As one of the driver for the Tracsport team, Rick Pearson is a regular contributor to Crash.net in the teams monthly 'Tracsport Talkback' column.

Crash.net's Matt Salisbury caught up with Rick during the recent Autosport International show in Birmingham to look forward to 2005, and what will hopefully be another strong season for the small British team...

Crash.net:
Rick, a highly successful 2004 season for both yourself and the team, I think exceeding all the expectations you had at the start of the year. What are you looking at doing for this season, 2005?

Rick Pearson:
Well you know what it's like at this time of year Matt, it's a question of getting the deals sorted and getting the money in place. To stay within the LMES is going to be a big step for the team because we need to upgrade the car and obviously we need to find the budget to run for those 24 hours in June down at La Sarthe!

It's a bigger ask for the sponsors, but it's certainly something that the team is capable of stepping up to, so it's a question of making sure that we get the right deals in place and I'm happy to say that we're a long way down the road - although it's not done yet.

Crash.net:
Looking at 2005, the team is hoping to run the Courage rather than the Lola you ran in 2004. The Lola was outdated but you still took it to a top three finish in the LMP2 standings so you must be hopeful that if you have an up-to-date machine you'll be able to fight for the title.

Rick Pearson:
Undoubtedly. With the structure we are looking to put into place, with the right tyres and the right engine, probably the Courage, and with the driving strength we had last year, we would be optimistic of challenging for honours and some decent finishes in all the races and the championship - perhaps even, over that 24 hour period, a top ten finish or more outright up at Le Mans.

Crash.net:
From the point of view of a driver, what does it mean to be given the opportunity to possibly compete in a race like Le Mans?

Rick Pearson:
It's a lifetime ambition Matt, nothing more nothing less. It's a great race and I've been as a spectator, on and off, probably ten times over the last 12 or 13 years. Whenever my races haven't clashed, I've been down there on the spectator banking. I watched JJ Lehto in the McLaren at three o'clock in the morning in the pouring rain like so many of us motorsport fans so to go back on the driving strength of a competitive team with a competitive car making a real challenge for a podium finish within the class - it's a lifetime ambition.

Crash.net:
From our discussions with the team we know Tracsport is hoping to maybe do some races out in America in the ALMS, how much of a challenge do you think that would be?

Rick Pearson:
Clearly it's a big pond out there and, while we have a very competitive series here in Europe, they have a very competitive series out there. The Miracle Motorsport team has a couple of Courage cars and they'd be very difficult to beat on their home tracks. Similarly, Intersport has a new Lola, one of their drivers has a new Lola on order which I imagine will be seen out there so that's a good field and if you combine it with the European field it will be a tough challenge.

Whether or not we manage to source the budget to go to the States this year, I don't know at this stage. We are very much in a resurgent period for sportscar racing in Europe, and while the Europeans have always had the Le Mans tradition and follow it maybe even more avidly than the Brits, we are still finding a very slow take-up by the British press - yourselves aside - and as that gets more popular, and Aston Martin come in next year, I think we'll see a resurgence in popularity for GT racing globally and that will undoubtedly filter through to our series and hopefully to our sponsorship to allow us to do these more adventurous races abroad.

Crash.net:
You mentioned Aston Martin there. How important is to GT racing to have a big name like that, one which will capture people's imagination, coming into the sport?

Rick Pearson:
It's a big vote, especially when you have Ford pulling out of Formula One at a similar point in time. Clearly Prodrive has done a very clever financing deal to put the Aston Martin Racing team together, backed by a lot of those long standing Aston Martin enthusiasts who have invested in the cars. It is a fantastic thing for GT racing in terms of popularity, I know there will be walls of green flags at Le Mans again this year, as with Bentley a few years back, and probably more Brits than ever. I'm really looking forward to it and I hope I'm the other side of the fence.

Crash.net:
With the LMES we are looking at five races, then the 24 hours at Le Mans, which is only six races in total - then of course there is whatever the team decides to do in relation to racing in America. Is there anything else you are looking at for 2005 alongside the LMES programme?

Rick Pearson:
Well clearly, at this stage things aren't signed and you're right, it is only six races including an entry for Le Mans and a fifth race for the LMES [which was announced after this interview took place]. As a driver, it's still a huge budget to find as these cars are expensive to run. The team and their sponsors will have to work hard to put that all together, so it's very difficult to sit down and say 'Yeah I'm sure there will be the sponsorship budget to go and do something else.'

Should the LMES process not come through, then clearly it is in every drivers best interest to make sure he has other options at this time of year, and I'm talking to a couple of teams and there are some interesting things on the table, potentially in a touring car - maybe in this country, maybe abroad.

Crash.net:
Well Rick, thanks for your time and all the best for 2005.

Rick Pearson:
Cheers Matt, always a pleasure.