Rally stars call on Britain
|By Jim Holder
||Sunday, January 16th 2005, 14:50 GMT
Rally stars Mark Higgins and Matt Wilson have called on British industry and fans to get behind them after confirming they will contest four World Rally Championship rounds and the Pirelli British Rally Championship with Eddie Stobart Motorsport.
The pair, who will drive Ford Focuses in Sardinia, Greece, Britain and Finland, are currently the only professional British competitors with confirmed World Rally Championship outings in WR Cars, and as a result hope they will attract the attention of their home supporters.
"It looks like it's going to be down to Matt and I to uphold British honour, and the commercial reality is that we wouldn't be able to do that without the support of Eddie Stobart," said Higgins at Autosport International. "So now our hope is that the fans and television companies will get behind us and ensure that Stobart's investment is justified."
Former British Rally Champion Higgins, 33, will combine his Stobart-funded programme with seven Production Cup World Championship runs, and admitted he had never had a better opportunity to make an impression on the world stage.
"Unfortunately, I haven't got too many years left in me at the top of the sport, so I've got to make the most of it," said Higgins. "It's the sort of opportunity I've been dreaming of for 12 years and I'm unbelievably grateful. But now I'm determined not to let it slip away."
Wilson, 17, admitted his goals were more modest than Higgins', as he continues to build his experience of driving at the top level. He said: "Finishing all the British Championship rounds last year has given me a good grounding and my aim has got to be to give Mark a hard time on those events this year.
"In the world championship I am just going to concentrate on learning the events. In the four days of Wales Rally GB last year (where he finished 13th) I learnt an incredible amount. If I can keep doing that then I will be on an upward curve all season."
The pair will start the season in 2002 specification Focuses, prepared by M-Sport and run by Dom Buckley Motorsport, but are looking to upgrade the cars in time for their world championship runs.
Higgins added: "The '02 car is perfect for the BRC, but in the WRC I really want to be getting in among the frontrunners, and that means having the best machinery possible."
In addition, Eddie Stobart Motorsport will run a Focus WRC for Paul Bird in the British National Rally Championship and Production cars for Lorna Smith and Barry Clark in the British Rally Championship.