2004 British Rally champion David Higgins launched his own team last year and he enjoyed a successful season in the BRC, provisionally finishing third in the standings and notching up five podiums in total. Radio's Rob Wilkins caught up with the FX Motor Sports man recently and got his thoughts on the year just gone and discussed how things are looking for 2009 after the exit of main backer, TQ...
David, before we talk about the coming season, let's discuss 2008. You finished third overall provisionally in the standings, how would you sum it up?

David Higgins:
A political nightmare - what started off looking like a great year just got harder and harder as it went on. You didn't really know where you stood on things. It left quite a big down on the whole season. I think everyone was quite pleased to see the back of it and move on.

On the positive side it was the first year of running for the FX Motor Sports team and everyone involved in it did a really good job. From that side of things it was very rewarding.
Given what the weather was like, how tough was the final event, the Wales Rally GB?

It was obviously mega tough. It is one of those things. People say: 'Years ago drivers' use to go through the stages and never complain as much'. But things were very different. Like the fact that when we had snowy Rally GB events in the past you had a chase car - a vehicle at the end of every stage that could bolt the car back together again. You had different tyres for every stage if you wanted as well. These new control tyres for the WRC are so hard. We did the recce and I thought it was really bad, but not impossible, just very different. However, once we got to the stage with the actual rally cars with the proper tyres I went off twice before I even got to the start! It was tough but it was the same for everybody. I am glad they ran as much as they did.

On the safety side though, you have got to look into the situation if somebody goes off and they can't get a safety crew in, then the question is going to be asked: 'Why was it ran in the first place?' It is not the fact that the drivers don't want to do it. It has got to be if somebody does get hurt - whether that is a spectator or a competitor - you need to be able to get the safety crews in to them.
It has been confirmed recently that won't back your team in the BRC again this season. When did you find that out and how difficult will it be now for you to get the required backing?

It is going to be mega difficult. But firstly I am just thankful for what we have had from TQ. They have backed me since the 2006 Rally GB, which is a long time for a sponsor.

Unfortunately we only found out in the middle of last week that it was no longer going to continue and that has left things very late in the day - not only trying to get backing for FX but also in terms of exploring other avenues for myself, whether or not I decided to drive elsewhere. It has all just been very late. Hugh [Evans], my team-mate, he is still keen and trying to do a few events and he has got some fantastic contacts in the business world. He is doing everything he can to scrap together some budget to get out there. The intention is for us to be there again. But it is not a great time to be knocking on people's doors and asking for money.
Motorsport has been rocked in recent months by the news that Honda has pulled of F1, and Subaru and Suzuki have both pulled out of the WRC. Given that and the economic climate, how tough will be it for FX to continue in 2009?

It is unbelievably tough. We put together some plans last week though and put some things in place. I think just to get ourselves there and doing it, without the testing and all the luxuries, and cutting down on people and things, we are probably 70 per cent of the way to be able to be doing something. But it is just so difficult. I have put absolutely every ounce of my time into this - the running of the team and setting it all up last year. It would be criminal to let it all go to waste. However, at the same time you still need to earn a living. You need to put food on the table for the kids and the family. It is not an easy time at the moment. You sometimes feel if you put the same effort into a 'real job' we would all be millionaires now. But our passion is motorsport and rallying and that is the way we have gone. You have just got to keep your head down and keep on working hard.
Have you set yourself a deadline for confirming the FX Motor Sports programme for 2009?

No - to be honest the deadline will be the closing time for entries for each event. The year I won the championship in 2004, I actually got as far as doing the recce sometimes and I still didn't know if I was doing the event or not. You get by. I don't want it to be as bad as that. We are talking to a few other drivers who might be able to get involved with the team. For example, if they come onboard with us, we all share the costs of being there - the fuel, the trucks and the manpower. When you pay a mechanic it is a daily rate and the reality is they are working for you for 3-4 hours a day. If they can be working on other cars in between and spreading it out a little bit, you can keep costs down and still give people a chance to be involved in a big team and get all the same gains like Nick [Rowland] got last year with us.
The BRC was dogged by a lot of politics last season - as you mentioned at the start - and we still don't know who actually won the title. How much is that going to put off potential sponsors?

It is one of the major factors why we have lost TQ. We had a big board meeting and TQ wanted to find out where we had finished and did we win the teams championship or didn't we. When you actually have to go there and say: 'Actually, we haven't a clue'. It is majorly embarrassing. The situation, regardless of what happened, should never have got this far. It should have been done and sorted once and for all and left like that. It devalues the championship when you don't even know the result. We once said jokingly, just after the Trackrod, that you will probably know who wins the 2009 championship before the 2008 one. It is looking pretty much like that. All the pre-season DVDs, the presentations, last year it was 50 years of TQ as a company - the same as 50 years of the BRC - and we had some big plans to do something together at the prize-giving. But when there is nothing to give out and you don't know where you have finished, you can't even try and get people involved in that. It has made it really, really difficult. It has not made it any easier to go to new sponsors now either and say we may be teams' champions, we may not. It just looks like a very cheap championship.
Have you had any indication when that might all be resolved?

I had a letter from the MSA saying they were hoping to do something in mid-January. Obviously we still haven't been given any dates when it is. But in all honesty, the bottom line now is, it doesn't really matter any more. Mitsubishi have got all the gains as if they have won the championship. All the DVDs are out as if they have won the championship. What technically happens in a court now in a few weeks or in a few months time is - as far as I am concerned - completely irrelevant.
Moving away from the BRC, are you still set to continue competing in China?

We are definitely doing China again. I have got a contract out in China for another two years. That will be good. Hopefully we will be moving up to an Evo 10. Obviously a few things have changed. I was offered a drive for another team in China this year. But I didn't take it on the basis that the team I am with over there are very helpful and we do a lot of trading backwards and forwards for parts and things. But obviously that could all potentially end. It has made things a bit more difficult. The WY Team have though been good to me and we will be starting our fourth year with them and obviously I have got a deal for another year, for 2010, too. At least we know the driving part of things is secure over there for another two years.
When does the CRC season kick off?

It is meant to be sometime at the end of March but we don't really know. The dates aren't 100 per cent confirmed yet. The first round is where they were hit very heavy with the earthquake last year and they were hoping to be ready to do the first event this year in March. The confirmed dates are due out in the next week or two. We really need them as soon as possible because if there are clashes it influences what we are doing in the UK as well.
Do you have any other plans this year - such as the IRC, which of course, concludes its season with that event in Scotland?

There are no plans as such. At the end of the day now rallying is all about taking money to people and getting drives and doing things that way. We will use every bit of our resources to try and get through the BRC and get into that. It would be great to look at doing IRC events and if we didn't do the full BRC this year, maybe we will look to use the cars and do some selected rallies from other championships - and obviously the IRC in Scotland would be one of those events.

There is also the possibility if we don't get things together in the BRC we could do the historic championship. That is something I think would be great fun to do - driving the Escorts and having some real fun. But I think it is also good from a business side too because there are still a lot of people wanting to buy historic cars and for FX Motor Sports it could be something else to consider.
Is there anything else you want to add?

We will just get busy now and get fighting and see if we can come out ready for the new season. The plan we have got now is rather than trying to find one big sponsor is to look for four companies, who can maybe put in a ?1000 per rally. That would make up the shortfall in the budget. Realistically it is a lot easier to ask for that than go for the big: 'I need ?20,000 can you help?' We are confident we will get out there. It is just going to be a lot more of a struggle than it was in recent years.




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