|All at stake in GB (15 November 2001)|
|“I’ve never been in such a good position going into the final round of the World Championship as I am now, but a one point lead is not much and to say we’ve got a fight on our hands is a wee bit of an understatement!
“I wouldn’t be as bold as Richard and go as far as to say the rally belongs to me, because there are a few other drivers quite capable of spoiling everyone’s party. Yeah, Richard and I go into the event knowing these are our home roads, ones we’ve competed on for years - much the same as the Finns on the 1000 Lakes - but the depth of the competition these days means you can’t take anything for granted and no win is ever easy. Its just not me to go into an event all cocky, assuming victory’s mine for the taking. I know what I can do, I’ve won here three times before – including ’95 when I won the Championship - and can only do what I know I’m capable of. I can’t do anything to dictate anyone else’s position and our approach to the event will be no different to normal.
“Sure, there’s more at stake in this rally, but I like a challenge, and knowing that we’ve prepared well and done everything we possibly can to help ourselves means we can go in with a confident and positive feeling.
“With three of us pretty much level-pegging at the top of the leaderboard, it’s obviously just going to be a straight fight from the word go. Carlos has really only got a chance of the title if something goes horribly wrong for me, Richard and Tommi, but Ford’s challenge for the manufacturers’ title is equally important, so both of us have a lot to fight for, personally and for the team.
“While Marcus is out of the title fight, he’s a definite contender for the rally victory. His pace and the speed of the Peugeot will be quite something to watch and he could well have an influence on the outcome of the Championship. Having said that, if he wins we can finish third with Richard second and still take the title, so it’s not just a question of what we’re all up to, we need to keep an eye on a few other people as well. Tommi could be a bit of an unknown. The car certainly seemed to improve throughout Australia and with a wee bit more time to prepare between rallies, and knowing the Championship’s at stake, he could rise to the challenge, even though he’s never gone particularly well in the UK before.
“At this stage it’s difficult to know what the conditions will be like until we’ve started the recce. At the moment the weather seems to be relatively stable, but at this time of year it can close in quickly, especially in the forests, and invariably we end up with a lot of rain, mud and fog for the event. Whatever the weather though, the atmosphere on my home rally is always brilliant – I can remember the days when I went out in the pouring rain, tramping through the forests to watch the cars. Everyone is there for the same reason and when you’re driving and can see all the banners and flags, and hear the people cheering you on, it makes a huge difference. You really want to put on something special for all the people who’ve made the effort. One things for sure, no rally fan is going to be disappointed by the action this year!
“From a personal point of view, I’ll have a few PR appearances before the start, down at the rally show in particular. I’ll be on Ford’s stand at some point and will also be signing autographs on the Performance Clothing stand on Thursday where my own merchandise will be on sale. The amount of people that queue up for hours never ceases to amaze me and its always frustrating that eventually I have to walk away from it, but hopefully people will understand why. Also, don’t forget to check out the competition on the site – lots of prizes!
“The amount of messages on the site supporting me, Nicky and Ford has been unbelievable and I really hope we can give everyone something pretty special to celebrate on 25 November. It’ll be the quickest I’ve ever driven, that’s for sure!”