RALLY IRELAND 11.18.2007 FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Present: 1st - Niall McShea 1st - Marshall Clarke Q: Niall, congratulations. With so many changes of lead in the Production Car category, particularly on the final day, it...
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Niall McShea
1st - Marshall Clarke
Q: Niall, congratulations. With so many changes of lead in the Production Car category, particularly on the final day, it must have been quite an exciting few stages for you?
NMc: It's been a while since I did a rally on tarmac. It's 2004 since we last did a tarmac rally so we were a little bit rusty and made a few mistakes on the pacenotes. We got through that okay and it's been quite some time since Marshall and I were together in a car, it worked very well, got better and better the second day and today. This morning we decided we'd have to try our very very best to go as fast as we could in the first of the three real stages today. We took quite some time out of Armindo (Araujo) and he took some more back out of us, and we were leading going into the third stage, then he took five back out of us so that left us 2.5s behind. But just before the last stage we both shook hands and both said we would drive as fast as we could. He wanted to win it, so did I, and unfortunately for him he had an accident, but that's what happens sometimes. We sort of cruised to the finish and we are very happy indeed.
Q: Marshall, congratulations; your first-ever visit to a PWRC podium -- how have you found the whole experience?
MC: It's my first visit to the podium but not my first visit to a WRC rally, although this bit of it is new to me. The organisation and the way the rally runs isn't new to me. It's a great experience and I'm glad to be here because we've had a lot of corners and a lot of slides, but we're here and all very glad and happy.
Q: Niall, you're an Irishman; did you ever think that you would see this day, with Ireland hosting a round of the WRC, and that you would be standing on the podium? Were you familiar with any of these stages? What was the key to doing well?
NMc: Yes for sure it's an absolute credit to the organisers of this rally and to the people both north and south of the border, regardless of what your religion or creed, is that everyone loves their motorsport. Really, it wasn't that hard to get people together to get this to happen. It took a huge amount of work once they decided to do it and it's run very well. The crowds here have been humungous; they are the largest I have seen in WRC. The stages are very unique, tricky and typical of Irish rallying. It's a unique rally and it has a brilliant place and a proper slot in the World Championship and I hope the FIA decide to bring it back soon. But for me personally, to be on the podium here and to win Group N it's fantastic. It's been a bit of a struggle and I'm very grateful to GT exhausts. Two weeks ago my previous sponsors said they would not be competing in this rally and we put this together very quickly indeed with a lot of help from a lot of different people. I have borrowed wheels, we have borrowed lamp pods and suspension to make this happen. Kumho very kindly supported me in this rally and they did an excellent job and I think I had an advantage with Kumho Tyres here in Ireland because they work so very well here. It's been very satisfying, whenever you have a big team, and I've had a big team before, and when it works it's great. Whenever you have to try to patch it all together yourself, I've had three of my brother-in-laws working on the car this weekend and whenever you have to patch it together you're a little nervous that you need a big team to make it happen, but you don't, it worked very well. The relationship between Marshall and I inside the car worked extremely well. It's was probably the most satisfying win that I have had ever.
Q: Did you have any problems during the course of the event?
MC: Really apart from the horrendous conditions yesterday; the rain and tyre choices. We had a couple of punctures on Friday but other than that no problems, it all went smoothly. It was good.
Q: It's obviously not been easy for you to raise a budget to do these events: how much do you think that this win might have helped your prospects for the future? Do you have anything in the pipeline for next year?
NMc: Well I know I would love to think that this is going to make a difference but I have thought that before. This on its own has been brilliant and I would love another opportunity to do the PWRC, I would love to remain within the World Championship because I really thoroughly enjoy all the experiences; I love the driving and still think I am reasonably good at it. I would love another opportunity, but whether that happens or not, I do not know if that will happen. I will keep working away at it.
FIA PRESS CONFERENCE FOR THE WINNER OF THE 2007 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP FOR MANUFACTURERS,
BP-FORD WORLD RALLY TEAM
(Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA)
John Fleming -- President and Chief Executive Officer, Ford of Europe
Malcolm Wilson -- Team Principal, BP-Ford World Rally Team
Q: This is Ford's second consecutive manufacturers' title. How do you feel about such an achievement?
JF: I feel extremely overawed by the occasion and really really delighted. I thought it was good to win it first time; I actually believe it's more difficult to win a second time. It is a great endorsement for a year of hard work. The team has worked really well together and the drivers have worked well too so I am delighted with the day and the performance.
Q: Can you wrap up how the season has been compared with last year?
MW: Last year was very special because it had been 27 years since Ford last won a title. It was a very special moment but I think this year is more significant because it is back to back and because we were up against a very strong combination. But the crucial thing was that we had a good strong reliable package. The introduction of the Ford Focus halfway through gave us a springboard and it is more special to have done it with one event still to go.
Q: Why is Ford in motorsport? How does motorsport benefit Ford Motor Company in Europe?
JF: I think there are a number of reasons, clearly. I do feel it's part of Ford's heritage as we have been involved in motor sport for as long as I can remember. Customers and employees expect us to be part of it. They also I think enjoy the motivation; being part of a sport, being in competition and more importantly they enjoy the fact that we have been winning. On the employee side it is important for morale. I believe it helps to reinforce the brand and build the brand. I believe having the Focus as a product, and in the centre of motor sport, adds to the whole package.
Q: At what point did you feel that Ford could win the title again?
MW: It seems like a long time ago. We always felt it was the target and we said at the beginning of the season we were a good challenger for the titles. We had a very good start in Sweden and Norway and knew we would have a lot of work to do on the asphalt as we knew the drivers don't like it. We had that apprehension about tarmac. We felt we had to maximise our performance on the gravel rallies, as I touched on before, it was quite crucial. It was crucial timing for the Championship. Everyone kept telling us we had it in the bag for a long time, but in motor sport anything can happen. But probably three or four events ago I felt quite confident we could retain it.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
John Dyer (Independent Network, IRL)
Q: With Marcus retiring in two weeks' time, you must be quite confident you have a crop of youngsters to take his place.
MW: Yes we are very proud of the way we work with the youngsters and we have some interesting prospects for the future and we have seen that potential today, with Jari-Matti. There is no question he is a star for the future and he will be World Champion. Marcus has been a big asset to help Mikko. Hopefully we can adopt a similar sort of strategy in the future. I think we have one very disappointed Finn back in Finland who feels he didn't handle it very well. There is no question the rest of the team drivers handled it very well. Marcus was very unfortunate in that very difficult place where the accident happened. It is a very difficult place and he is not making any excuses at all. First on the road played a part on that too. He knew he didn't have to win the rally and wasn't pushing, but he got caught out in the conditions.
Q: At least what's written on your t-shirt (World Champions) must be making up for it?
MW: Absolutely, no question, we have to try and the big thing now is to get behind Marcus and the team is 100 percent committed to try and help him and give him that World Championship title. It would be really nice because of the way over the two seasons he has helped us win the title. It would be nice if Ford could give him that final title.