by Rob Wilkins

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH BRIAN STUBBINGS: CLICK HERE

The 2008 Rallyday at Castle Combe takes place this coming Saturday and this year BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team number one Mikko Hirvonen will headline following in the footsteps of the likes of Hannu Mikkola and Ari Vatanen as well as the late Colin McRae. Crash.net Radio caught up with Brian Stubbings recently, one of the brains behind the event, and got the low-down on all the attractions...

Crash.net:
Brian, the big star at this year's Rallyday is going to be Mikko Hirvonen. How important is it to have a name like that at the top of the bill?

Brian Stubbings:
It is terrific to have Mikko come along with the latest Ford Focus RS World Rally Car and it does make a difference. A lot of people come to the event to see different rally stars and having someone that is bang up to the minute and fighting for the championship is a real crowd puller.

Crash.net:
It's not the first time the Rallyday has attracted one of the premier names from the world of rallying, we've seen the late Colin McRae and the late Richard Burns at the event, as well as the likes of David Richards and Matthew Wilson. Does that history help you now?

BS:
It does - I think people now know the calibre of stars that they can expect to see at the event and it has helped. We always try and keep it diverse as well around the more recent stars and some of the people that were successful many years ago.

Crash.net:
The event seems to regularly attract around 10,000 people. Can you break that marker this time?

BS:
The weather always influences that. But for the last few years it has been a reliable 10,000 people crowd. I believe that with some of the attractions we have got this year it is certainly probably going to appeal to a bit weirder audience outside of the 'hardcore' rally fans. We have got a big Rally Raid display this year and we are doing a lot more with Rallycross. It is going to be interesting to see what effect that has.

Crash.net:
Of course the Combe Rallyday is not the only rally show in the UK now - and the Chatsworth Rally Show took place back in June. Is that a help or a hindrance?

BS:
It probably doesn't help to be honest, but it is just one of those things. Elements of the show that we have done here have gone across there as well. From a spectator point of view geographically it is in a different place and so that is good. But it is more to do with the teams that there is a bit of a problem. It is difficult for them and they only have so many spare days that they can devote to this sort of activity. In that sense it makes things a bit more difficult.

Crash.net:
At least this year though both shows aren't in September...

BS:
Yeah, they were pretty much on top of each other last year. It is better now that they are split either side of the summer. That will be better for both companies.

Crash.net:
What is the main theme for this year's Rallyday?

BS:
It is a mixture. There isn't any one single theme for this year. We have tried to look at the cross-section of what we think rally fans want to see. We have got bang up-to-date World Rally Cars through to some really quite incredible historic cars - including right back to a 1938 Chevrolet Rally Car, which will be out on display and giving a demo. It is a great mix.

Crash.net:
This is the eighth Rallyday you and Darin Frow have organised. Does it get any easier each year?

BS:
Elements of it are a lot easier now in terms of working with the different car clubs and traders. People know now what it is and they know what to expect. The bookings all tend to come in a lot earlier now. The challenge is always trying to find those interesting attractions though to make people want to keep coming back.

Crash.net:
How tough is it then to try and take it to the next level each year or are you happy with the level it is at now?

BS:
I think you can never leave it standing still and one thing we wanted to do this year was to make the 'Feature Rally Stage' a bit more exciting. As part of that we have done a re-design and there will be a bit more action out there as a result. You always need to do these little things to bring the event on.

We have also got another stage, which runs down the perimeter road and people will see a lot more action down there too. We have invested in a new start arch and different stage 'furnishings' and so it is going to have a bit more of a presence this year.

Crash.net:
Mitsubishi is again supporting the event - and as part of that you will have 2007 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally champion, Guy Wilks in attendance. How crucial is Mitsubishi's support and how much is it appreciated?

BS:
Mitsubishi's support is fantastic. We have worked closely with the team based at Cirencester for a while now. They have supported the event with a World Rally Car for a number of years - and it is coming down again this year and Guy Wilks, the reigning British champion, will be driving it. That is terrific for us. But they also supply support vehicles as well, which we use to help with the Feature Stage set-up and that side of it. Between the displays they put on and that, it adds a lot of clout to the event - and it is all appreciated.

Crash.net:
What other people should the fans look out for in addition to Mikko Hirvonen and Guy Wilks?

BS:
They should look out for Gwyndaf Evans, Phil Mills, Pentti Airikkala, who is coming back again this year. Another couple of names from the past include Russell Brookes and Terry Kaby. It is quite a range of people - and Tony Mason will be back and on the mic keeping everyone up-to-date too.

Crash.net:
What are the big 'displays' this year? What cars will be at the show and demonstrated on the track?

BS:
I mentioned Rally Raid, which also includes Rally Raid bikes. We have got the Rallycross element and we have 16 different Rallycross teams that will be at the show. We have Russ Swift, who is popular from the family point of view. There is a big range of trade displays and lots of feature rally cars, including the Aston Martin Rally Car and the Audi Quattro. We have two Audi Quattro S1 E2s coming - we have one from Audi UK and one that is privately owned. They are amazing to watch. There is quite range really, not just one type. It cuts across different eras and different types of motorsport.

Crash.net:
What other things should people attending look out for in terms of competitions, rides and so on?

BS:
We have got white-knuckle rides available on the day in rally cars. There are live interviews with the different big names that are attending the event. There is an all-new World Rally Car simulator as well - it is the first time we have had it at the Rallyday and so that should be good. The Richard Burns Foundation and Save the Children are both going to be there - and there will be a few opportunities to win a ride through the raffles they are doing, with all proceedings going to those charities.

Crash.net:
What do you think is going to be the highlight this year for you?

BS:
I haven't really thought about that! One thing that we have got coming back that was spectacular a few years ago is the Metro 6R4 - the ex-Tony Pond RAC car. That will be out on the Feature Stage. I'm looking forward to seeing that - and of course the World Rally Cars are always great. I think a lot of people get enjoyment from seeing them out in action.

Crash.net:
Final question, will this year's show be as successful as it predecessors?

BS:
Yeah, I think it will be. It is interesting. If you speak to people that come along and those from the clubs and so on they have a lot of good things to say, which is great and gives us a boost. We are pleased to keep doing it and as long as it is successful we will keep doing it and evolving it.

The Rallyday 2008 takes place on Saturday September 20 at the Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire. Admission on the day is: ?15.00 per adult, ?3.00 per child (5-16 year's old). Children under 5 go FREE. Full details available at the official site: Rallyday.com.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH BRIAN STUBBINGS: CLICK HERE