» BACK TO CRASH.NET

Crash.Net WRC News

Q&A: Armin Schwarz - EXCLUSIVE

5 December 2006

by Rob Wilkins


Red Bull Skoda team principal Armin Schwarz may not have had the easiest of years in his new role since hanging up his helmet in the WRC, but the German has enjoyed the challenge. Crash.net Radio caught up with him at the Rally GB, with only two stages to go, to get his thoughts on their form in Wales - and the season as a whole...



Q:
Armin, so far the Rally GB hasn't been going too bad for the team…

Armin Schwarz:
Yeah not too bad, Harri [Rovanpera] is running without any problems – the car has been fine. To be honest though we were a bit sad to lose Andreas [Aigner] on stage 5 [on Friday], because we thought he could do a good run here and have a good result. We are therefore down to one car, but the rest is OK.

Q:
Harri is ninth at the moment [with just two stages to go] - he is only one place off the final drivers' point, so a solid performance from him really?

AS:
Yeah that is true and we have one manufacturer point – which is not too many. Here in Britain though it is always a difficult rally, you have rain showers, then it is drying up and it is a very fast rally. Tyre choice is very difficult too. It is a very competitive rally and you have to be on it all the time.

Q:
Looking at the year at a whole, what are you thoughts? The results have been a bit mixed and I guess the Rallye Deutschland was probably the highlight?

AS:
It was, but we could only concentrate on spots with our testing and preparation and everything. At the beginning of the year I think we were very good in Monte Carlo and Sweden, the times were very good. In Sweden we had retirements with Andreas and Mattias [Ekstrom], but the times were fantastic there.

When we got to Sardinia and Greece it was a little bit difficult because we could not really prepare anything. We had the wrong set-up right from the beginning and we could not really test anything in between.

The two tarmac events we had to put Harri in for Corsica when Gilles [Panizzi] decided to stop rallying. Harri's first event was therefore Corsica and he doesn't really like tarmac. Andreas was still learning and I think he learned very quickly, because we then came to Germany and it was of course a fantastic result there. He showed what potential he has, how motivated he is and how talented he is.

Getting to Cyprus we had bad luck, both cars stopped after the first stage with an electronic problem. In Turkey again we had very good stages times from Andreas, very promising, but Harri struggled a bit with the car there and now we are here [in GB].

You see then that the programme was quite spaced out, doing two rallies almost at once - and the rest of the year we didn't have much testing and our drivers' had like a two-month break before they got in the car again. That was not so easy for them.

Q:
Coming into this season, Andreas didn't have much experience in the WRC. How much do you think he has gained from doing these ten events? Has he come on in leaps and bounds?

AS:
Yeah a lot, you have to remember he hasn't been in any rally car until two years ago, when we did a driver search. He performed very well last year in a Group N car and it was a big, big change for him to get in a World Rally Car for this year. But he has done very, very well and has made few mistakes. So overall, his learning curve was good.

Q:
Has Harri's experience, having been with Peugeot and Mitsubishi helped him - and the team as a whole?

AS:
It always helps. First of all you need a strong team-mate to push you. If you have an experienced team-mate, you can watch and listen to set-ups to see how he is addressing things. And that of course helps the team too.

Q:
With the car this season you have obviously been limited with what you could change due to the regulations. But in spite of that, have you been pleased with the progress you have made with the Fabia WRC?

AS:
It would have been better with more progress. But we knew right from the beginning there would be no new homologation and no real new parts - and everything would be down to the set-ups. We knew the main thing was to make sure the drivers were happy. I know from my experience in the past, if you are not happy with your car, you are not confident and you won't get good times.

Q:
Looking to 2007, what's the latest, will the programme continue?

AS:
I would like to confirm something but it is down to a press release, which will come soon and I don't really want to give any information beforehand, because it is not up to me.

Q:
Any idea when we might see that press release?

AS:
I think it will be in the coming week.

Q:
Changing the subject slightly, in terms of you actually driving, you retired from the WRC at the end of last season. Have you missed it or have you been glad to take on a new challenge as a team boss?

AS:
Yes and no. I like to take on a new challenge, but I didn't really miss it totally [in terms of driving], because I have done some events [but not in the WRC]. I have definitely not really missed driving in the WRC.

Q:
Assuming the Red Bull Skoda programme does continue in 2007, what do you think you could do on the driver front? Will Andreas be back?

AS:
Andreas is fixed whatever the programme will be. He is backed by Red Bull and is a Red Bull driver and that is all I can say.


» BACK TO CRASH.NET