by Rob Wilkins

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MARK HIGGINS: CLICK HERE

Three-time British Rally champion Mark Higgins had to settle for the runners-up spot this season in the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship - and 'bronze' in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. Crash.net Radio caught up with the Stobart Motorsport man recently to chat to him about his season and the recent Wales Rally GB...

Related Articles

Crash.net:
Mark, your season came to a close on the Rally GB and in the end you couldn't take that fourth BRC title. How disappointing was that for you?

Mark Higgins:
I suppose the whole end of the season was very disappointing. We started off with really high hopes to try to achieve - and it was probably an unrealistic goal - of getting three championships. But at one time it was looking all on. The Irish Tarmac Championship started off well and the British Championship started off quite well too. Then we were also doing really well in the P-WRC and to come to GB and go away with nothing is mega disappointing.

Crash.net:
Do you go into the off-season now on a bit of a down or have you already started to try and put that behind you?

MH:
I think you start looking straight away to what is going on next year and try and get meetings sorted and see what is happening. I suppose from my performance point of view we have done quite well this year. It has just been a shame it hasn't all come together with the exact results. We should have really won the Irish championship and probably could have had we been in a World Rally Car all the way through. The pace was good most of the year and also when we had the same car again on the last round in Wales we were very competitive with Guy [Wilks]. From that point of view I am OK - but there is just nothing to show for it at the end.

Crash.net:
Looking at the last event - the Rally GB, how hard was it because not only was it a double-points scoring affair for the BRC, but also the weather conditions were extremely taxing too weren't they?

MH:
It was probably some of the worst conditions I have seen for Rally GB for a long time. OK we normally get fog or we normally get rain or we normally get mud, but to get them altogether and in darkness on the Friday was pretty horrific and one little problem just multiplied really. If you had a clean run through it you got a really good time [in the final stage on day 1] - and fair play to Gwyndaf [Evans] because he set a really good time and he nearly actually won the day, all in one stage. It also showed it is never over until it is over, but when luck is not quite on your side, it is never ideal.

Crash.net:
Were those night stages a good addition to the event?

MH:
Definitely - anything that is a challenge is good. It is the same with Rally Ireland, which is like the Safari on tarmac. We need challenges in rallying. It is no point having it all the same. The WRC has got very samey and when you look at it all the gravel rallies are very similar - they are mainly dry, dusty gravel events. Then you look at the tarmac ones and they have all been fairly similar too. So I think to get the night stages back in and to get the conditions changeable, it makes it more of a lottery, so things can happen because it has just got very, very predictable. Also if you have any problems you just haven't got the time to get anything back, whereas if you look at those stages in the dark and when the weather is bad, if you do make a charge or something happens, you have actually got a chance. It makes the whole event more unpredictable.

Crash.net:
How tough was it competing against the 'works' Mitsubishi team this season in the BRC and their two drivers', Guy Wilks and Gwyndaf Evans?

MH:
Yeah, they had two very good drivers and the car has always been very quick. It has been very hard this year for me and it has not been the best of seasons. Guy, you only have to look at his times, he has been very, very fast and very consistent. He is a worthy winner of the championship.

Crash.net:
How did you rate your other rivals in the BRC, such as your rookie Stobart TEG Sport team-mate, Wyn Humphries, who finished fourth in the standings and actually led at one point?

MH:
He had a very good consistent run. The car has been very reliable and he just kept getting the points in, which is what it is all about at the end of the day. If you are going for a championship you need to score good points. From a pace point of view though, the two men have really been, Guy and Gwyndaf. David [Higgins - my brother] didn't have such a good season this year [in the BRC], but when he got back into the Subaru towards the end of the year he had some better results. We just need some more people doing the championship really. The BRC has always had great rallies and we just need some more competition in there, right the way through the depth of the field.

Crash.net:
It is always easy to be wise in hindsight, but do you think you stretched yourself too much by doing the BRC, the PWRC and the Irish Tarmac Championship? Did that compromise your bid to take the BRC crown again?

MH:
Possibly, but I don't regret doing it. In this day and age you don't turn down anything because you never know what is around the corner. You have to look at every year as your last year because you just never do know what is about. It was great doing the PWRC and that didn't really cause any problems with regard to the BRC. As it happened the one make tyre that Pirelli choose for Rally GB worked well right the way through - and so that was OK. The only one that we really did compromise I would say would be the Irish. We had to take three Group N cars and if we had maybe taken one WRC car on one of the three events that may have been a different story. But I have had a fantastic year. I have done 18 rallies - we have been driving World Rally Cars, the Mitsubishi and the Subaru [Group N cars] and it is just a shame, as I said a moment ago, that there is nothing to show for it at the end. I did however still enjoy the season very much.

Crash.net:
Ultimately you took the runners-up spot in the BRC and 'bronze' in the PWRC. Do those results give you any pleasure or is it just winning that counts?

MH:
Unfortunately second place is the first loser - but at the Autosport awards I think we said second is the new first based on what Lewis Hamilton has done this year! [laughs]. You are only there to win really though - nobody remembers who took second place and we have to try and make sure we can correct that in the future.

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

MH:
Not a great deal. We have just got to try and get everything sorted out. If we do the Irish championship again that starts at the end of January and so there is not much time for that. We are just trying to get deals together and sort out what we can do and can't do and hopefully make sure we are out rallying again.

Crash.net:
What are you hoping to do next season - any ideas yet?

MH:
Not really, there are a few things being talked about. Top Run would like to do something again in the Production Cup. There is an opportunity - or a possibility of maybe doing something in the British Championship and there is a very strong chance I might do something in Ireland again. But we need to choose carefully what we do and it is still my goal to do something in the WRC with a World Rally Car. There is something we are working on but I would say it is a very slim chance. However if it did come off it could be fantastic.

Crash.net:
Will you still enjoy backing from Stobart Motorsport next year?

MH:
I hope so. We have been together now for three years and it has been a very good relationship. I hope we can do something together but again nothing has been finalised and we need to discuss that.

Crash.net:
Mark thanks again as ever for your time and good luck sorting everything for next year.

MH:
Thank you very much.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MARK HIGGINS: CLICK HERE