TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH SIMON HUGHES: CLICK HERE

Welshman Simon Hughes was at the pre-Rally GB press day earlier this month. Crash.net Radio caught up with the MSA British Rally Academy driver to get his thoughts on his part-season in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International series, his plans for 2008 and lots, lots more...

Crash.net:
Simon, it has been a bit of a patchy year for you. You started quite promisingly in the FSTi series and then have had to sit on the sidelines for a bit...

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Simon Hughes:
Unfortunately it has been patchy. The season started well in Norway. It was the first time we had been over there and we were lucky enough to get some good results - we were fourth in Norway, second in Portugal and third in Sardinia. But unfortunately things weren't to be.

On the other hand though this is the most WRC events I have done in one season. We have learned so much, even though we have only done limited events. We are just working hard now to make sure we get the opportunity to put everything we have learnt into practice.

Crash.net:
You have been doing the FSTi series. What are your thoughts on it because it has not been that well supported throughout the year?

SH:
It is a shame, because it has great potential as a championship. I know the guys at M-Sport work hard behind the scenes to make it happen and I am sure it will be successful. The guys there, pretty much anything they turn there hands to, they make a success of and I am sure given time, the Fiesta championship will be one of those things.

Crash.net:
Barry Clark has pretty much dominated the series, but do you think the lack of opposition has devalued that title?

SH:
I wouldn't say it has devalued the title at all because just getting around the events is a hard thing to do. Barry has had a good year - he's been lucky at times, but he has driven well and consistently all year. I think a lack of competition is disappointing for anyone that is driving, including Barry. But I think the main attraction to the Fiesta championship is the fact that you can learn the WRC stages at a relatively cheap cost.

Crash.net:
Since your FSTi campaign stopped you have taken in a few different opportunities. You drove the Astra RallyD on the Jim Clark Rally. How did that work out for you and how did that car differ, other than obviously being a diesel, from the Fiesta?

SH:
It worked out really well. We were working with the guys from Thurlby Motors and they had the guys from 888 engineering develop the car. It was a well sorted car and straight from the first time we drove it at a test the car was good. We had a slight mechanical problem on the rally, which unfortunately dropped us down the order, but the cars potential was really obvious to see. It took a bit of getting use to driving a turbo charged diesel car, but once you got your head around the fact it doesn't rev so much and you do have to drive it differently, it was really fun.

Crash.net:
You also got your hands on a Ford Focus WRC car on the Red Kite Stages back in January. We know at the time you described that car as like driving 'a spaceship', but how much of an adaptation was it for your style, to get in a car that powerful?

SH:
It was a brilliant opportunity. The car was something else. It was as you would imagine a rally car - even if you have never seen one or you have only ever played it on computer games. It did everything that you wanted it to do. I am fortunate I have done a lot of competing in four-wheel drive cars, nothing quite to that standard, but I had a lot of the know-how to drive the car and to a certain extent the car is that good, it brings you on, as much as you get confidence from driving it.

Crash.net:
You are a member of the MSA British Rally Academy scheme. It has not obviously been able to see you through the full programme this year, but how much of a help has it been for you and your career?

SH:
To be fair the guys at the MSA are doing pretty much everything they can. It is a difficult situation for them, because obviously they'd love to be able to just write a cheque and say there you go and off you go rallying. But as we know and I think a good example of this is young Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1, there is a lot more to it than just being behind the wheel. He has had guys helping him from a very young age and they are only just now reaping the rewards. I think the guys at the MSA are doing a similar thing. They are putting a lot of work in and they cover all aspects of rallying, a lot of which people wouldn't even think about and if you have got those people behind you, it is definitely going to help progress your career.

Crash.net:
What are your plans for next season now?

SH:
At the moment we are in discussions with a few different people. As always unfortunately a lot of it will be decided by budgets, but we are hoping to carry on with a limited WRC programme. In what car yet is still to be decided. It would also be nice though having come back to do the Jim Clark in the BRC, to have a bit more of a solid programme there and hopefully put some of the learning and experience from the WRC into practice in the British championship.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH SIMON HUGHES: CLICK HERE