Q & A with Mark Gallagher Dublin, Ireland: The A1GP World Cup of Motorsport heads to British soil this weekend with Brands Hatch in Kent hosting the 2007/08 season finale, Friday 2 May - Sunday 4 May. Belmayne A1 Team Ireland head into the...
Q & A with Mark Gallagher
Dublin, Ireland: The A1GP World Cup of Motorsport heads to British soil this weekend with Brands Hatch in Kent hosting the 2007/08 season finale, Friday 2 May - Sunday 4 May.
Belmayne A1 Team Ireland head into the final round off the back of a strong run of results and Adam Carroll will be looking to secure a top-six championship position and end the season on the top step of the podium.
Team Principal Mark Gallagher took time out ahead of the event to reflect on the season so far and talk about expectations for the team's 'home' event:
Q: This weekend sees the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport finale at Brands Hatch - what are your expectations for Belmayne A1 Team Ireland?
Mark Gallagher (MG): We go to this race with our usual determination to win but underpinned by the momentum that has been built through the victory in Mexico and podium finish in China just over two weeks ago. If you look at Team Ireland's season, we scored 50 points in the first half and then suffered a series of disappointments during the weekends in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. We bounced back in the best possible way in Mexico and the team has been very positive ever since - I think we are on a roll.
Q: Being the closest Ireland has to a 'home' event, who do you see as being the team's biggest opposition this weekend?
MG: Switzerland and New Zealand are battling for the title, and I expect they will be right at the sharp end along with France, possibly Germany and Portugal. The Portuguese team has been impressive recently, while Team Canada should be up there too.
Q: And what about Team GBR on home ground?
MG: Team GBR has a lot of pressure on it this week and, I think, a lot to prove after a difficult season for them. Many of the smaller nations have learned the tricks of the trade that Team GBR seemed to have figured out from season one so they are facing tougher competition than ever before, and although they are ahead of us in the series, we now look past them to the benchmark set by the likes of Switzerland and New Zealand. There's a natural rivalry between our teams anyway, but Team Ireland's no longer simply interested in beating Team GBR - we want to beat the top teams, and they are not one of them.
Q: How has the victory in Mexico impacted on Team Ireland?
MG: It's impacted on us in a number of ways; on the track it has made the team more confident, given the pit crew real belief in what they can do and demonstrated Adam Carroll's world class ability as a driver. Off the track it has lead to us having greater media attention in Ireland, happier sponsors and an overall feeling that, two and a half years after we started this project, Team Ireland is a force to be reckoned with.
Q: How do you feel Adam Carroll has performed this season?
MG: Adam has star quality and, as I have said before, really ought to be shaking things up in Formula One; but it's to our benefit that he landed in A1GP with Team Ireland and done a terrific job for us. He has brought a consistent level of speed, forged a good partnership with our engineers and is an out and out racer; his starts are often nothing short of amazing, and he knows how to overtake. I also have to pay tribute to Ralph Firman, whose performance in the opening race of the season in Zandvoort was first class and set the team on its course to score more points than in any previous season, and also to Niall Quinn who joined us in January and has done the perfect job as Rookie Driver. He has shown maturity beyond his years and contributed significantly to our Mexico success by starting the weekend with 2nd fastest time in Rookie Practice.
Q: With Brands Hatch marking the end of Season 3 for the team, how do you think A1GP is performing as a series?
MG: A1GP is outstanding. It really does offer the best racing in the world; unpredictable, exciting and spectacular. Someone asked me recently what was wrong with A1GP because so many different nations have won? The implied criticism was that, when everyone has a chance to win, there must be a problem! The reality is that A1GP really does offer a level playing field, unlike many other categories where one or two teams win all the time and the race results become predictable, and in our series the level of competition is truly intense. A tenth of a second might cover eight or ten cars, for example, and the slightest difference in set-up can be the difference between a driver carrying vital speed through a corner or not. The Nation V Nation concept is proven, the calibre of racing is first rate and with Ferrari being involved in the design and engine supply for the new car the series has a very exciting and bright future.
Q: And what of your hopes for Team Ireland?
MG: A1 Team Ireland has been very fortunate to have had good backers from the start. Mark Kershaw has worked tirelessly with me to try and make this a team Ireland can be proud of, and I can assure you it is not easy. In the early days, with the support of Manvik, we immediately made an impact, later attracting sponsors such as BPI Telecom, Harris Hino, ORCA, OZO and so on. The deal with LM Developments and their Belmayne brand really moved the team onto another level for this season and everyone has to realise that without sponsors, there'd be no Team Ireland, no victory in Mexico, no opportunity for Irish drivers to participate in a worldwide series. Looking to the future we need to attract more sponsors, more investment for the team and build on the superb coverage that we already get on TV3 in Ireland. Ultimately I'd like Irish sports fans and media to view Team Ireland as a team to follow alongside the Six Nations rugby squad or the two national football teams. I also want the team to be a winning team, just as it was in Mexico, but consistently so, because one day I want Ireland to win the World Cup of Motorsport.