I followed in my Father’s interest in Motorsport which began when I was very young in around 1969. Living in Cork I was able to see the Circuit of Ireland which at that time was a major motorsport event. It started on the Thursday of Easter weekend and went all the way through to the following Monday. My heroes at the time were people like Billy Coleman and drivers like Ari Vatanen who drove for Ford in the MKII Escort, as well as, Malcolm Wilson who I was later fortunate enough to work alongside with Ford’s close partnership with M-Sport in the WRC.
But my interest in motorsport is very broad and I’ve always liked all kinds racing including circuit racing. My Formula One heroes were Gilles Villeneuve, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. I was fortunate enough to see Ayrton Senna at the European Grand Prix at Donington in 1993. I saw the qualifying for the race at Donington in the dry. When race day arrived it was held in torrential rain it was incredible watching Ayrton’s performance in such extreme conditions. Looking down from the top of Craner Curves it was impossible to understand how he was making it down the hill at such speed while keeping his car on the track.
When I joined Ford I didn’t have any expectations that I could get involved in the Motorsport part of our business; I was just pleased to be in the automotive industry. Later I saw an internal advertisement for a job vacancy at Boreham; Ford’s centre for Motorsport at that time. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by Peter Ashcroft and Stuart Turner; probably the two most influential men in the history of Ford Motorsport. I didn’t get the job but it seems extraordinary, almost like some kind of destiny, that later I would fill one of their key roles as Director of Motorsport.
There were two real highlights for me in modern day WRC. The first was in 2010 at Rally New Zealand. Jari-Matti Latvala was competing in the Ford Focus RS WRC. He was driving steadily all during rally but took no fastest times on any stages and by the end of Saturday Jari-Matti was in third and 30 seconds behind the leader Sébastien Ogier. On the last day Sébastien Loeb in second had two offs and after the second one he was down to fourth and Jari-Matti was up to second. Then on the last stage Ogier made a mistake and we didn’t know until Jari-Matti crossed the line that he had won. It was so unexpected and the classic tale of the Hare and the Tortoise. What made it even better was that it was Ford’s 75th WRC victory, giving Ford more WRC wins than any other manufacturer; it was a little piece of history that I was proud to be part of.
The second highlight was in 2011 and a victory which I personally took a lot of satisfaction from. Leading up to that 2011 I was heavily involved in the development of the new Ford Fiesta RS WRC. We worked in close collaboration with M-Sport to develop the car but when we took it to the first rally in Sweden, it hadn’t been driven in anger. We had a great start and Mikko Hirvonen was in the lead by the end of the first day. Although you do all the testing you don’t know how everything will perform and stand-up in a rally. As the event went on the tension just grew and just grew, not knowing if the car would get to the end. But it did and we won the race. No one expects to win first time out in a brand new car – it was a truly great moment.
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Memory added on January 31, 2013
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