Andrew Cowan Q&A
Mitsubishi's decision to pull out of next year's World Championship came as a big shock even to series insiders. Andrew Cowan, chairman of Ralliart Europe, which runs the programme explained the thinking behind the decision to test in 2003 and return to the WRC in 2004
Q: How difficult was the decision to not compete in 2003?
AC: "It’s not a decision that was taken lightly, but we realised there was no quick fix, it would be the middle of next year at the earliest. It’s a very good decision, very positive and there is tremendous commitment from Mitsubishi Motors to be back in 2004 with a competitive car.”
Q: When did you first start to consider a sabbatical?
AC: “We began talking about it in Australia. Although the car had been quick in Germany, and in New Zealand where Jani [Paasonen] set some fast times, it would only perform under a particular set of circumstances. We’d have preferred it to have been reasonably quick everywhere. I think next year will be busier than ever. We’re not making anybody redundant, and we’re fulfilling all of our obligations to the other teams. We’ll pay our way on the ro-ro boat, and do everything that we’ve already agreed to do.”
Q: How have the drivers reacted?
AC: “On the whole they’ve been positive, they’ve reacted well.”
Q: Just over a year ago you were fighting for the drivers’ title with Tommi Makinen, how did it go so wrong, so quickly?
AC: “I’ve been reminding people [that we were in that position] as well! We hold our hands up – we’ve made a mistake. Our rivals have taken one, two, or three years to develop their World Rally Cars. We thought we were clever enough to make the switch from Group A quickly and we weren’t.”
Q: Where can we expect to see you on rallies?
AC: “We need to have a close look at Turkey, it’s a new event and it’s important we find out what it’s about. Where we’ve got new components to test we may also enter other events.”
Q: Is your position as chairman of Ralliart Europe secure?
AC: “I’m certainly not planning to retire, but I’ve got a very good team around me that works effectively, though I’m sure they’d work well without me. At some point I might not come into the office five days a week, but this is my life.”