by Rob Wilkins

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

Stobart Ford's Matthew Wilson has had a bit of a mixed year to date in the WRC and while there have been highs - most noticeably his sixth place finish in Mexico - there have also been quite a few lows too, with problems in Sweden and Argentina costing him points. Crash.net Radio caught up with him recently to chat about the season to date and the next event at the end of this month, the inaugural WRC round in Jordan...

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Crash.net:
Matt, the Jordan Rally is next up, are you looking forward to it?

Matthew Wilson:
Yeah, I am. I think it is going to be quite an exciting one. It will be new for everybody and something totally different. It is going to be hot and it is going to be tough too. There is a 41 kilometre stage on the Sunday, which is going to be a real sting in the tail.

Crash.net:
As you say, the Jordan Rally is new to the WRC - do you know anything about it?

MW:
I have seen pictures and I have seen the video of the candidate event last year. I just know it is going to be hot and I think the surface is quite smooth as well. The organisers have done a lot of work with the surface and hopefully it should be a bit less rough than it was in Argentina.

Crash.net:
Which of the current events in the WRC, do you think it will be most similar to?

MW:
I think it is going to be a unique event and totally different. Like I said, they have done so much work with the surface and I think in some places last year it was actually leaving black marks on the road - that's how hard it was. It will be a new experience for most of us heading out there. It should be quite interesting.

Crash.net:
What special features are you going to have to look out for?

MW:
The heat will be a big part of it, especially on the Sunday in that long stage, which is the last of the rally. It will be something like 36 degrees heat outside and that will make it a tough final test.

Crash.net:
That should make fitness quite important shouldn't it?

MW:
It will for sure, definitely. We have been doing a lot of training leading up to it. A lot of it will be about keeping yourself hydrated as well and it will be important to drink a lot of fluids. That is the main thing.

Crash.net:
Once the Jordan Rally is over, a third of the season will have been completed. How do you assess the year to date for yourself?

MW:
Frustrating is probably one word. If we had finished the rallies that we could have this year we could have had eleven or twelve championship points and could have been well up the order. As it is though, we haven't. Sweden was unlucky with the problem with the car and again the problem in Argentina with the suspension. We have just been a bit unfortunate. Luckily I haven't made too many driver errors. It is always nice to get those points on the board and it is a bit frustrating that we haven't got them. But at least we have been in those sorts of positions and looking to get those results. That is the main thing.

Crash.net:
What has it been like working with Scott Martin again as your co-driver?

MW:
It has all clicked in really well. No problems at all. The first event would be difficult for anybody coming in. Monte Carlo is not the easiest one to start with, but once he got that one out of the way it got better. Sweden is a rally we both enjoy and after that it just went from strength to strength. It has been a good start. But like I say a little bit frustrating in that we haven't got those results that we could have had.

Crash.net:
What's been the most difficult thing to adjust to this year so far?

MW:
The tyres have been a new challenge, especially in Argentina. Up until then it hadn't been too much of a problem. The tyres worked really well in Mexico and in Sweden. Then coming into Argentina we got a completely different rally to what we thought. On the recce we had hot temperatures and it was dry. Then come the rally we had lower temperatures and a lot of rain. So, the stages were very muddy and you were using a really hard compound tyre. It made it very, very difficult. I think if we get a few more rallies like that one then it is going to be very tough.

Crash.net:
Sebastien Loeb was quoted as saying in Argentina that the new tyre regulations are quite dangerous and that in special circumstances, like there was on that event, drivers should be allowed to cut the tyres. Do you think he has a point?

MW:
Yeah, I think he has got a point. But it is always going to be one of those hard things. It was decided before the season even started which rallies we would run a soft compound and which rallies we would run a hard compound. I don't think the drivers really got any input into that, which is a bit of a shame. It proved very, very difficult being on the equivalent of a tyre you would use in somewhere like Greece in those sort of conditions and in one stage it was dangerous. But if we had had the weather that we had in the recce - 30 degrees, dust and dry conditions - it wouldn't have been a problem. I think it changed so much it took everyone by surprise.

Crash.net:
Do you think there is a need for the FIA to make some tweaks to the regulations?

MW:
I don't know. I think it is going to struggle to happen, definitely for this year. Whether we can work to do something for next year we will have to see. But obviously the idea was to keep the costs down, that was the whole reasoning with the one-make tyre. I think it is going to be very difficult to do something. But it would be nice to think if we do get special conditions, like we did have there, the possibility is there just to do something to make it that little bit safer.

Crash.net:
Another thing new for you this year, in addition to a new co-driver and the new tyres, was the new Focus. Has that made much difference?

MW:
Not really. It is a small evolution from the '06 car - very, very minimal and obviously you can't really tell any difference in terms of the look of it. There are some subtle changes and they have been beneficial. But to drive you don't feel too much difference. There has not really been any adapting to do. It is just an evolution from last year - not anything substantially different.

Crash.net:
How do you see the rest of the year shaping up and what goals have you got?

MW:
Really we just need to keep on going the way we have been. We need to put Argentina behind us. It was a bit of a disaster for the whole Ford team, not just us. We just need to concentrate on Jordan and the other three rallies before the summer break and try and do the best we can. We want to get some more points. That has to be the aim. We have been in the points positions on every rally, apart from Monte Carlo. It would be nice to try and carry that run through and then try and take some more steps in the second half of the year.

Crash.net:
What have you made of the competition?

MW:
There have been some really good fights. The fight we had in Sweden with Andreas [Mikkelsen] was good. Unfortunately we didn't get to take that one to the end because of the problems we had. But it has been fantastic, especially having a new team-mate in Gigi [Galli]. That has boosted everyone. The same old culprits are there as well that we have been battling with for the last couple of years. Now we are trying to move that up a little bit and step into the next group.

Crash.net:
Have you been surprised by Subaru because they seem to be making progress after a few difficult years?

MW:
No, I think you could see at the end of last year, Chris [Atkinson], was starting to drive very well. They have been quite strong events though that we have had so far for Subaru. They have always gone reasonably well in Mexico and Argentina. I think they probably suffer a little bit less with their engine at the altitudes than maybe some of the others. You can't take it away [what they have achieved] - both of them [Chris and Petter Solberg] have been driving very well. It is good to have them back up there and fighting at the sharp end.

Crash.net:
Final question, do you think anyone can stop Sebastien from taking that fifth drivers' title?

MW:
Yeah I think so! [laughs] There are two boys in the BP [Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally] team, who will do a hell of a good job trying. If you look at the pace Mikko [Hirvonen] had in Argentina - ok, he made a mistake, which is very, very rare for him - but if you look at his speed, he would have only had to have cruised to the end, given the times he did on the first couple of stages. He could still have been leading the championship if he hadn't made that error. There is a possibility to take the fight to him there then. We have seen Sebastien can make mistakes too, especially in Sweden. There is a strong chance and with the speed that Jari-Matti [Latvala] is showing he can have a go too. There are people out there that will give it a good try.

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