by Rob Wilkins
Prodrive's David Lapworth made an appearance at the Wales Rally GB last weekend and here he speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio
with just two stages to go. We got his thoughts on that event, his 'old' team, the Subaru World Rally team, which is run by Prodrive and who he used to lead and lots, lots more, including 2007 and Prodrive's F1 project...
David, what are you thoughts on the Rally GB thus far?
It hasn't been a classic in some ways. It would have been nice if there had been a bit more of a battle but I guess the pattern has been a pretty classic Rally GB. It has been more about mistakes than absolute pace. That is what all the drivers' struggle with here every year – finding that pace they can run at, without making too many mistakes and in the end that is what it comes down to.
Marcus [Gronholm] looks set to take the win, how much is he going to be kicking himself for that mistake in Australia?
Quite a lot I guess. Although who knows what would have happened here [had Australia gone differently]. Maybe Sebastien [Loeb] could have come back had he really had too and he wouldn't have needed to do much. But yes, I am sure there is that feeling of 'if only' - but that is part of the game, all sports are full of that.
Obviously you used to be the team principal at the Subaru World Rally team. Is it nice to come back this weekend and visit them?
Yes I have really enjoyed it. I have been wandering around and catching up with people I haven't seen for a while. I have to admit it is quite a nice feeling being able to pick on the best bits and not have to get up at 5 am in the morning, in the cold, the dark and the rain. It is nice not to have all the stress of watching every single split time come through as well. But it is good to come back and keep in touch with what is going on.
Subaru had a tough start to the season. Things seem to have improved slightly as the year has gone on though and now they are feeling confident for 2007. Is that confidence justified?
We have known for a while that this was going to be a tough period, because of the lifecycle of the car. Ford has got a new car this year and Citroen
have got a new car for next year. Subaru's turn is really the year after - there is a nice step, an interim car next year, which will help. So it was always going to be a little bit tough. But it has been tougher than we expected for sure. I do think the signs are there though that next years interim car is a good step, they have learnt a lot over the last few months, in tracking down some of the problems they have had. As always in those situations you learn a lot more than you think. When you start digging deep and looking for problems it also unearths some good ideas as well. So next year will be better. I don't think it will be a great year because that is not the lifecycle, but 2008 should be. They are going in the right direction and confidence will start to build from this point as it gets better.
How do you see the battle developing between Ford and Citroen
in 2007? Could Ford have the edge with Citroen
introducing their new car?
I would expect it to be a pretty close battle still. With Citroen's resources and the amount of testing those guys do, they have already probably done more testing with that car than Ford have done with this car, so they should be completely prepared. OK there is nothing like the rallies to find out the little gremlin and it is very difficult to simulate real rally situations when you are doing the set-up work. You do need a bit of rally experience to refine things. But they should be very, very close to the optimum when they come in. They have got all the resources, all the equipment and they have spent a huge amount of time on it. They started on this car [the C4] before Christian [Loriaux - M-Sport's technical director] started on the Ford, so you need to keep that in perspective.