Balazs Benik toes the line on the world championship circuit in Turkey with manufacturer support. Balazs Benik, favourite of the Hungarian rally championship takes part in the Turkish world rally championship (WRC) event (27th February, 2003 --...
Balazs Benik toes the line on the world championship circuit in Turkey with manufacturer support.
Balazs Benik, favourite of the Hungarian rally championship takes part in the Turkish world rally championship (WRC) event (27th February, 2003 -- 2nd March, 2003) as the manufacturer supported racer of Ford/ M-Sport. The Hungarian driver can earn his first experiences between the best racers of the world behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS WRC.
Balazs is given an exceptional opportunity on the third round of the world championship serial, that the factory team of Ford, the English M-Sport provides almost the same conditions for Balazs's racing as to the factory racers. A whole new Ford Focus RS WRC with 2002 specifications is being built in the factory in England for Balazs, with which the Hungarian driver joins the race with 1st priority. The engineers of Ford make the settings on the car, and in case any technical problem occurs, the factory specialist of the area is at call. M-Sport takes care of such things, looking like details as well, like the feeding of the driver and co-driver, so a daily menu is made for Balazs and Bence designed for the special work. Despite of all this, the Hungarian racers starts the fight with real goals, and puts the pressure on the safe finishing of the race on his first world championship race.
Malcolm Willson (Ford / M-Sport director) -- "Each year M-Sport Ltd builds between 10 and 12 new Focus RS WRC's for Ford Rallye Sport's bid in the FIA World Rally Championship, and each year the previous years' entry cars are released into the hands of eager customers. Since 1999, over twenty Focus world rally cars have been released for customer use and are now competing successfully in national championships throughout Europe," said M Sport Director Malcolm Wilson.
"This side of our business is very important to us. Not only does it enable us to 'recycle' the cars that have been rallied all over the world by Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, Markko Martin and Francois Duval, but it also plays a very important role in our ongoing world rally championship programme."
"The various drivers and teams competing week in and week out under the customer programme provide important development data. This not only has enormous benefit for the manufacturers side of the business but also for other customers," he said.
Malcolm Wilson said he is delighted that Hungarian Balazs Benik will compete in selected rounds of the 2003 World Rally Championship and the Hungarian Championship under the M-Sport Customer Programme this year.
"Balazs Benik had a very successful season last year competing in the Hungarian Championship and we are delighted that he has chosen to develop his rally career further within the M-Sport programme. We are looking forward to working closely with Benik and JM Engineering, the Czech Republic based company which will run his Ford Focus RS WRC," he said.
Before a Focus WRC can be released to a customer, it must undergo a complete rebuild at M-Sport's Dovenby Hall workshop. Each car is stripped to a bare shell and every component is checked and replaced where necessary. The vehicle is then painstakingly re-assembled and given a fresh coat of paint before completing a series of rigorous quality control checks.
"Our involvement from then on varies according to each individual customer. Some have their own team and run the cars from their own headquarters. Alternatively we will run the car on behalf of the customer offering up to full engineering and technical support," explained Mr Wilson.
And while a fully specified world rally car is not cheap, the cost of a customer programme very much depends on the vehicles intended use.
"While the actual cost of a base car is fairly static, the cost of running, including the provision of M-Sport engineering and technical support, varies dramatically. For example we have teams based in Italy that compete every weekend with two cars and they have very different costs and requirements to a private individual who maybe does six rallies a year. Our customers are an incredibly varied bunch," said Mr Wilson.
The M-Sport customer programme continues to grow, with more than eight new customer enquiries for Ford Focus RS WRC's to run this season since January.
"Competing at this level offers many advantages for our customers. In particular you will see considerably more of them competing at WRC events as drivers want to take advantage of the increased coverage for the sport that the media focus on the FIA events provides," Malcolm Wilson concluded."
