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Q&A: Michael Orr - EXCLUSIVE

29 December 2006

by Rob Wilkins


Michael Orr was in a unique position this year, as the co-driver for Matthew Wilson, to be able to judge just how much the 19-year-old was progressing during his debut season in the FIA World Rally Championship. Sitting alongside him, calling the pace-notes, they quickly bonded.

Here Orr speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio and tell us why things will be even better for the Stobart-Ford duo in 2007...



Q:
Michael, at the start of the year, you teamed up with Matthew Wilson to do all the events in the FIA World Rally Championship. Overall, what's your verdict on your first season together?

Michael Orr:
I think we are really quite happy with what we have achieved this year. There has been highs and lows - like everybody has during a season, but I think our summary is that we have achieved our goal.

We have got more experience this year, I think, than anybody has. Statistically we have done more stages and kilometres than any other driver in the championship. We are happy with our progress. Our split times and stage times are progressing the way we planned and the way we hoped for, so all-in-all, so far so good.

Q:
Did you gel quite quickly with each other?

MO:
Yeah, it came together quite quickly. We did one rally at the end of 2005, which was the first running of the Rally Ireland and it was our first event together. We went out there and won the rally and it immediately felt very good in the car together. So that is why we made the decision to go for it this year and things have come together well for us. Certainly towards the end of the year things were starting to gel well. It is all looking good now for the future.

Q:
What was it like working with Matt, especially given his lack of experience in the WRC?

MO:
Matt is a great guy to work with. He is obviously still a teenager, but I completely forget that fact most of the time. It is not like working with a 'normal' teenage guy. He has got a very sensible, professional approach to everything he does. He wants to learn and he wants advice all of the time – and he takes it on board from everybody that is giving it to him. So for me it is a pleasure to be in the car with him.

Q:
How did he compare to some of the other drivers' you have worked with, such as Antony Warmbold?

MO:
I joined Antony, and I think it was his third year doing the whole championship. He was obviously further on in terms of the learning experience. But Matthew has rapidly caught that up and I would say the progress we have made, is probably better than I would have expected. Every rally we went to, apart from GB was a new experience for Matt. It was a lot for him to take on board - new countries, new cultures, let alone new roads to drive on. It has really progressed well and we are very happy.

Q:
Were there any times when the pressure got to either of you?

MO:
No, we constantly put pressure on ourselves to perform to the best of our capabilities and there are times when you probably feel: 'We could have done better there' or we just weren't particularly happy. But you don't let it get you down. It just motivates you more to do a better job the next time.

Q:
By the end of the season, how much had the driver/co-driver partnership improved since the off at the Rallye Monte Carlo?

MO:
It is clear to both of us that things now are really starting to work the way they should - especially towards the end of the year, when we went to New Zealand, things really seemed to click for us there and things were flowing much more easily. It has become easier to work together now, which is a good sign. Although you are going faster it is actually becoming easier, so it is looking good.

Q:
What's the plan for 2007? Having worked together for a year now – how much will that help?

MO:
It should hopefully make a huge difference for us. Obviously we have got a few new rallies in there as well, which is good for us, because we are up against guys that on some of the rallies, they may have been there six, seven, eight, maybe nine or maybe more times than ourselves. That makes the learning curve that much steeper.

This year every rally we have gone too, we have started with a blank book on the recce and so we have had to try and make and check our notes and then drive competitively on the rally. That is not an easy task. So, this year, our pace-notes have developed quite a lot during the year and we should be in good shape for 2007.

Q:
The new season is going to start with the Rallye Monte Carlo and it is a very different looking event, due to the route changes and everything, isn't it?

MO:
Yeah it is - but I think it is going to be the same for everybody, which is always good. By all reports it looks like there could be some quite heavy snow in places but for sure, it is never an easy start to the season. I think it will be even more so in 2007, but we are looking forward to getting back at it again.

Q:
What do you think will be a realistic target for you both next season?

MO:
At the moment we treat every stage individually and if we have a mechanical problem or a poor stage time we just try and put it to the back of our minds and treat the next stage as a fresh experience for us. We started to monitor our split times even more carefully towards the end of the year, so we know where we are at and what we are capable of doing. So I think we will just continue to monitor that - and try and keep the progress going.


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