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Q&A: Marc van Dalen - EXCLUSIVE

8 December 2006

by Rob Wilkins


Kronos Citroen boss, Marc van Dalen was unable to confirm at the Wales Rally GB last weekend whether or not his team will compete in the WRC in 2007. Indeed despite their success with Sebastien Loeb, Dani Sordo and Xavier Pons, the future for the Belgium-based outfit is far from certain now that Citroen Sport will return to the WRC in an official capacity next year, having taken a sabbatical in 2006.

Here, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio on the Thursday prior to the final round in the championship, he discusses what they hope to do next season and looks back on their year as a whole, one that saw them win eight events, finish second in the manufacturers' and clinch the drivers' championship with Loeb...



Q:
Marc, you must be pleased with the season to date, especially with Sebastien Loeb having taken the drivers' championship?

Marc van Dalen:
Absolutely, when we closed this deal at the end of last year, our aim was to try and do the best we can, to give Sebastien the best chance to keep his title. We achieved that even though he didn't finish the season – and everybody knows why [he missed the events in Turkey, Australia, NZ and GB]. In any case it is a great victory for us to do that this year and for a small team, like we are, it is brilliant. I am very proud of my team and especially my guys – they have worked so hard this year to achieve that, overall a fantastic season for us.

Q:
For Sebastien to have taken the title, especially as he only did 12 of the 16 events, is quite remarkable isn't it?

MvD:
Yes it is, but it is a shame he had this injury. Otherwise I think there was a chance we could have battled more with Ford for the manufacturers' but even with this we still finished second [and kept the battle alive until NZ]. That is a great victory for us.

Q:
To keep the battle for the manufacturers' going until the penultimate round was full credit to Kronos. It was a good team effort I would imagine...

MvD:
The battle was perfect with Ford all year and they deserve it. They did a great job and have two very good drivers'. I like to battle like this – we were at the right level and we had very good drivers. So OK they won the manufacturers' in the end and we won the drivers' – that is good for everybody and the WRC.

Q:
Have you been happy with the form of Daniel Sordo and Xavier Pons? Dani was sensational in the first half of the year wasn't he - although he struggled a bit in the second half, when unlike in the early part of the year, the events were new to him?

MvD:
That was a problem for him in the second half of the season, because a lot of the rallies were brand new for him and it is never easy to keep the pace when you have no experience of them. I was very pleased with both of them though. They are very young and have made a lot of improvements over the year. Xavier has got better and better since we started and Dani has improved also. He is only 23-years-old and I think the future is very good for him. This was our job this year to help them get more confident and too learn. The atmosphere is very friendly and is working well.

Q:
Do you think they can both go on and build on this season now? Citroen Sport have obviously signed Dani, but Xavier's future is not yet known...

MvD:
I think both of them have proved that they are in the right place in the WRC. They are completely different drivers', different mentality, different people, but I think they are at roughly the same level at the moment. Dani has his place next year alongside Seb and I hope Xavier will get a good drive too.

Q:
Can you reveal anything yet on Kronos' plans for 2007?

MvD:
We want to stay involved in the WRC because I think we have proved to everybody that this is the place we deserve to be. But it is always a question of finding the right driver and the right sponsors. We are in a lot of discussions with different people and I hope we can close something in the next 15 days.

Q:
With regard to staying in the WRC in 2007, is that looking likely at this stage?

MvD:
We will try to do something like a manufacturer team next year. We don't know yet whether it will be a ten, twelve, 15 or sixteen event programme. We have to wait some days and then we will see.

Q:
Now Sebastien Loeb was here in GB to do the recce. How is he getting on?

MvD:
He is getting better and better. He is not far from 100 per cent, but it is too early to come back on a rally like this, especially in these conditions. If something happened it could be a problem for him for Monte Carlo. So it would be stupid to come back like that. He is coming back here on Sunday though to close the season and celebrate with all the team. That is very good as he wants to be here with us. He will be back to drink something and to eat something all together.

Q:
Post-Rally GB is there any tests planned or is it, as I would imagine, all about getting something sorted for 2007?

MvD:
No test sessions - we will just be working hard to try and close this 2007 deal as soon as we can.

Q:
Final question, will you have any time off over Christmas and the New Year or will you just be busy working on the commercial front?

MvD:
I hope to have a day off, but I am really not optimistic about it. It is a really difficult business because you are involved all the time - 100 per cent everyday and it is always like that.


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