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GP Week : Issue 22
5 Minutes with ... Paul Wilding Some have greatness thrust upon them! The mid-season appointment of the Aussie as team manager of the Suzuki WRC team was something he didn’t see coming GPWEEK: How did this all come about? PAUL WILDING: Nobody pretended this was going to be an easy job. The team had started well in Monte Carlo but then started to have a series of niggling problems and the priority became that of making sure the problems which occurred did not happen again. In fact, not many have. Certainly at the beginning of the year I never expected to be involved with the running of the team. It was a privilege to be asked, a really nice opportunity to continue to be involved with Suzuki, with whom I had worked for some six years. My first contact was when Suzuki started their current rally project in 2002, simultaneously with a JWRC programme on mainly asphalt events and an APRC programme with gravel events which the team principal was running himself. I was the chief co-ordinator for both projects. Finding Chris Atkinson must have been a great coup for you? I first got to know him at the Rally of Canberra in 2002 and was immediately very impressed with him – not just his performance but his persona as well. Very unassuming and his achievements with such a little experience at that point were remarkable. Then an opportunity came up in our team to find some drivers and we groomed him forward. The rest of his career is history. That was one of the best memories of my career, so far! What is the structure of Suzuki WRT at this time? Mr Tajima is still the team principal and he reports directly to Suzuki Motor Corporation at board level. I am the team manager and follow his instructions. We have a technical manager Inagaki-san who answers to Tajima-san as well. As the season has progressed, there now seems to be more stability in the team. We are trying. As much as it has been a learning experience with the SX4 it has 18 also been a learning experience with the team. Our people have come from a number of different countries – the car is being developed in two different countries. It is all a system which takes a while to get used to. The team has been progressing along with the car. Some of the most experienced rally people in the team are its drivers. We are happy with PG Andersson and with Toni Gardemeister. Toni comes with a wealth of rallying experience and has done a good job. We are very pleased that Toni found in us the chance to get back in to top line rallying. He is a very good driver, very good experience which is invaluable to the team. PG is maturing very nicely, having been involved with Suzuki for a long time, coming through the JWRC ranks. He moved up to World Rally Car ranks at the same time as Suzuki. What is the policy of the team for this year? Gaining reliability is the priority, rather than enhancement of performance. I think performance will follow as a natural progression. Our primary target is to keep on learning – every time the cars get to the finish of a rally everyone learns a little bit more. Have there been any nasty shocks this year, things which the team had not really expected from activity at this level? Not really. Even though this is the first year for Suzuki WRT at this level, we have had quite a few years of experience at Junior level. At Junior level we learned about a variety of events. We had personal experience of most of the events. Life has simply become bigger, more complex and more expensive! We knew it would be difficult, but at this point in time, there is nothing else in life I would like to be doing!