by Rob Wilkins
TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH TONY MASON: CLICK HERE
1972 RAC winning co-driver, Tony Mason was once again at the Castle Combe Rallyday event in the UK last month and on stage interviewing the assembled stars for the viewing public. Crash.net Radio
managed to catch up with the former Top Gear
star and got his thoughts on that event and the WRC in general, prior
to the recent two WRC asphalt events in Catalunya and Corsica...
Tony, you have been involved with the Rallyday event now for a number of years. Just how much has it come on since the first one back in 2001?
Immensely. The first one was pretty good and the guys that run it - Darin Frow and Jo and Brian Stubbings, put in a phenomenal amount of work. It is like an amateur organisation - it is not a great company organising it. The first one was very, very efficiently run and everything else. It was a bit smaller and it wasn't supported by such stars names in terms of manufacturers or drivers. But it was really very good from the beginning and each year it has just moved on a few steps more. Since then we have attracted such immense names, like one of the guests today, Hannu Mikkola - the greatest driver ever in the world of rallying. He is here and each year we have had the Waldegard's, the Blomqvist's and all the Swedes and Finns and of course two years ago we had dear Colin McRae. We have always had lots of very good guests and it is getting better every year without doubt.
What have you made of the WRC this year, because at the moment there is quite a close battle going on for the title between Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb?
It certainly is and the last rally, which was in New Zealand, Marcus beat Sebastien by only three tenths of a second, which is unheard of really. It was a tiny, tiny margin - it was like Formula 1 nearly, tenths of a second. It is tight. There are five events still to go and three of them are tarmac and two of them are gravel, which tends to put it slightly in Loeb's favour because he is a tarmac specialist originally - although both of them are very adept at both skills. It is going to go right to the end. It is exciting because it will probably be in Britain on the Wales Rally GB that the result of the World Rally Championship is decided, which it has been in several other years and it offers a really good thing for Britain.
Gronholm has announced he is going to retire at the end of this season, will that make him extra determined to try and take his third world title?
I think it will. Now he has announced his retirement I think he will go very, very strongly to go out on a high and to be world champion three times, which he would like to do. He has done it twice so far. So yes - and of course Sebastien Loeb has won it three times but he wants to do it four times. I hope Marcus does win it in the Ford. I really do, because I am a Ford man of course, as you know from my background in world rallying. I hope he wins it and as he is retiring it would be very fitting and nice should he do.
Do you think Mikko Hirvonen is ready to step up and lead the BP Ford WRT?
He is a good driver and he has come on immensely well this year. I think Marcus has helped him quite a lot. He has put in some good performances and if he got the position of being the number one driver he would probably raise his game a little bit. It is a difficult though and I have to say on the results and on the times this year, Gronholm and Loeb have been a step above everybody else. But yes, I think he could carry the team.
Who do you think Ford are considering to replace Gronholm?