AUTOSPORT talks to Guy Wilks about his decision to move from Skoda to Peugeot for next season
Q. So, why the switch?
Guy Wilks: I'd been made a good offer by Peugeot for next season - and that came quite some time ago. I said I wouldn't discuss it until I had an offer from Skoda. Peugeot was very good and very accommodating, allowing me to get on with driving and not putting pressure on me. But, once Scotland was over, it was clear that they wanted things fixed by a certain date.
Q. The deal came together quickly?
GW: It did recently, yes. Peugeot was very up front and laid everything out for me. It simply came down to the fact that Peugeot came with a better package for next year.
Q. But, on the face of it, it appears you've given up on a championship-winning car for the car which won the championship in 2009...
GW: Peugeot Sport has made a massive commitment to developing the 207 - especially on gravel. And they want me to be involved in that development. That's the key for me, it's that opportunity to get back into developing a car in a way that I haven't done since I was driving for Suzuki in the Junior World Rally Championship. This kind of key development role is what every rally driver wants, it means you're in the car a lot more, you're testing all the time and you're getting a whole load more seat time. Realistically, if I had stayed at Skoda, I was going to be in the same position as this year. I definitely see the move to Peugeot as a step forward, but at the same time it was a really difficult decision. There's a lot riding on next year, there's a lot of pressure on my shoulders; Guy Wilks needs to produce next season or how much longer do I continue to go rallying? To make that decision, I have to be in the right position next year and I believe I will have the right opportunities at Peugeot. I can see, to people on the outside, why this might look like a strange decision, but they're not seeing the details and the behind the scenes stuff.
Q. I guess it was difficult for you when Skoda has a works team?
GW: Yes. Juho [Hanninen] is there and doing a lot of work on the car for the team. Jan's [Kopecky] had a steady year, but they both have a future at Skoda and it's very difficult for anybody else to go into the team and to get involved in the development work.
Q. You were always going to be number three in the pecking order at Skoda with works drivers Hanninen and Kopecky ahead, whereas you'll be number one at Peugeot.
GW: Yes, that's it. There is a big, big commitment in lots of key areas to work on the 207. You saw the strong affiliation that Kris had with the team and Peugeot Sport in the last two years and that's what we're looking at. Peugeot has a great pedigree in rallying and they've demonstrated their commitment to me, I've made my decision and now I'm going to make the best out of it.
Q. What's your deal at Peugeot then?
GW: It's for the full IRC next year.
Q. All 12 rounds, including Cyprus?
GW: I don't think the Cyprus decision has been taken yet, but certainly 11 rallies. There's no point in talking about the other details, it's enough to say that I'm very happy with the deal.
Q. How difficult a decision was it to leave Skoda UK?
GW: It was, it genuinely was. It's almost a year to the day from when I was pushing to try and get in line for the BFGoodrich prize drive on Rally of Scotland, when Skoda came to me and said: "We would like you to drive our car." It was a fantastic chance they gave me and we've all been a really motivated team. We had a fantastic first half of the year, okay the top step [of the podium] eluded me, but there were teething troubles with the car and then we had Sardinia which was down to me. And now it's all ended with a real kick where it hurts in Scotland. I wouldn't have wanted it to end like that, we had driven as well as possible on that event and if it hadn't been for the problem [day one transmission problem which forced them to retire from the lead], anything was possible.
Q. Is it a bit strange to be taking Kris Meeke's car?
GW: I don't see it like that at all. It's a Peugeot UK car. You could have said the same thing when I went to Skoda last year: "How does it feel to be driving Juho's car?" Kris [Meeke] has had his time there and as soon as I get in the car, it's down to me to see what I can do in the car. It's a shame Kris wasn't still here, Kris and me in the same team, that could have been good...
Q. Given his IRC title in year one of his Peugeot drive, is Meeke a tough act to follow?
GW: No, he's not a tough act to follow. Marc van Dalen is there in the team running the car, Marc has known me and known what I can do for quite a long time. I believe, Marc was instrumental in me getting the drive - or at least pointing Peugeot UK in the direction he thought was the right one. Marc knew Kris and he knows me and he knows what I'm capable of. I'm happy with where I am right now and I know that, when Monte Carlo starts in January, I'll be 100 per cent prepared.
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