Article reproduced from Carsport May 1982
The Winston Henry Interview
How did you start in motorsport?
I suppose like most people in rallying, I would go to local navigation events and have a look and eventually, l decided to have a go myself. I had an Escort which was standard and over time this received various extras after each rally until it became more of a rally car than a road car.
Did you find navigation rally experience a help in stage rallying?
When starting off, the basics of rallying can be learned in navigation events and this certainly helps when stages are tackled, especially when it comes to night driving on events like the Circuit and Ulster. Until quite recently I used to take part in navigation events and l did quite well but a Group 4 Escort is a bit of a waste.
How much of your time does rallying take up?
Since I do all the preparation work myself, the answer is quite a lot. Probably two or three nights a week are spent generally rebuilding and checking over the car. I try not to let it interfere with my normal work but admittedly on the days just before a rally a lot of time is spent getting the service van, spares and tyres organised.
Do you prepare the car yourself?
Yes, most people in Group 4 send their engines off to England about every 700 stage miles but I have always done my own rebuilding and even with my present BDX engine I find no difficulty. Last year I did have engine problems for the first time; I was on the Circuit of Ireland Rally lying in 7th place when the distributor drive sheared and that ended up putting a rod through the side of the block.
How do your family view your rallying activities?
I think they are pleased when I do well but can’t really see why so much time and money has to go into rallying. Generally, I think that one has got to remember that it is a sport and the family can’t be neglected.
How large a part of your team is your co-driver?
For more than a year I have had Ronan McNamee as co-driver and he has taken a large part of the burden from my shoulders. He looks after entries, all paperwork before and during the rally, passes on any sponsorship information to organisers and the press, and generally makes sure everybody has maps, service schedules and leaves me free to get on with the driving.
What do you look for in a co-driver?
A person who can organise a team, co-ordinate the efforts of the personnel, handle all the documents at scrutiny, be easy to live with for a few days at a time and I suppose to
make the job of driving as trouble-free as possible.
Do you drive to finish or do you push the car to its limits?
On an international event if you drive flat out for three days the chances of finishing are slim and yet if on a one-day stage event you take it easy you find you are nowhere. I think therefore it’s a question of pacing yourself and the car according to the event knowing on one hand what extra you can take out of the car if you need it. Another consideration is that whatever damage I do, I must repair it, and while my sponsors help, most of the money comes from my own pocket.
What about sponsors?
When you consider what a season of Internationals cost in a Group 4 car sponsors are a must. Persitt International are a local beef and offal exporter and have been my main sponsors for last year and this. Hugo Cowan, who everybody who ever looked for a part or needed a rally car to be straightened knows, is another big help. Comiskey Engineering in Portadown do all my engineering work and then other people have helped locally, like Doherty’s pub in Poyntzpass and Motor Electric of Armagh. Even with all this help, make no mistake, without it, I couldn’t afford to continue. We are always on the look-out for additional help.
How far would you like to go in rallying?
I think it’s how far can I afford to go. I suppose everyone who has ever driven a rally car would like to have a works drive for a full season. Unfortunately, those drives are hard to get and therefore there is not much good complaining about what you could do…if only! I enjoy the Irish International rallies and also the one-day Southern stage rallies but in the near future, I would love to tackle some events outside Ireland. If I continue to do well in the Irish Tarmac Championship then I would probably go to the Manx. On the other hand, Ronan has been enquiring into the possibility of doing something like the Ypres rally in Belgium, or perhaps one of the German events later in the year.
When your car becomes outdated will you move to Group B?
If that means a move to something like an Audi Quattro or a Lancia Rally Arbarth, then the answer is unfortunately no! Like everyone else who has a Group 4 car at the moment I know that my car will be outdated in the next couple of years so I must look for a replacement. To buy a car which is suitable for use in Internationals, capable of winnings a National rally and at the same time not cost £25,000 plus, that really is what will be needed and there doesn’t appear to be anything of that type around yet. There has been some but I don’t think I would be really interested if they are little more than Group 1 cars. I want to continue to rally competitive cars for the foreseeable future and that means that I’ll be watching developments before making a decision.