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Q&A: Nicky Grist - EXCLUSIVE

3 October 2008

by Rob Wilkins


TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH NICKY GRIST: CLICK HERE


Colin McRae's former co-driver, Nicky Grist was one of the stars at the recent Castle Combe Rallyday in the UK. Crash.net Radio spoke to him about that event and the World Rally Championship in general...


Crash.net:
Nicky, what have you made of this year's Rallyday?

Nicky Grist:
The sun is shinning and there is not a cloud in the sky. In previous years that has always been a bone of contention and it has been washed out regularly. But today is an absolutely stunning day. There are loads of people here and a load of cars. It is just a great day out.

Crash.net:
How important are events like this for the sport and the WRC?

NG:
I don't think it is especially important for the WRC as that is enough of a show in its own right. But it is a great show for all those enthusiasts who spend every spare bit of cash of their own on their rally cars. It gives them a chance to show off in front of the crowds. That is a far better tribute for this event than the big stars. But don't get me wrong the big stars are the ones that really do attract the spectators.

Crash.net:
Mikko Hirvonen is the headline act here - can he beat Sebastien Loeb and win the 2008 WRC drivers' title?

NG:
It is going to be difficult. But you should never, say never. There was obviously a bit of a cock-up in New Zealand, which set them back quite dearly. But Sebastien will never be far away. When it comes down to it, I think it is going to be a race right to the finish. But you can't underestimate the coolness and the experience of Sebastien Loeb. He will always be there at the end.

Crash.net:
The next two events in Spain and France are on asphalt and that of course traditionally favours Sebastien...

NG:
I was going to follow on and mention that. You can't say that Sebastien is not going to win it. But bearing in mind all they have to do is finish second and it is only a two point difference. It is not like the scoring was ten years ago, when you maybe had a five point difference between first and second. Now it is only two points and he is only going to gain two points if he wins and Mikko finishes in second place. There are a lot of other tarmac boys though that could come in and mess things up. If Mikko has a couple of hiccups and starts finishing down the order then these tarmac rallies could be crucial.

Crash.net:
Ford has demoted Jari-Matti Latvala to the 'B' team for those two events. How do you think that will affect his confidence?

NG:
Not at all - it will make Jari-Matti even hungrier to go out there and show what he can do. Of course Francois [Duval], historically, has always been pretty quick on tarmac and he does have some good sponsorship behind him. At the end of the day he should help Ford's championship hopes. But it is important for them to try and get Francois in a position to get right up the leader-board if, for any reason Mikko can't keep up with Sebastien. It is all tactics at the end of the day and you can't underestimate what Dani [Sordo] could do either. Spain is his home event and no matter what, it is surprising how when it comes to your home event you somehow always perform a little bit better. Who knows what he can do. He could finish second and could possibly even finish first. You just never know and he is in a good car.

Crash.net:
There have been a lot of tactics this year - is that good or bad for the WRC?

NG:
That has always been the case for many years. To be honest no matter what you do and how you structure it, I don't think there is any real fair way to suit everybody. The running position has always been a bowl of contention. The reserve order did make things a lot, lot easier for the leading crews. We suffered from it in the late 1990s and the early 2000s in just the same way. I think it is good for the sport. It is applying a little bit of brain power as well as throttle and horse power.

Crash.net:
There is talk Marcus Gronholm might come out of retirement - should he return?

NG:
The sport needs somebody like that. No disrespect to Mikko or any of these young guys that are coming up through the fray. But there are no stars of yesteryear still and when you think about it Marcus Gronholm is not that old a person. He is still a very young driver and still extremely competitive. He was the only one when Sebastien was on top form that could really live with him. It would be good for the sport if he does come back. But he has got to suit himself. He has had twelve months off now and perhaps that will have put a bit of fire in his belly and given him the opportunity to say: 'Yeah right, I want to come back'. It would be great to see it.

Crash.net:
How would you like to see the WRC develop in the future?

NG:
I don't know. It is difficult to say because of the expense in terms of building the cars, running the cars and doing the events themselves. Everything is just more expensive now. When you look at a lot of these teams I think it is only really Citroen now who truly pay their drivers a good wage. Other than that the teams have to be fuelled by rich talented amateurs' more than professional drivers. A lot of these talented drivers' are exceptionally good mind, don't get me wrong. However it would be nice to have more opportunities for younger drivers' in professional seats instead of turning around and saying: 'Yes you can come and drive our car, but it is going to cost you £350,000'. Nobody can afford that. Youngsters are not getting the opportunity to show what they can do because of the costs. It would be nice somehow to get that turned around. But I understand where the teams are coming from. It is all about money.

Crash.net:
Guy Wilks launched the 'Wilks 500 Club' back in the summer to try and get a drive in 2009 with the works Subaru WRT. Does that have a chance of working?

NG:
It is a great incentive and I hope people do take up the opportunity to make this happen. He has never really had a fair crack at the whip. He has done a few events and he had the opportunity with Ford with limited sponsorship. But it comes to the point where you can't always make it happen when you have got such a small programme. You have got to have at least 12 or 14 events under your belt before you can really start showing what you can do. At the moment he hasn't had the opportunity to get into the swing of the World Rally Cars and the World Rally Championship at the top level. He needs a lot more events before he can start showing what he can do. This opportunity with Subaru, if he can get the money together, is great. I think that once he builds up some experience he will start putting in some very solid and commendable times. But you can't just jump into a World Rally Car and keep up with these top stars. They are driving all day, everyday and if they are not driving in rallies they are testing. It is tough to keep up with that.


TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH NICKY GRIST: CLICK HERE


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