by Rob Wilkins

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MATTHEW WILSON: CLICK HERE

Britain's Matthew Wilson will surely want to add to the single point he scored in Mexico when the second half of the WRC season gets underway in less than two weeks time with the Rally Finland. Crash.net Radio caught up with the Stobart Ford man recently and asked him about his targets for the rest of the year...

Crash.net:
Matt, the summer break is almost at an end for the WRC, what do you want to achieve in the second half of the year?

Matthew Wilson:
It has been good to have the summer break. We have still been quite busy doing a few things though. We did a small tarmac test in Spain. It has been good to re-group and look at everything and hopefully we can move forward in the second half of the year. I am looking forward to it really and with any luck we can get off to a good start in Finland.

Crash.net:
The Rally Finland is the first event in the second half of the season - it is very fast and the locals there obviously tend to dominate. You were tenth last year, what do you want to try and do this time out?

MW:
There is always a lot of Finnish drivers' on the entry list and they are all obviously in good cars as well. I think there is a total of 20 or even 30 World Rally Cars for that event. It is going to be tough but if we can set some good times against these locals then that is what we are aiming for. Obviously it is going to be fairly hotly contested for points - and the top ten - and so if we can be around there and fighting with those boys I will be happy. Everybody knows though how quick those local boys are on their home patch, so it will be difficult.

Crash.net:
Have you done quite a bit of preparation for Finland and the second half of the season?

MW:
We haven't done massive amounts of driving, but as I mentioned, we had a small test on tarmac and I have done a couple of promotional days driving in the forests, so at least I have had a little bit of time in the car. Mostly though I have I just been keeping myself fit and getting in shape for the second half of the year because once it does start, it is quite busy - it is all fairly go when it does kick-off.

Crash.net:
There are of course, four asphalt events in the second half of the year. How do you feel about those rounds, because you prefer events on gravel don't you?

MW:
I think gravel is just more natural. I know that probably sounds a bit daft and I have done a lot of circuit racing in the past - but I am still looking forward to them. It is a totally new challenge and I think you also get a lot of these tarmac experts coming in and doing Catalunya, Corsica and Germany.

Then we have got Ireland, which is going to be totally new for everybody. I have got a little bit of experience from the likes of the Donegal and stuff like that. That should be quite good. I am really looking forward to that. It is a new challenge but it will be quite interesting.

Crash.net:
You mentioned Ireland, you did the candidate event there back in 2005...

MW:
Yeah, but back then it was obviously a mixed event - they had one day tarmac and one day gravel. But the good thing was we were actually leading at the end of the tarmac day, which was good and we didn't just make all the time up on the gravel. It is quite interesting and some of those stages, or at least bits of those stages, are being used again. So at least we are going there with a little bit of knowledge of what the roads are like. I am looking forward to it.

Crash.net:
We spoke to you in April, after Portugal. You did three more events after that - Argentina was a tough one, you had technical problems pretty much from start-to-finish, but things went better in Sardinia and in Greece, didn't they?

MW:
In Argentina, the pace that we had on the Sunday when we had two clean stages was really, really good, but obviously it was a really, really frustrating event. You go all that way and we had all the problems with the weather and everything and then we retired on the first proper stage. It is a long way to go for not so much action.

The next two events however were really, really good. We didn't get the result that we wanted on both, because we had two punctures in Greece and a gearbox problem in Sardinia, but they were two good rallies. I think it just shows they were two rallies which we knew well from last year and could remember quite a lot of. So it does help when you have been there in the past. That is why the second half of the season should be quite good - Japan, Finland, New Zealand, they are all events that we enjoyed last year and we are looking forward to them again.

Crash.net:
Have you been happy with your pace and general progress?

MW:
Yeah, like I say, when you are going back to events, like those two rallies in Sardinia and Greece, which we remembered well and enjoyed from the year before, it is a lot easier. We have had a lot of new rallies in the first half of the year - Monte Carlo had a new route and then there was Norway and Portugal. It was a learning curve again and learning a new rally and writing the notes takes time. Where as those last two rallies we did, we were able actually to use last year's notes and just get a feeling for it. You just keep building it up all the time, which is good.

Crash.net:
What do you think you need to do now to continue to improve?

MW:
We have got the plan in place. We just need to keep going the way we are. One of the big things is going back to these rallies again and using the notes and that is one big area that we can improve. We have spent a bit of time with Robert Reid - Richard Burns' former co-driver - and we have gone through that side of things and just especially for when you are going back, tweaking notes, rather than making them completely new again. So there is a lot from that side. Obviously the four tarmac rallies won't be easy but I hope I can enjoy them and it should be ok.

Crash.net:
The BP Ford WRT will start using the new Focus from Finland. Any idea when you might get a go in that car?

MW:
It definitely won't be before the end of the year, but obviously next year I think that will be the plan. They have had a couple of really good tests with it and Marcus [Gronholm] is quite happy. I think now he can really take the fight to Sebastien [Loeb] in the second half and if he can start well in Finland it should be good. Obviously Sebastien is going to be very strong on the tarmac, but I think the good thing is, last year Marcus was actually leading in Spain before the problems. So he is quite confident as well.

Crash.net:
How tough is it going to be for Ford to beat Citroen this year in the race for the manufacturers' and drivers' titles?

MW:
It is going to be tough. We knew that from the very start and that was why it was important to try and get a lead like they have, before the second half of the year started. I think the gravel rallies, as long as there are no real problems, then hopefully we should carry on the way it has been. But we all know that [Dani] Sordo and Loeb are very, very quick on the tarmac. As I mentioned a moment ago though, Marcus was actually leading in Spain last year and so that should be a strong one for us. Germany and Corsica will be difficult but Ireland, with it being new, is equal ground for everybody. So we have definitely got as good a chance as any and we just have to keep it going.

Crash.net:
Can 'your' team, the Stobart team, beat Subaru for third place in the manufacturers'?

MW:
It would definitely be a very good achievement if they did. Finland should be strong - Henning [Solberg] and [Jari-Matti] Latvala have got masses of experience there. It is one of the events Henning has probably done the most in the championship and so they should go well. But I think the tarmac rallies might be one area where we may struggle a little bit as well, especially as Henning doesn't have much experience on tarmac. Obviously Jari is very quick on the tarmac but Henning lacks experience. It is 'swings and round-abouts'. We will have to see. If we can do it, it will be a very, very good achievement.

Crash.net:
Final question, it was announced by the FIA at the end of June, that the WRC calendar will drop to 12 events from 2009 - your thoughts?

MW:
I think it is going to bring a whole different characteristic to the championship. There is obviously going to be a different twelve rallies each year. There is a lot crammed into the second half of this year - just purely from a time point of view, so it might be quite nice if they are spread out throughout the year. Then you have got more time for testing and stuff like that. So it is going to be interesting.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MATTHEW WILSON: CLICK HERE