Ford's most senior representative in Europe John Fleming was present in Rally Finland last week, to explain the company's reasons for committing to another two years in the World Rally Championship.
Ford's input into the overall budget for running the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team comes from wholly within Europe as, as executive vice-president and chairman and CEO of Ford of Europe, Fleming was the right man to answer the questions.
Q. Why do you think the World Rally Championship works so well for car manufacturers?
John Fleming: It works well from both inside the company and outside. The people who work for an auto company do tend to be enthusiasts. We all get motivated by being in the World Rally Championship; something like this helps us have belief in future. It's not just about the pressure of business.
Q. We're having a fantastic championship battle this year. That's creating a buzz for the sport, it it creating a buzz for Ford motor company?
JF: Yes, it is. We're enthusiasts, so our employees look at AUTOSPORT and they see Mikko is our driver, they see him winning in Finland and leading the championship at the moment, so it builds the enthusiasm.
Q. Is having a title contender in both the drivers' and manufacturers' championship the reason for the continued commitment?
JF: Well, I don't think it's as specific as that. I mean we have to look much longer term. It [the World Rally Championship] is important for us strategically, it's aligned with where we want to go. When we go around some of the stages in Finland and we see, what I consider to be, our customers watching - that's why it's important [for the continued commitment].
Q.Can Mikko win the championship?
JF: We believe he can do it.
Q. Finland was awarded a five-year commitment from the WRC promoter. Why do you think it's such an iconic event?
JF: You only have to come to Finland to see that. I think most of Finland watches the rally. There is no other rally which has the atmosphere Finland has. It's fantastic for Finland that we're going to be coming here for five years.
Q. Should the other events in the WRC aspire to this rally?
JF: I think so. There's a natural enthusiasm because of the history. Rallying started in Finland, so it always needs to be here.
Q. The battle in Finland is what the WRC is about...
JF: I think it is. We have high-class professional racing with only seconds between the drivers. One thing is the car and the other is the knife-edge battle between world class drivers. It's fantastic.