Matt Wilson has found himself frequently maligned both in the motorsport media and amongst World Rally Championship (WRC) fans alike, but the leading British star of his generation suggests his detractors should give him the time he needs to learn and improve – as he reveals his ultimate ambition of becoming World Rally Champion.
Wilson's critics argue that he is only in the WRC thanks to his father, 1994 British Rally Champion Malcolm Wilson who runs both the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team and the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team effort for whom his son competes. However, from the 59 rallies that Wilson Jnr has entered since making his official WRC bow back in 2004, the 22-year-old has garnered just 50 points, and has far more often finished outside of the top eight scoring positions than in.
Moreover, Wilson has yet to ascend the rostrum, with a best result of fourth on the 2007 Rally Japan, but this year the Cumbrian-born ace has been the very model of consistency, scoring points in all-bar two of the ten events so far – missing out only in Portugal, where he retired due to a loss of oil pressure, and in Greece where he came in 14th – to currently sit seventh in the title standings, only six points behind fifth-placed team-mate Henning Solberg.
“You learn to live with it,” he reflected of the criticism, speaking to Crash.net Radio's Adam Drane. “That was more back at the start of my career when I was first setting out; if you did well it was expected, and if you didn't, well why aren't you? It doesn't really come now – I think people can see what we're trying to achieve and the five-year plan that we have.
“When I first started out we'd just lost Colin [McRae] and just lost Richard [Burns], and I think everybody was looking for a new British hope. We started to do world rallies, and everybody expects a lot – and then you realise that you've not really got that much experience and that there's a lot to learn. I think attitudes have maybe changed a little bit, and like I say as long as we keep progressing and making improvements, that's the main thing.
“I think I've improved everywhere; generally you just keep on learning and you keep gathering that experience – and that adds up to improvement everywhere. I don't think you can really look and say 'this is what you need to do differently'. There are obviously so many elements with rallying – you've got the pace notes, the car has to be right, you have to have experience of the rally – that I don't think you can really pinpoint one little thing. Like I say, you've just got to work on all of those areas, and when it does come together that's when the results start to happen as well.”
Results, indeed, are what Wilson needs to keep on producing if he is to advance his career as he so clearly hopes to do – and, more specifically, podiums and wins. Though he knows he still has much to learn and a long way to go in the sport, the man who initially participated in circuit racing for three years – “The plan was always to eventually go rallying, but you can circuit race from 14 and it was just a way of driving, getting mechanical experience and learning about cars, and then when you get your licence on the road and go rallying I think it does stand you in good stead,” he explains – insists he won't be satisfied until he has reached the very top, even if he has his feet firmly on the ground with regard to how long that is likely to take.
“The ultimate aim is to be driving in the world championship for a manufacturer and to be winning rallies and fighting for world championships,” he asserted. “If that leads to being world champion, then that's got to be the ultimate prize at the end of the day.
“You've got to have that determination and have that in your mind to do, or there's no point in competing. We need to keep on making the improvements that we have every year, but it's still going to take time – once you start fighting for podiums and winning rallies, it still takes a long time to get that momentum together to do it for a year and win a championship.
“I think we could be looking at another four or five years maybe before we can realistically be in that position – look at Colin, he was the youngest person ever to win the world championship at 27, and that's still five years away for me. That's got to be the aim, for sure – but we do have time on our side.”
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