10 July 2009
Crash.net EXCLUSIVE: Q&A: Malcolm Wilson
The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team has seen things turn around in the last three events, and while Jari-Matti Latvala's final stage error in Poland was a big blow, the 'Blue Oval' still looks very strong off the back of three victories in succession.
Crash.net Radio's Rob Wilkins caught up with team director Malcolm Wilson recently and spoke to him about Mikko Hirvonen's chances of taking the Drivers' title this season, the next event in Finland and more...
Malcolm, first, congratulations on being awarded an OBE in The Queen's Birthday Honours List…
Thank you very much. I have to say it was a big surprise to me. Very nice - but it came as quite a shock.
We are two thirds of the way through the 2009 World Rally Championship season now, only four events remain. How confident are you feeling going into the final part?
I think if you look where we were six weeks ago we were basically written off as not having much of a chance in either championship - the drivers' or manufacturers'. Prior to Jari-Matti's mistake in Poland of course both championships were looking very, very good. But I really feel Mikko is full of confidence at the moment. He has had two fantastic rallies. I have always felt if we could get both drivers' performing at their best then we could pressurise Sebastien and that is what we have done on the last few events. We have just got to hope now that Mikko can get his revenge in Finland from last year and then of course, going to Australia, with it being another new rally, it tends to favour our drivers again. Hopefully we can mount a challenge. The manufacturers' is going to be difficult in view of what happened in Poland but the drivers' championship looks very promising.
Mikko has a one-point lead in the drivers' championship. Do you think we could see a new world champion this year?
As I said, in Finland, Mikko wants to get revenge. With Sebastien there is a bit of a pattern to his mistakes. They tend to be on new rallies and on new stages. 30 per cent of the tests are new in Finland and Australia is a completely new rally. Obviously Spain should be a Sebastien benefit but then it is back to Rally GB. I think it is going to go right down to the wire and both of our guys have got a good track record in Wales - although admittedly so too has Sebastien. I feel that with the way Mikko is driving at the moment - and the confidence he is getting - he has got to be in a very strong position.
You mentioned what happened in Poland with Jari-Matti. Obviously the team was gutted by what occurred on that final super special and so too was Jari-Matti - how is he now and what advice are you going to give him for Finland?
It has been a difficult year for Jari, as everybody can see. What happened in Poland was probably one of the biggest mistakes I have seen in world rallying. But we have invested heavily in him and we have got to work with him, which is obviously what we are doing. He is getting a lot of specialist advice outside the car. The driving is not in question. But it is just taking a little bit longer to get him to where we wanted him to be than what we had hoped. However the performance up to that final silly mistake was fantastic. The last three rallies have been really good for him. He just made a very, very costly error late on, which we have got to get to the bottom of before Finland.
Will Jari-Matti still be with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT in 2010?
There is no question. Hopefully Ford is going to be in the world championship in the future and he will definitely form part of our plans going forward if that is the case.
Staying with 2010, a lot was announced before Rally Poland following the latest World Motor Sport Council meeting. Are you happy with the direction the sport is going?
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the conversation - Add your comment
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