Mitsubishi Ralliart Australia driver, Scott Pedder, is in his second season with the factory team as they contest the Australian Rally Championship. RallySport Magazine's Peter Whitten caught up with Pedder as he prepared for the Forest Rally in Western Australia.



RSM: You're now in your second year with Team Mitsubishi Ralliart (TMR). How have you settled into the team, and what changes have been most noticeable in the 12 months or so since you've been with them?
SP: Settling into the team was actually more difficult than I expected, coming from a privateer to a factory team. The team were incredibly good at making Glen (Weston) and myself feel at home and at ease, but I think the main problem at the start of 2005 was the pressure that both Glen and, particularly, I put on ourselves to perform.
I have wanted to be a factory rally driver my whole life and when I achieved this, as well as the added pressure of new team, one car only etc., etc., etc., I found myself putting huge amounts of pressure on myself to perform when really, as I later realised, all I had to do was perform the same way that got me the seat in the first place!
I think the added pressure and responsibility of a factory driver is one thing that I didn't fully appreciate when I was a privateer and it did take a few events to adapt to this.  
Biggest changes? Well there have been so many. Obviously both myself and Glen have evolved, the Evo 8 was developed through 2005 at an unrivalled rate considering the team's experience with Group N rally cars and the level of competition we were up against, and obviously the new Evo 9 has been a major and positive change - and very quick out of the box.
We have had a change in personnel within the team but I suppose the most noticeable change to me within TMR is the development of the off-track or corporate side of the business. Led by the dedication and devotion of Alan Heaphy, a huge amount of positive change has taken place within TMR in relation to its relationship with Mitsubishi, as well as other business developments - the team’s move into bitumen rallying with the sales and support of RS Lancers to this market is a major example of this.

How great is the difference between working with TMR than driving for your own family-run team?
I always find this frequently asked question difficult to answer because I run the risk of sounding unappreciative of the many people that worked thousands of man hours to help me progress to becoming a factory driver.
The major difference relates to the responsibility of a factory team - that is to win and be noticed. It is a typical business situation - the more you want or need to succeed and the more risks you have if you don't, the more focused you are on achieving the goals.
The dedication, loyalty, devotion, work ethic etc., is not the difference between a factory team and a privateer team - it is the focus that the team has on achieving success - and the elements, such as resources, that the team puts in place to maintain the focus on achieving this success. At the end of the day the difference is simple - a factory team is in the business of winning and helping their main sponsor use this success as leverage to sell their products to the market.

What are the biggest things you learnt about yourself as a driver during the 2005 season?
Simply, to drive consistently fast you need to relax and "just drive". Obviously Adelaide last year proved that point when I spent the four days prior to the event in bed with a major gastro bug and even a trip to hospital to have a drip placed in my arm to get some fluids!
To be honest on Saturday morning I didn't want to be in that car. I just set my mind to taking each stage at a time and just driving and although I felt sluggish in the car the times were good. It is a weird phenomenon at times - you can think you have absolutely nailed a stage, get to end and find it is slow and vice versa, struggle through a stage and be a bit "ho hum", crawl up to the finish control and the officials give you a clap and tell you are the fastest!
I have definitely had to adjust my driving strategy coming from privateer ranks when, with the aim of attracting the eye of the factory teams as a major thought, you just simply drive as fast as you can on every stage. As a factory driver, going back to that "responsibility", you have to be less short sighted and start thinking more about the entire rally and the championship.
I, and many others before me (and after!), have proved that it is very, very difficult to drive every stage as fast as humanly possible and be at the finish.

What have you changed heading into the 2006 season?
Probably two major things - my fitness and driving strategy. Fitness and weight has always been an issue for me and although I'm still a few kilograms from optimum for my size (as the team keep reminding me!), I have been working very hard from the end of last season with the help of professionals on not just endurance and normal aerobic fitness, but also techniques to improve my driving - some of which are a little radical! Of course if I told you what these were I would have to kill you!
I also suffer from a bad lower back from either one too many accidents or too many hours on a tennis court as a young kid, so daily stretching and core strength exercises now forms part of my normal routine. The results in Canberra, especially on the long stages, suggest that these strategies are working.
As for the driving strategy side of things, from what I learnt in 2005 and from watching guys like Russell Ingall, you don't always have to be the fastest to be the best. In the heat of battle and being a very competitive type of person it is at times difficult to stop the red mist and think of the bigger picture, but obviously the aim of the team this year is to win the Drivers’ Championship.

The new Evo 9 seems to be an improvement over last year's Evo 8, given your stage times in Canberra. What are the essential differences and improvements in the new car, as opposed to the old one?
I think the improvements we made before Canberra were as a result of a rethink of the shared components from Evo 8 to 9. The key to any Group N car, and especially in Canberra, is grip levels and I strongly believe that the improvements in Canberra were as a result of a better set-up car in relation to diff and suspension settings, as well as tyre choice, rather than as a result of the new engine which really delivers very little extra power and torque, but does make the car slightly more driveable.
The team did a fantastic job over the off season analysing the information and data from the Evo 8 and bettering it, rather than relying on any theoretical improvements that the Evo 9 was going to deliver.

Unlike Toyota or Ford, Mitsubishi don't have a lot of factory or corporate backing for their 2006 campaign. How does this affect the way you and the team approaches each rally, and the season as a whole?
I think the level of support both financial and otherwise from Mitsubishi Motors Australia has been tremendous and greatly appreciated, and when you consider the level of support per car, we have sufficient resources to achieve our aims in 2006.
TMR, led by Alan Heaphy, also does a great job in relation to the balancing act necessa ry in spending the funds to develop a championship winning car and team, and also satisfying corporate and "off-track" requirements.  

Do you think that given TMR's limited budget, the 2006 Drivers' title is a realistic aim this year?
Absolutely! I would personally view any other result as a failure and I hope that all other members of our team feel the same way.

Ford have arrived, but Subaru have gone. How is the ARC travelling at the moment? And what things need to be put into place to ensure the continued growth of the championship?
Tough question to answer. Obviously the more factory teams the better, however I think Subaru exiting has given a greater opportunity for privateers to shine in this championship. I know when I started in the ARC as a privateer there were two World Rally Cars, four factory or factory-supported Group N Cars and host of very professional and very competitive privateer teams!
The introduction of Super 2000 will, I think, be a positive from a spectator appeal point of view, however I reserve my judgement in terms of both competition and costs. The continued Channel 10 relationship and support of the ARC is crucial I think to the future of the sport and probably is at the top of the "threats" pile.
Also, the integrity, operations, safety and professionalism of the ARC shouldn't
be undermined in an attempt to build competitor numbers, so the championship needs to build strategies to provide the necessary funds to organisers so that this championship is not diluted or bastardised and is always developed and sold as the premier rally championship in this country.

Finally, tell us why Scott Pedder deserves his place in the Mitsubishi Ralliart
team.
I would like to think that I was chosen to join TMR because of both my success, experience and results on the track, coupled with my expertise and offerings from a corporate and promotional perspective. When you look at results on the track as a privateer there have only been four privateer drivers over the past 10 years to win a heat of the ARC - Chris Atkinson, Simon Evans, Juha Kangas and Scott Pedder – not surprisingly all these drivers were or are now factory drivers.
I am very comfortable at TMR and am currently really enjoying my driving and being part of this great team in very much its infancy. I would like to think that this is just the start of a very successful, long-term relationship, similar to what my predecessor (Ed Ordynski) enjoyed.
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