by Rob Wilkins


Guy Wilks' regular co-driver Phil Pugh has spent much of the season on the sidelines due to a back problem. Radio caught up with him at the Castle Combe Rallyday recently to find out how he is recovering and when he hopes to return to the cockpit...
Phil, it's been a difficult season for you. How are you now?

Phil Pugh:
It has been very frustrating. I have been struggling with a back injury - a herniated disc. I probably had it not long after the Pirelli and I went to Australia and did that event and was in quite a bit of pain. I really struggled to do the Jim Clark and that was cut short due to a car fire. I decided after that I had to get it sorted. I just couldn't keep popping the pills. It was doing me no good. I had an MRI scan and it showed that I had a herniated disc - a really bad one. The surgeon gave me the bad news that I would probably have to have an operation. I took a lot of advice and went to see a lot of people and they said: 'You don't need an operation, you shouldn't have an operation'. We therefore decided against it but it is probably a longer recovery time not having an operation and doing it naturally. I am quite lucky though as I found a very good Chinese lady who does some very good massages. I have pencilled in the last round of the Australian Rally Championship with Guy in the Honda. That is my deadline and I have got to work to it. I have just started training again. I am feeling good.
What do you think Guy needs to do on the Trackrod?

It is quite similar in a way to last year's championship where we were under pressure to do well on the last three rounds - they had to be full scores. He knows what to do and the car is capable of it. Both things have just got to gel together. The car has got to stay together and he has got to keep his head together. But he is capable and so is the car. I see no reason why we can't do it.
Are you going up to the Trackrod?

I will be there as a spectator. It will be quite frustrating but I will try and give him as much support as I can.
I assume, if you are going to compete in Australia that you are going to do Rally GB too?

That is the idea. We go to Australia and we will see how I feel. But by then the entry will be in for GB. I will be on it and so I will have to be there!
Looking at the BRC generally, what do you think of the championship this year?

It has been quite difficult. Obviously Mark [Higgins]'s Subaru has really come on this year. It is a very good package and a lot stronger than last year. They say the Subaru is old but the Mitsubishi is three or four years old as well. They are both at the end of their development. It will probably be a fight to the last stage again.
Guy launched the 'Wilks 500 Club' back in the summer, potentially that could help put you both in a works' Subaru in the WRC next year. That must be exciting?

It was another reason for me not to rush my comeback. Looking long term I didn't want to jump back in and then potentially miss out on that. I did think of doing the Ulster but I probably would have had to have done it on crutches! It is a long term plan and I still feel young enough and fit enough to carry on next year. Hopefully I will be with him.
How is the 'Wilks 500 Club' going?

It is going well. He probably has about a third of the funding he needs and he has obviously got a deadline with the 'blue team' - Subaru - to tell them whether he takes the car or not. I think the next two or three weeks are quite critical. We need everybody to try and support him and get that Brit in a blue car.
Staying with the WRC, do you think Mikko Hirvonen can beat Sebastien Loeb and take the 2008 WRC drivers' title?

It is going to be quite difficult for Mikko - even though he goes a bit better on tarmac than he would probably like to admit. If you look back two or three years ago when he was in a private Focus he had a fantastic third overall in Spain. He is capable of driving well and if Loeb makes just the smallest mistake I think Mikko could be in there. It is not over yet.




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