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GP Week : Issue 46
5 MINUTES WITH ... CARLOS BARROS After a long career with Peugeot’s WRC, Dakar and Le Mans teams, Barros now oversees Peugeot Sport Portugal. He spoke with MARTIN HOLMES These days Carlos Barros is the Technical and Sporting Director of the Peugeot Sport Portugal rally team, active in running 207 Super 2000 for Bruno Magalhaes. In the past, Carlos was a chief mechanic for Peugeot’s worldwide competition programmes. In those days he enjoyed hard work and helped gain titles in prestigious activities such as the World Rally Championship, Paris Dakar and Le Mans. For over 30 years he has been in the motorsport business and always identified with Peugeot. GPWEEK: How did you get into this business? CARLOS BARROS: I started working with Talbot, which is the same family as Peugeot. I always had a love of cars when I was young and wanted to work as a mechanic. Our family moved to France when I was 11. I got actively involved in motorsport when I found we were living in the same building as the French rally driver Francois Chatriot. At weekends he let me go to races with him. He had different cars, the first was a Renault Dauphine, then a Strakit buggy and later a VW Golf. Meanwhile in September 1977 I heard there was a vacancy in the works Talbot team and never looked back! The high point of your career must have been with the Peugeot World Rally Championship Team? We worked with the 205 T16 in the WRC. We won the title thee years, working with drivers like Ari Vatanen, and winning titles with Timo Salonen and Juha Kankkunen. We did Paris Dakars as well and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I have been back in my home country (Portugal) for 14 years and so I now have bigger responsibilities, for the Peugeot Portugal Team. I still have the same passion as 30 years ago. We started Peugeot Portugal in 1996 with the 306, then the 206WRC and also 1 the 206 16-valves. Now we have the 207 Super 2000. So far we have won the Portuguese championship six times and had good results also in Europe. We have a good team, like a little family. What have been the main changes in the sport that you have noticed? The evolution of the cars has been quite unbelievable. Today’s 207 Super 2000 is quicker on the stages than the 205 T16 of 15 years ago, even with half the power output. The formats of events are quite different – the sport has had to move with the times. It would have been too dangerous to carry on as we were. In the old days the drivers had their rally, and we had our own rally just trying to keep up with them! I still wish we could integrate our work more with the ordinary people, like putting a service park in town squares. And how are the people working on the cars different? 30 years ago one mechanic did many different things. Now, especially in the top teams, they all have their specialities. Electronics is the biggest step. I am sure the advance of technology is going to increase. I guess we will soon have KERS in the World Championship. In three or four years, the normally aspirated S2000s will be faster than the World Rally Cars of today. Your most special memory in rally sport? Perhaps the first was when Peugeot won Peugeot won Le Mans in 1993 with Eric Helery (FRA), Christophe Bouchut (FRA) and Geoff Brabham (AUS) their first world title in Finland in August 1985 Later we won the 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans when I was responsible for the winning car of Derek Warwick, Yannick Dalmas and Mark Blundell. Another good time, in a different way, was 2001 when our little Portuguese rally team drivers came first and second in Rally Madeira, a hard fight, victory against all the odds. The best sort of victory. And of course I was involved in the strange affair when Ari Vatanen’s car was stolen during the Paris Dakar in Bamako, in Mali. I was responsible for the car. The car was stolen and I gather somebody asked for some money for its return. There was nothing more sinister than that. The car was retrieved undamaged. Ari restarted the rally but it was too late to be allowed to carry on. And your life? Like my wife says, motorsport is my second family! Fortunately my real family (my wife and my daughters) understand this. I cannot visualise any other sort of life. I am now 52 and I would like to be in the motorsport business as long as I can.