David Richards Q&A

Prodrive boss and WRC marketing guru David Richards put in a surprise appearance at the French GP. It was literally a flying visit as he got a little business done on the way to seeing his new Ferrari team take part in the Hungaroring FIA GT race. He also found time to see some of his old pals at Benetton, the team he briefly ran on his only foray into F1. But now his focus is on bringing rallying into the 21st century, and specifically making it into a successful TV spectacle. Adam Cooper asked him about the progress so far

David Richards Q&A

"I just had meetings with various people. I had to come down and see Bernie and a few other people. It was a quiet afternoon in France!"

"Slowly. It will take a while. I've not promised overnight success, and it will be three years before people really turn round and say, 'OK, they're on the right track.'"

"Putting the infrastructure in place. If you think of the time schedules we're looking at, if you want to get a TV contract on, if you want to get a broadcaster to show it, you're looking at a year in advance. Firstly they're prejudiced by what's been done before, which was unacceptable and wasn't going to sell itself ever. They watch for one year while they assess what you're doing. Is the quality good? Do you deliver on time? Is there some substance behind things? And then there's a year's gestation period before they can get it on to TV. So you're talking at least a two-year window, before the major TV contracts come on. And they won't deliver revenue - they will only deliver audience share. TV drives everything. Newspapers write about what was on last night, and basically everything follows TV."

"Just persuading everybody that these things are actually to everyone's benefit at the end of the day. You get some very traditional views. Rallying is still probably the last bastion of non-commercial motorsport, and it could always stay that way if that's what was wanted. If they decided it was a participant activity and not a spectator activity, then fair enough, leave it alone. I don't believe it will survive like that, just as cricket wouldn't have survived without one-day matches. So many other sports have had to go through transformation. It's never easy."

"I think so. They're all a little sceptical about bits and pieces, but at the end of the day they're behind me."

"Not at all. My interests are the same as theirs. But I've stood well back, and I think the teams have seen that. If they're honest about it, there's one team that's suffered throughout this, and that's Subaru. My interests are the same as the other teams. What do they want? They want the biggest audience, they want things to be far more professional, so they've got the same interests as me at heart. So we don't have a conflict there at all."

"He's very helpful, very positive. I guess if he was 30 years younger, he'd be doing it now!"

"No. It's purely advice. He's helped me a lot with general advice, whether it's with the TV companies, the European Commission, all those different things. His contacts are phenomenal. I could learn a few tricks from Bernie..."

"I think the championship is looking quite exciting now. Certainly Colin has come to the fore, but it ebbs and flows and you're never quite sure. I personally think that Richard is in a very strong position to win the Safari. When we get back to the asphalt rallies the Peugeots will come to the front again. Michelin tyres will be better on the asphalt than the Pirellis, so you're going to go through a couple of big cycles before it gets to the end of the season."

"Course it is! That's what people want to hear about..."

"No, but these personalities have got to come through, we've needed to drive the personalities and make sure they're not locked away. That's one of the great things for rallying. They are genuine rivals, and they've each got respect for each other. Colin is clearly phenomenal, he's so strong mentally. And Richard rises to the bait on occasions."

"It's sad, because they're a very good group of people, and a motivated team. It's sad for them to be where they are. It's not one issue, it's a range of issues, but that's what we said three years ago."

"It's always very easy to look back in hindsight now, but that's what we discussed with the Benettons. The business is moving very quickly. You look at the way Williams have got their act together. BMW have done a fantastic job with the engine, and they've come to the fore again. That's what it's about, re-investing all the time. You can't just sit on your... your laurels, and expect the World Championship to be delivered back into your hands."

"Not really, I've got enough on my plate! I think my wife would be pretty hacked off if I claimed that I miss it. I look round and see a lot of old friends. There is still opportunity there, clearly. It would be foolish not to admit that."

"That's not the issue. It's what's going on inside the motorhomes and behind the scenes that really matters! You've got to see through all the glitz to really understand the business..."

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