by Rob Wilkins

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH BARRY CLARK: CLICK HERE

Barry Clark won the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International series in 2007 and this year will get to take in three rounds in the WRC in a latest spec Ford Focus RS WRC car. Crash.net Radio caught up with the Scot recently to find out how much he is looking forward to that challenge...

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Crash.net:
Barry, how exciting is this chance for you with the Focus and just how important is it for you to make the most of it?

Barry Clark:
I am over the moon. It is an absolutely fantastic opportunity for me to get into a World Rally Car and be up against the main guys in the world championship. It is a massive step for us from the little Group N Fiesta. But it is one that I am ready to make and I am delighted to have gotten the opportunity. [Ford boss] Malcolm Wilson has been fantastic and we have been able to come up with this deal to do three rallies. I have never done Turkey before, but I have done Corsica and GB. It is a challenge I am thoroughly looking forward to.

Crash.net:
One event has come about as a prize for winning the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International championship last year, while the other two outings are something you have worked to secure. Give us the details...

BC:
We had a fantastic time last year in the Fiestas and we dominated the championship. Last year they awarded Alessandro Bettega a run in Corsica in the Focus [after he won the FSTi series in '06] and so they have done the same again for me this year. But we have managed to secure some extra funding and the opportunity was there to use the car for a couple of other events and we have managed to do that and get the deal for three rallies. It will give me a bit more of a chance and a bit more time in the car and a chance to prove myself on different surfaces.

Crash.net:
How difficult has it been to raise the money to do those extra two events?

BC:
It is an awful lot of money and raising money for anything is mighty tough. We are still working on trying to raise as much money as we can and getting as much sponsorship in as we can, but we have committed to it this year. We will get there and we will see from there.

Crash.net:
Driving the Fiesta ST to switching to driving the Focus is going to be very different isn't it?

BC:
They are totally different cars. The Fiesta ST is a road car with a few competition bits on it, whereas the Focus is an out and out rally car. Obviously it is four-wheel drive as well and there is much more power with the turbo. There is an awful lot to get use to. But hopefully I will be able to get out in the car a few times before the Rally of Turkey in June and get some miles under my belt. We are also building an Evo 9 that I am going to use in some British championship events. I just want to build on the four-wheel drive experience and that should help with it.

Crash.net:
What experience have you got driving WRC cars?

BC:
Not a lot at the moment. I have done a couple of shakedowns for M-Sport and I did a rally day at the Chatsworth Rally Show [in September last year], doing some demo runs. But that is about the limit of it. Hopefully we will be able to get a lot more experience before June.

Crash.net:
Any idea how many tests you will do before Turkey and when they will be?

BC:
Not at the moment. I really don't know. It all depends on what is available and what we can pull together and what Malcolm says to it. Hopefully they will let me do some more shakedowns and some rally days. There could be some PR days too and we might get a run in Greystoke forest or whatever. Anything we can do and any chance I can get to be in the car I will be up for.

Crash.net:
How are you going to approach the events in Turkey, France and GB?

BC:
The main aim has to be to finish the rallies and gain experience. The guys I am competing against have been on these rallies for years and years. They know the stages and they know the cars inside out. I can't hope or expect to be in right beside them. I just have to take a steady approach, use my head and drive sensibly. I want to get the experience, but I will push where I feel I can and put some good times in on the stages I feel comfortable on.

Crash.net:
Will the fact you are nominated to score points for the Munchi's team increase the pressure in Turkey?

BC:
No, not for me. I will just do my own thing as I would anyway. Turkey is a really rough gravel event and the attrition rate will be quite high. We will take it steady and see how we get on.

Crash.net:
Have you spoken to any of the other Ford drivers' yet to get some information about the car and the new Pirelli tyres?

BC:
Not yet. That is all going to be done obviously before. Hopefully I am going to get out to some of the rallies and work with George [Black] - the tyre engineer - and learn an awful lot from him. I want to work with the car engineers and learn about the car and the different set-ups for the different surfaces and different events too. Obviously I will speak to the drivers' as well. I know Matthew [Wilson] reasonably well and Scott [Martin] is obviously navigating for him. Scott co-drove for me last year and I will try and learn as much as I possibly can from him.

Crash.net:
You said you are hoping to do some events in the BRC earlier. What else can you tell us about that?

BC:
Certainly that is the plan. The guys here are building me a new Evo 9 at the moment. We are going to do some rallies in it and possibly some rallies in a Fiesta. But the main idea of the Evo is just to get out and do some four-wheel drive miles and get the experience. I haven't got an awful lot. I did one year in the British championship in '05 in a Group N Subaru, but really that is the limit of my four-wheel drive experience.

Crash.net:
Would that be all the BRC events or just selected ones?

BC:
We will be starting on the Pirelli. I don't know if that will be in a Fiesta or in the Evo - it is still to be decided. We will try and do as much of the British championship as we can. But the WRC rallies come first. If there is a chance to get out on them with tyre engineers or car engineers and maybe have a look through some of the stages, then that has to be the main priority. There could be quite a lot of clashes and so I won't be able to do the whole British championship. Also with GB I am doing that in the Focus and that counts for two rounds in the BRC and so we will 'miss' them as well. I can't be in contention for the overall British championship but it will still be great to get out there and do the miles.

Crash.net:
Is there anything else lined-up or on the drawing board?

BC:
Not at the moment. As I said, money is the biggest issue in rallying and trying to get as much as we can for the programme that we have got. If we can raise extra funding it would be very nice to do some of the European rallies in a four-wheel drive car - perhaps the Mitsubishi. But that would be about the sum of it.

Crash.net:
Last year you were co-driven by Scott Martin, who is going to be calling the pace-notes this year?

BC:
It is still something we are working on and fortunately there are quite a lot of co-drivers about. There are a lot looking for seats. I need somebody with a mixture of good experience and enthusiasm to go and compete in the world championship and do there best. We have got a short list put together and we are working together with my management and Malcolm Wilson and we will come up with a suitable plan. Hopefully I can get a co-driver that I can work with all year and form a good bond with for the future.

Crash.net:
What have you made of the WRC so far this year and the level of competitiveness in it?

BC:
It has been an interesting start to the season with Sebastien [Loeb]'s roll in Sweden and then his engine issues in Mexico [in the shakedown]. It is looking really exciting. Jari-Matti [Latvala] has gone very, very well so far. Mikko [Hirvonen] is pushing as well. I think there is some fantastic competition there and I can't just wait to be part of it.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH BARRY CLARK: CLICK HERE