Balazs Benik -- "Primarily one has to get prepared for a world championship circuit mentally and physically because it is a different challenge, than our races so far. Three whole race days instead of two, the race and the whole distance is three times as much as the home races, not saying, that we did not have a chance yet to participate in a race like this. It is a very important change, that this year we can toe the line with a 2002 developed Ford Focus RS WRC, and because this year the Turkish circuit will be the first, when we can sit in the car, it will be an extra challenge, to get to know this car. I trust that all this will be unproblematic, because we have such a professional background, like the JM Engineering and M-Sport, who help our job maximally".
"We are going with manufacturer support, which is a big test, because besides that this is our first WRC race, we have to be up to the expectations as well. It is true, that the most important thing is not the achieving of the best result, but we still think that besides that the first world championship race is mostly about learning, we can also set a goal for a good placing. The Turkish circuits are new for everybody, so I hope, that my chances can be better, than on a race, which our opponents know already."
"We did not have a chance to sit in a race car during the winter season, so it was four months ago, that we raced last time. Because of this the most important thing was to get maximally prepared mentally and physically. We tried to do everything the most professional way we could with Bence and my manager. We spent a lot of time together to analyse inside recordings, and try to collect helpful information out of them. I realise our opportunities, after all, this is not a factory team, and there is a chance that we will have difficulties. We are not toeing the line to beat the factory aces, but this race is a station of a learning procedure, which we cannot miss, if we want to get to know the atmosphere of the world championship."
Bence Racz (co-driver) -- "The physical preparation went in a similar way as the Walviertel Rally, with the usual sports, except running did not play an important part because of the snow. I did not want to have an accident, so I left out skiing and all the others, which had the slightest chance for getting injured. The indoor sports stayed: room bicycle, lots of "dry training", and one of my favourites: the sauna. And also the right diet: hardly no meats, only fish and poultry, and eating lots of vegetables and fruits."
"I think I solved mental preparation right, because I could extinguish the bad thoughts, problems, which are pressuring me because of my job. Despite of all the uncertainties, which are around this race, and not once shook my approach, I can think clearly only on the race, and try to get prepared before in my mind for the expected task, which will mean a serious challenge with the two training opportunities."
"From the aspect of navigation, I also tried at the Wladviertel Rally, to write a simple itiner. When the time allowed it, I said every information twice, but from the middle of the race, I tried to leave these. In fact, when there was sometimes stages, where we went real fast, there was no chance for this. This is what I expect now as well, that I will have to improvise a lot."
"Summarised, I think most important was the right preparation, so we do not get tired under any circumstances, and mentally get prepared, that from two entering we will have to bring out the maximum from ourselves. The more pressure will be on Balazs here, but I will also try to grow up to the task in a way, that I will be able to race this three and a half days calmly, and with a very-very cold head."
"Have to keep it in mind, that we will have to drive 380 race kilometres, which is almost the distance of three Hungarian championship races. Everyway we have to finish it, and of course finishing it not slow, because that makes no sense. Maybe the risks we will have to decrease it to minimal, but in a way so we can sign our name on this race. On some stages, which Balazs likes, we should make a time, so people notice that!"
Miro Houst (technical director) -- "A world championship events is always a challenge, not only for the driver, but for the service team as well. We are getting prepared the same way for the Turkish race, like for all the world championship races, but now we get such a help, like never before. Balazs's opportunity, which he enters with partly factory support, provides the most to the service team, after all there is such a spare part background behind us, which is exceptional in our history, and such technical help, like the engineers is priceless."
"This is going to be the first race of the new 2002 Focus. This a whole different car, than the one last year. Not only the operation of the engine, but the whole engine is a new generation, the electrical system changed: for example, the operation of the gearbox is not electrohydraulic, but it has a microswitch system, and the electrical cabeling advanced as well. The electronics of the drive operation is new, and thanks for the new asphalt gear -- though we will not need that in Turkey -- and to the changed underframe covering the centre point of the car came lower. I really trust, that we will participate successfully. We have a very good relationship with Balazs, they are a very professional team, which takes the barrier successfully in the most sudden situations as well. I am sure, that they will adapt now as well to the strange circumstances soon!"
According to the plans of the team, Balazs can participate in three world championship races in 2003, but if the preparation process makes it necessary, some more circuit can be planned as well.