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GP Week : Issue 52
5 MINUTES WITH ... KRZYSZTOF HOLOWCZYC Poland had a returning star in its own World Rally Championship event – and he ran sixth! He spoke to MARTIN HOLMES Polish rally sport is going upwards. A Polish driver (Michal Kosciuszko) was leading the FIA’s Junior championship; another Polish driver (Michal Solowow) was leading the FIA’s European championship, the World Rally Championship had finally come back to Poland after a 36 year gap! The local hero for fans of Rally Poland 2009 was 47 year-old Krzysztof Holowczyc. 12 years ago the European rally champion, in current civilian life Holowczyc is a politician (promoting road safety campaigns) and in his spare time an established rally raid driver. He was invited to return to traditional rally sport for his country’s re-entry into the world rallying, and drove a Stobart team Ford Focus World Rally Car. It had been four years since his last foray in to world rally car driving... GPWEEK: How have things changed in that four years? KRZYSZTOF HOLOWCZYC: You would never believe the change – suspension, traction, the feeling of confidence when you come into a turn! You feel you will never be able to get round the bend but you do, and then you realise you could be even faster! World Rally Cars these days are fantastic. My last World Rally Car experience was with a Peugeot 206 WRC. It was a very good car, but the style of driving these latest cars is something else. They look like they must be easier to drive, but you have to concentrate so hard on driving cleanly. In the old days if you wanted a really good time you drove like a big attack, but now you have to be much more clever. You must concentrate in your line, think always about getting optimum traction. When I look at the engineers’data as to what Mikko (Hirvonen) and Jari-Matti 1 (Latvala) were doing, it was unbelievable. They played with the throttles like the old automatic traction controls used to do. Driving on-off with the throttle is no good. Back in the Group A days when I rallied a Toyota in the European championship there was huge power, no traction and no suspension to speak of. The cars used to keeping jumping all over the place. The cars are now like frogs. You jump and then splat, you stay on the ground. now it is very close to the surface. It is unusual in this region to see puddles on the ground at this time of year. To be honest I thought it was strange that Pirelli ordered that soft compound tyres should be fitted for this rally, I thought it was wrong. I thought that, after long stages, the powerful cars would destroy their tyres. In fact Pirelli were right. The Ford team tyre adviser reckoned, in the present conditions, we could use one set of tyres for all the rally! On our pre-rally test, the soft compound tyres still looked like new after 200km of high speed driving. How has this World Championship event helped your country’s sport? It is strange that there are not many top Polish rally drivers here on the event. When we first heard that the World Championship was coming back to our country, every top driver was excited – they couldn’t wait to see how they would be faster than these so-called World Championship drivers. I think the world economic crisis stopped a lot of their ideas from taking shape. For Orlen, my sponsor from my rally raid driving who are the sponsor for Rally Poland itself, to find the extra What are your thought about the World Championship rallying coming back to your country? When the whole idea became serious two or three years ago, the idea of another World Championship rally in Poland was like a dream ¬ to have such fantastic teams here with us here in Poland. It was a big job for the organisers to convince the teams that this could be a nice rally. The only thing which didn’t turn out as expected was the weather. Normally, at this time of the year, the water table in this region is half a metre below the surface, budget to run a World Rally Car for me was not an easy step. But these are interesting times for rally drivers here. I was the second Polish driver to become European Champion, after Sobieslaw Zasada, and now there is a chance for Michal Solowow to be the third to win this title. At the moment his chances are very good; he is leading the series and if he wins it will be fantastic for Poland. And if Kosciuszko holds his lead in the JWRC, we will truly have a World Rally champion. It will show we still have good international drivers.