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GP Week : Issue 175
RALLY >>> NEWS The FIA has confirmed that M-Sport is to run the cars in the FIA’s newly named Junior World Championship, the series previously know as the WRC Academy. Like the last two years M-Sport will run the cars for the series out of its Polish operation, based at Krakow and headed by Maciej Woda. The FIA has announced that this will be a one-year extension to the agreement, as in 2014 wider ranging Junior championships are being planned in conjunction with the various FIA regional championships. The prize for winning the 2013 Junior series has also been announced – a six-event programme in the 2014 WRC2 series, at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5. Woda meanwhile explained some of the other changes which are being instigated for the third year this operation is to run: Woda: “From what I understand it is going to work on a similar basis to what it is now with Academy. One of the main aims is that there will be some reductions in cost to the drivers. There are still a few things to be sorted finally but it should be slightly cheaper for the drivers. “Although the new WRC2 and WRC3 championships, which replace the SWRC and the PCWRC, will no longer be tied down to specific rounds of the WRC series, for the Junior championship there will again be six specific rallies. At this time we don’t know exactly which rounds, but I expect we will again start with Portugal but the next events will follow the 2012 calendar, which means Portugal, Sardinia, Finland, Germany, France and GB, – in other words three gravel and three asphalt rounds. This worked well in 2012, and if you look at the calendar there are even gaps between the rallies, though between Finland and Germany might be a tight turnround.” What is the training situation with the drivers going to be like, now that it is not called the Academy? Woda: “As far as I’m aware we are not going to provide any training but I think the FIA is going to look into this aspect through the FIA Institute, but this time we are not going to provide it.” When you look back over the last two years what do you think has been the biggest difficulty or the biggest success? Woda: “The biggest success? I think the level of competition, reliability and general feedback from the drivers to the media. I think this was the biggest success. And my personal success was just putting the team together within a very short period of time and that was probably the most difficult part! It all started in the end of November 2010 and by March 2011 we had to have 24 cars, which we were talking about at that time, up and running with people geared up to run and maintain them on rallies and between events. This was a fairly big task I would say!” Living in the corner of Poland, was this a good place to make this operation or did it produce more difficulties? Woda: “It was a perfect place to be honest. It was a fantastic choice. Logistically it is closer to all the rallies we are doing than from the UK, its more cost-efficient as well to get there because you don’t need to use a ferryboat for each journey and you don’t have to drive through the whole of the UK from the north of the country! I think it was the right choice and also we have got a really good team of people who are really motivated to do it and are very proud of doing it. So definitely for me it was the right choice.” When you think of Pirelli Star Driver and the enforced development work on the Evo X which Ralliart Italia didn’t expect, and apart from a certain day in Sardinia (in 2011) I don’t think there has been so much technical problems with the cars (Fiesta R2)? Woda: “No, the cars were very reliable. The issues we had with the cars in Sardinia (mainly broken sumps and similar damage) were not really technical issues. We did quite a lot of work after this rally to analyse why that happened. We went through all the onboard camera footage and you could clearly see who was driving off the road and damaging their sump or flying off the track after hitting a stone and who is on the right line and didn’t have problems. So it wasn’t really a technical problem from my understanding.” So you were able to analyse how good is the driver simply by looking at the damage to the cars? Woda: “I don’t think you can completely say who is good by looking at the damage, but obviously there is something in it as well! A good driver will bring the car to the finish and he will not wreck it. That is rallying. And to be honest this year some of our drivers were people who last year were causing a lot of damage to the cars. Jose Suarez is a perfect example – he has made some fantastic progress in 2012. This year he is now one of the fastest drivers, not damaging cars; now he can be used as one of the guys as an example that Academy works very well.” The plan is to continue running R2 cars, but not the new R1 cars? Woda: “The R1 cars are a different project and we’ve got these cars available to the customers for other activities. "The reason why we start with R2 in my opinion is that drivers are always looking for faster cars! They keep saying they want to have more power, more power so I think R2 is a very good entry level car at this moment. That is my personal opinion.” Some people say the R1 cars are not as good on gravel as R2. Do you agree? Woda: “I don’t understand this. I spoke to a colleague from another company and he was making comments like that, but I don’t see that being an issue with us (Ford) because we’ve got a good car for asphalt and a good car for gravel with R1. My personal opinion is that maybe R1 cars are not fast enough, and are for people who don’t have money for R2 and are looking for something more affordable for them.” Academy heads into a third year with M-Sport 15 GPWEEK.com // 15 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: