21 December 2006
Q&A: Ken Rees (Subaru) - EXCLUSIVE.
Long haul events again it is extra time away and you have to plan that your containers will leave the UK Christmas time heading off for, lets say Mexico. By the time we get to Mexico as a team, most of the freight is there, except the air freight and the cars that are flown in. As we leave Mexico we fly the cars and the air freight back home and send all the containers with the basic equipment onto Argentina. After Argentina, its sails on to Japan - and then from Japan, it goes to Australia and New Zealand. So, while we are doing European events there is a lot of our equipment on route sailing to the next long haul. All the time there is something happening. As we are driving around Europe, we are sailing to somewhere else for the long haul. We have got people in the office, who look after all that as well, because I am away on all 16-events and that is demanding because you are out of the office a lot. We have to rely on good people back at the base to keep the 'ship afloat'.
Have you got a big map with pins on then, so you know where everything is?
It is experience I think - if you look around the championship the people, who are doing the co-ordinating are relatively well travelled and experienced. We sit together at team management meetings on each event and get together and say what do we agree about this or that and will this or that work. Without sounding blasé about it, we have probably got more experience, myself and John Millington and so on, we have got a lot more experience than some of the organisers, in being able to say 'yes this will work' or 'no that won't work'. We work together a lot more now for the sake of the series. There is a lot of planning and as I say, when new events come in, it is quite demanding to look at it and say 'this will work and this won't'. I enjoy it.
Next year there are three new events - Norway, Portugal and Ireland. From what you have said, I assume you have already sorted the plans for those then?
Yes, other than Ireland, we are just waiting for the final details for that one. We are well on with Norway - we have already done hotels and crossings etc. Being a back-to-back, a comfortable back-to-back, we will fly people to Sweden and then fly them home from Norway. The same will happen with the vehicles, the vehicles will go probably into Oslo and then drive across to Sweden, then come back across to Oslo.
Portugal is what we term a relatively simple event because it is a cross-country. It is just a long drive down to there. The organisers are arranging flights and hotels for the manufacturer teams, so that is in a way taken out of our hands. We haven't had to find hotels and so on; we have just given them numbers. But we are already working on that.
Ireland - it is early days there. We are still waiting for an itinerary off them. We have had an itinerary off the other two, which we have looked at. Ireland is at the latter end of the year and will run for the over-seas teams almost back-to-back with the UK. From our point of view, we will do Ireland come home back to Banbury and then go to Wales.
Again it is a challenge - new organisers to deal with, new events to go to, hotels' to get use to us and new facilities to find and so on. That's the same sort of challenge it has been in the past, with events like Japan and Mexico coming in - they have been interesting. It takes a year or two or possibly three for a country to get use to a world championship event and the demands that we make upon it. The facilities we require and when you go into statistics, I think the WRC demands two to two and a half thousand hotel beds. The infrastructure needed for electricity, water, mobile phone communications. Sometimes we jam the system at certain times if it isn't geared up properly. Over a year or two they learn and then they become good events.
How has the championship changed over the years? Have you had to get more and more organised with more and more events coming in?
I go back to the old-days in the early mid-1990's though, when you used to have 20 to 30 to 40 service points and as soon as you got a route, such as Monte Carlo, you would be straight out, no matter when you got it, to find your service points and to find your hotels on route. It was a much more complex service schedule and everything like that.
Then it went down to one service point for each day and now it is one central service point. The job has gone away from finding little service points but now the one service point is the main focal point of the event. Now it is about liaising with the organisers of an event and getting the right services there - electricity, water supply, it is now much more of a hospitality event.
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