IRC Rally 2011: Guy Wilks talks tech, electric cars and more

Formula 1 may hog the headlines, but Peugeot UK rally driver Guy Wilks assures us that there is plenty to love about the motorsport that tests your driving skills on the very same roads that we use everyday. In preparation for the day/night IRC affair that is Rallye Sanremo, we headed to the coastal north Italian city, sat behind the wheel and found out about Guy and his gadgets...

How much of a tech fan are you?

I’m a tech fan but it’s difficult to find the time sometimes. I’m a bit of an Apple freak. I have an iPad and a MacBook but you can never keep up to date with iPhones, so I have a BlackBerry but I am not going to change it for an iPhone. I do like my tech and in terms of helping me with my sport, definitely because we carry an in-car camera when we are making our pace notes. We do check it back on my computer, which I think the MacBook is a fantastic tool to use. It's even better when you have a remote. You don’t have to get out of bed when you’re watching it!


When you are not sitting in your rally car, what do you normally drive?

Peugeot 308 CC. I am quite lucky in that regard because it comes with the job. It’s fully tooled up. It’s got the satnav in which is a very good satnav, and a Bluetooth phone which is obviously very important for safety.


Ever had a satnav mishap?

It’s a very difficult thing to manage but you can go off and do a detour and then all of a sudden you can speak to someone else who’s been travelling that route, and they would’ve gone where they’ve said it’s a traffic jam and there isn’t one. It’s clear.. You always have an argument with your partner don’t you? Always a good excuse when a map is involved. A debate I should say!


Is in-car tech important for you?

I like to have ease of everything. I am kind of strange in that sense. My partner will know where I am going and I’ll have the satnav map on just because you know, it’s a gimmick for me. But it’s also interesting you know if you want to take a different route, sometimes you can see it straight away and I suppose in a way it makes you become a bit more lazy. In that respect it makes me a little more interested I suppose, because I don’t always take the same route. I also like my music. So it’s always an advantage when you can play your music whether it’s from your phone or your iPod.


Do you get involved with Twitter and Facebook?

I like it for the good reasons, keeping in touch with your friends. The reason I don’t like it is that everything is all open, you’re laid bare. Everyone can see what you’re doing, even people that you don’t necessarily want to. I only really like it for my personal Facebook site which is purely for friends. It’s nice to see what people are doing. I have nice job, but when people are going away to very interesting places, it’s very good for keeping up with where they have been and what they’ve done. I suppose it has the side effect of a lack of conversation when you do see them because you know what they’ve been up to.


So would you say there are more positives than negatives with social networking?

Depends who you are. For me I use it as much as I want. Some people lay their whole lives on there. For me I put very little of what I do at home with my family. In fact nothing of my daughter for example. For some people they live by it. They socialise by it, they don’t message people, they Facebook message people to meet up. “Where we gong tonight?” etc. When they are out with those people they are Facebooking other people so there’s an anti social side of it.


Are there any Guy Wilks Facebook fanpages out there? Have you had a look?

There’s a few. Obviously there is the official one and then there are two or three that have been set up. From time to time if I am bored, I will go on there and see but I’m not a Facebook junkie.


When could we see our first ever electric car rally?

I don’t think the locals would be very happy with the amount of noise there would be. We’d be nullifying everything and we’d be living in a very boring world, an environmentally friendly one in effect. I think in terms of road cars we are on the cusp of it. In terms of motorsport, it could be there but not in terms of rallying. We go away from the service area for a long time. Of course with the hybrid cars recuperating energy from braking and things like this, it’s always possible.


So we are probably a bit far off from that then?

I don’t think motorsport fans will come and watch it because of the noise. They are already complaining about the diesel cars racing around and making a racket. What is going to be very interesting is when we are going to see the first co-driver tablet to race there pace notes from.


What would you make of the prospect of tablets being used as part of your in-car setup?

It’s quite possible that someone could setup an application to have pace notes. The only problem is battery. There’s no problem connecting them in to keep them charged. The only problem is if something did ever happen, boom, it’s lost. I’m sure Phil (Guy's co-driver) would quiver if he had to read the whole rally off a tablet. Failure is ultimately the main problem. If you are reading off a piece of paper, the only thing you can do is lose it or it can blow away. Someone would have to be a brave man to take that opportunity up.


On the subject of tablets and phones, do you use any apps for training?

There is one that sends you to sleep and it was specifically for that reason, like a chill out app. Angry Birds on the aeroplane is another one. I Get really stressed out with that one. I use a weather app for rally because obviously it's very dependent on weather as a driver, so I keep a bit of a lookout on the weather so it’s not a big surprise.


How would you sell rally to someone who has never got into it?

It’s probably the most raw motorsport, along with Isle of Man TT. You can relate to it because the cars look like the road cars you have parked in your drive. We use roads that people use everyday and there’s the whole prospect that you are going to spectate. You are not going to a circuit where everything is in a controlled environment. You are not told where to stand or sit or anything like that, you can come and make it your own. If you want to come and watch one stage, every stage, you can do what you want. You can sit where you want, stand where you want within reason, drink what you want, say what you want and practically do what you want in terms of air horns, shouting shaking your fists and general enjoyment. It’s a fantastic social event and you can take the whole family.


What’s the last piece of tech you’ve bought yourself?

An SLR. A Canon 550D. I have a little girl so I was quite keen that I captured her younger years. She has just gone a year old. She was actually born when I was in San Remo last year. I’m doing well so far as a father, I missed the birth and the first birthday all because of rallying! I think it’s quite important that I have a good camera.


What is the ultimate gadget you would love to own?

I am building a house at the moment so, I’ve seen some nice fridges freakily enough, ones that you can have different temperatures for your red and white wine. So I am going to say a fridge freezer.



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