Skoda's Guy Wilks has said he will do his 'damnedest' to finish on the podium when he returns from an injury-enforced twelve week lay-off on the Barum Czech Rally Zlin next week, the latest round in the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Despite sitting out the last three rounds of the IRC after fracturing two vertebrae in an accident on the Rally d'Italia-Sardegna back in June, a great start to the season still sees the Englishman arrive in the Czech Republic for Skoda's home round a strong fourth in the drivers' standings – and the top British driver.
The 29-year old Darlington driver is keen to rally the new Fabia S2000 Facelift, which is 22mm wider than its predecessor, for the first time, and he and co-driver Phil Pugh will have the rousing support of the 250,000 Czech fans that are expected to line this year's rally route.
In order to polish the required smooth driving technique and to test his body against the enormous g-forces that asphalt rallying entails, Wilks has been driving his own 125cc Rotax Max racing go-kart at Warden Law, a kart circuit near his home in County Durham. The test went well, reinforcing the fact that he is 100 per cent fit and ready for a return to competition – even though he may be lacking a little match practice.
“I'm looking forward to driving the Fabia S2000 Facelift for the first time, and it will be all the more special to make my rally comeback on Skoda's home event,” he said. “We have to make sure we have a great pre-rally test, find the right set-up and make sure we do a good job, because the Barum Rally represents a great opportunity to get back scoring IRC points straight away.
“There will be some very fast drivers there, especially Jan Kopecky, who won the event by just over a minute last year, and his Skoda Motorsport team-mate Juho Hanninen, who arrives there leading the series.
“All the other drivers will be match fit, especially those who have done Madeira and are coming straight off the back of another asphalt rally. But that's no excuse – I'm happy with my fitness and I think we'll be back on the pace.
“I've never driven the Barum Rally stages at speed, but I did the recce last year. The stages are very fast and tricky – in many places you can tell that there has never been a road base and the asphalt has been laid over whatever was there, so it is very bumpy and undulating in places, especially when the road goes through a forest area. In other places the roads are very wide and smooth, so it can go from one extreme to another. Car set-up is always a bit of a compromise, and it's a good challenge for a driver.
“The Czech fans obviously support the Czech drivers, but they also cheer on anyone who drives a Skoda – and I'm certainly looking forward to being part of that. There is an absolutely fantastic super-special stage, which goes around Zlín city centre and attracts 40,000 spectators, making for a mega atmosphere. Hopefully we can get a good result in Barum and we'll be doing our damnedest to finish on the podium.”