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Q&A: Howard Davies - EXCLUSIVE

7 October 2008

by Rob Wilkins


TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH HOWARD DAVIES: CLICK HERE


Howard Davies, who co-drove Gwyndaf Evans to the BRC title in 1996, was at the 2008 Rallyday in the UK last month. Crash.net Radio spoke to him there and got his thoughts on the World Rally Championship prior to the start of last weekend's Rally Catalunya. Here he talks about Mikko Hirvonen's chances of still taking the 2008 title, why he doesn't like the tactics seen this season in the WRC and why he thinks it would be bad if Marcus Gronholm comes out of retirement...


Crash.net:
Howard, this is the eighth Rallyday and the event seems to be going from strength-to-strength.

Howard Davies:
It is fantastic. The most important thing is that they have been blessed with good weather. But I was just in the tower watching some of the action and the guys seem to be enjoying themselves. It is a great opportunity for people to come - all kinds of enthusiasts and competitors. Whether you just want to come and try your car on the track or whether you want to bring your sponsors and give them a run. It is a good day out and it is pretty unique. They have got the big names here and a lot of club people too. It is just a real cross section of motor enthusiasts. It is brilliant and I think Brian [Stubbings] and Darin [Frow – Rallyday co-organisers] do a great job.

Crash.net:
How important are events like this?

HD:
It is very important to showcase our sport the best we can. In all honesty unless you come here or go to GB or Ireland you don't have the opportunity to see any World championship teams. Mikko [Hirvonen] is here today and this is a great way for people to meet him and see his Focus close up. On events they are so condensed now that people don't seem to have the time to spend with the fans. Yet on events like this you can go over there and have a chat and have a good look around. There is no panic, no rush and there is no fixed timetable really. Everybody can just get on and enjoy themselves. It is great and nice to be here and see like minded people.

Crash.net:
Looking at the WRC, do you think Mikko Hirvonen can still win the drivers' title this year?

HD:
He needs a bit of luck on his side now. The next two tarmac rallies are going to be difficult for him and if the luck goes his way he might still be able to do it. But I think he has got a bit of an uphill struggle. Sebastien [Loeb] is just brilliant and he goes well on the tarmac and so does the car. It is difficult but it is possible. Anything is possible in this sport and I don't think there is anyone better than Mikko to take the fight to him. He has done extremely well this year and it would have been so easy for him to get demoralised in Finland and New Zealand. But he hasn't. He has got out there and he has come back fighting. That is what is great about Mikko. He is a real fighter.

Crash.net:
Sebastien Loeb is, as you say, almost in a class of his own. He is very much the 'Michael Schumacher' of the WRC isn't he?

HD:
Yeah and it was interesting to see the team tactics coming into play on the Rally New Zealand and how disgruntled Loeb was at playing them. It is not his style. He wants to go out and win with raw speed. Emotionally it seems to affect him. It doesn't seem to bother Mikko - it is just part of the job. But for Loeb - people hold him in real high esteem - and he just didn't want that s**t and hassle. It is interesting to see how these guys react completely differently to these scenarios.

Crash.net:
What do you think of the tactics we have seen this year?

HD:
I don't think it is good for the sport. It is diluting the situation. What you have got to remember is that they do three days of rallying and this just brings it down to the Sunday morning when they put these tactics into play. It needs to be sorted out and it needs to be eradicated. They need to change the way the running order is decided. But I think they will do that. It is win-at-all-costs though and if that is what it takes - and these guys are spending a fortune - they have got to use the regulations to their advantage. That is all they are doing.

Crash.net:
It has spiced it up though hasn't it?

HD:
I think it has. It has given a bit of spice to it in fairness and you can't knock that in a way.

Crash.net:
It is not new either is it, because it happened in the past...

HD:
Yeah, it is not a new phenomena. It is just using the regulations to the fullness of the letter.

Crash.net:
What do you think of the state of the WRC in general?

HD:
We could do with a couple more teams in the WRC to make it a little bit more interesting. The idea of bringing in junior teams next year will be fantastic. I think there needs to be two top line drivers, but I think teams should have a third wild card driver with a minimum age and a minimum experience to introduce new drivers' into the sport. We have got the processes. We have got the PWRC. We have got the Super 1600 and Super 2000. But it just needs to be ramped up and be organised in such a way that when you do that you graduate to the next thing. The biggest problem is cost. That is the prohibiting factor for any youngster. We need to make it cheaper and more accessible. I think that is what the new breed of regulations that they are keen to push onto the manufacturers over the next four years will do. It will make the sport cheaper.

Crash.net:
One positive development recently is that Subaru will have a 'B' team next season...

HD:
That is what we need. It is fantastic for Subaru and I applaud them for that. I hope the other teams follow suit. That is what we need and hopefully it will bring on some more British talent too. We need some Brits in the WRC to make it exciting for us. Our newspapers and media aren't going to report on it when it is full of Finns and French people!

Crash.net:
Guy Wilks is aiming to compete in the WRC next season through the 'Wilks 500 Club'. Does that have a chance of working?

HD:
I am going to interview Guy on stage here in the next half an hour and that is one of the questions I am going to ask him. It will be interesting to see what he says and what his answers are. In principal I think it is a great idea and there is nobody else in this country that deserves it as much as Guy. I believe he has got the potential to do it. He has got a bit of charisma about him and he is his own man. He will make interesting media and he can drive. There is no question about that. He deserves a shot at it.

Crash.net:
There is talk Marcus Gronholm might come out of retirement – do you think he should?

HD:
I don't think it is good when any top line sports personality retires and then comes back. Sometimes it shows a bit of greed and sometimes it shows they can't leave it alone. I have got nothing against people coming back and enjoying themselves. But for Marcus to come back and steal the potential of a young drivers' seat and not actually perform would be detrimental to Marcus' profile and the memory of him. Yeah carry on doing your Rally cross and do what you can. But if you have stepped out of the WRC now, you have stepped out. That is my own personal view. A lot of people would say something different and that we haven't seen the best of him. But once you have had your stab and your shot and you have given it up, it is unfair to steal a drive that could go to a younger driver because of a whim.

Crash.net:
Do you think he could seriously come back?

HD:
No I don't think so I just think it is cheap talk. I don't think he has any desire to comeback. Marcus didn't enjoy the travelling towards the end and he wanted to be at home and he made that decision. He is probably missing it a bit and thinking 'I wouldn't mind doing a few rallies'. But I don't think we will see him back behind the wheel on a regular basis.

Crash.net:
Of course related to that though, next year there will only be 12 events in the WRC, as opposed to the 16 in recent years and 15 this season.

HD:
Yeah that is obviously easier on everybody. It is easier on the teams and may make it a bit more attractive for the drivers. But... I don't think he will comeback, myself.


TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH HOWARD DAVIES: CLICK HERE


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