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GP Week : Issue 3
37 Since your initial meetings last year with him, has Jari- Matti’s character changed? Not so much. He was always calm, driven, collected and very personable. What he has achieved so far this year has not changed him at all. He is still the young passionate rally driver. He is great with everybody he meets. Are you happy with the general world championship scene? Mixed feelings. I am not yet convinced the sport is making the progress it should. There is a lot of work to be done collectively to elevate the World Rally Championship to where it needs to be. It is one of my passions to bring the WRC to a bigger, wider audience Is North One doing a good job with its filming work? When you see the audience figures coming in, their work is achieving what it was intended to do. It is what is good for us and the sport. In today’s market, however, promotion of the sport has to be multi-level. It has to be across every media platform that is available. I do not think we can afford to be complacent only because television is doing well at the moment. We have got to be everywhere, and on a regular basis. How can that be done? As a manufacturer we have a part to play, like keeping our website absolutely up-to-date and relevant. And I am sure our colleagues in the companies are doing their bit as well. Radio is important, newspapers are important, magazines are important. We have to be anywhere where people look to connect with things they are interested in. We have to be where the customers go. We have to be able to reach everybody in a way they want. We have to be everywhere. Any predictions about how this season will go? It’s too early to know. Clearly Sebastien Loeb is the man to beat, but for the manufacturers’ championship point of view I think we have a better balance, a better chance to be manufacturers’ champions than the red cars. I was over the moon to see Subaru back on the podium in Mexico. vIt was great forthe sport. Chris Atkinson’s drive in Mexico was very impressive, and you could see his commitment in his eyes. Suzuki are facing the challenges at the moment which we have all had in the sport when coming in for the first time. When you look at the other three teams they do not have reliability problems, it looks such an easy sport. It is only when you start off do you discover all the stresses and strains on people and equipment. I know how hard it is for them to get their team to work well. Is maintaining the competition heritage of Ford personally daunting? Of course, and it suddenly became more so when the former Competition Director Peter Ashcroft died in January. It all makes one feel very humble. I had only been in my job 23 days when the man who had taught me so much many years ago passed away. Peter was a big man in this business and yet such a quiet character. When I first arrived in Boreham [the former competition centre] in 1985 it was like a family business under Peter. He was able to handle every complex situation calmly. There was such a lot I learned from working under him in those days. MARK Deans took up the new role of Ford of Europe’s motorsport director for 2008. He now works alongside Malcolm Wilson and is the focal point through which Ford continues to support M- Sport. He is also responsible for developing further the marketing of Ford’s WRC, and other motorsport activities such as Formula Ford. Deans is no stranger to Ford’s motorsport activities as he was manager of European Motorsport Programmes between 1985 and 1989 at Boreham, the company’s former rallying HQ. In that role, he ran Ford’s involvement in many national race and rally programmes and worked with Wilson when he was Ford’s World Rally Championship test driver. He also worked closely with other great rally drivers including Carlos Sainz, Didier Auriol and Stig Blomqvist. Since 1998, Deans has been a senior member of Ford of Britain’s sales and marketing team. He managed the launch of the Focus into the UK market in 1998, and developed the successful conquest of the British Touring Car Championship with the Rapid Fit Ford Mondeos in 2000. Until late 2007 he was Regional Sales Director, UK Southern Region, where he made a significant contribution to maintaining the company’s 32-year market leadership position in Britain. – MARTIN HOLMES Mark Who? WRC INSIGHT >>