, we had the icing on the cake with a first and second in NZ from Marcus [Gronholm] and Mikko [Hirvonen]. So it was a dream result in the end that got us the championship.
It must have been a very special moment for you not only because of your history with Ford and the fact the last time they won it was 27 years ago, but also because it is your first since teaming up with them in 1997 and taking on the task of running the Ford WRT through M-Sport?
We obviously took on the contract in 1997, as you say, and I am disappointed in one sense, that it has taken us ten years to actually clinch that title. We have just been looking back at the statistics and we have actually finished runners-up five times in those ten years. So it is long over due, but I must admit I am really pleased to have delivered this to Ford, especially after 27 years since they last won it. We have just got to make sure that it is not another 27 years now!
But I think in fairness, it has taken a long time to build up the team and the infrastructure and the resources and everything you need to be able to go on and take on the best in the world. I think we are now in a position where we can actually sustain it and in fairness, certainly we feel at this moment in time, we can go and challenge for the victory on any of the events in 2007.
It must also be very sweet, as only a few years ago, you had to fight to keep Ford in the WRC?
We went through difficult times a couple of years ago but I think at the end of the day, Ford has obviously got fantastic heritage in the sport and they didn't want to walk away. But obviously like a lot of things and motorsport in general, it is difficult times. Between M-Sport and Ford though we found a solution, which gave us a four-year commitment and there are a lot of other avenues that are open to M-Sport, related to rally now - it is our remit to look at all those aspects, so we have introduced new things, like the Fiesta one-make series, which has obviously been a great success. This is all part of building up the programme for the future, so that we can sustain it and keep Ford in the championship for the foreseeable future.
Now, without wishing to take anything away from all you have achieved - and I know you can only compete against those drivers' that are in action, but do you think the situation might have been different had Sebastien Loeb not broken his arm?
Well, we felt that the drivers' championship was long gone and there is no question had Seb been there, there would have been no chance, as he only needed something like a third place finish out of the final four rallies. So, in real terms, there was no chance of that. Obviously once he unfortunately broke his shoulder then there was an opportunity. Sadly though that went wrong for Marcus in Australia and I am sure, he has obviously won two out of the three so far, and if he goes to GB and wins that one... I know how cut up he is already about it - but in fairness that was always a long shot.