by Rob Wilkins.
Subaru team leader, Petter Solberg
currently leads the WRC drivers' championship, following two convincing back-to-back wins in Sweden and Mexico - the latter marking the debut of the new 2005 spec Impreza.
caught up with Petter ahead of next month's Rally New Zealand to get his thoughts on the season thus far, and on the exit of Citroen
and Peugeot. Is he worried?
Read on to find out...
Petter, first up, congratulations on winning in Mexico and, of course, in Sweden, you must have been very pleased, especially in light of your DNF in Monte Carlo?
Yeah, of course - especially winning with the old car in Sweden and the new one now in Mexico. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to get the results on every single rally - a big, big team effort before we can go out and win on different types of surfaces. But, obviously I'm very, very delighted.
You now lead the drivers' championship, one point ahead of Markko Martin. Who do you see as your main rival/rivals for the title this year?
That's going to be Sebastien Loeb
Will his chances be affected by the fact that Citroen
are pulling out at the end of the year?
No, no, no - not at all. They have to be there. If they are there now, they have to actually do the best they can, although I know the personal objective is maybe bigger than the team effort.
You and Chris Atkinson
gave the new Impreza its debut in Mexico. What was the verdict?
It's better than the old one - but I was not happy enough before the rally, and not even after the rally. So they are improving the car before New Zealand and that will mean it's much better I think. It's the small details to get absolutely the maximum performance out of the car. But there's still more work to come and I think, with the performance they have done now before New Zealand, it should help my driving style, for going for the 'crazy attack of driving' that I am calling it.
How much of an improvement was the new car over the old one?
It's difficult to get big steps these days, so it is always small improvements and, in percentage terms, I am not sure. But, obviously, if I can win with a car that I am not happy with in terms of driveability, it must be okay!
How are you getting on with your new team-mates, Chris and Stephane Sarrazin?
Both of them are very good guys - although they have very different types of personality. I think Chris is a young talent that will be very good for the future, while, with Stephane, I think he may need more rally experience, although obviously he's proved in F1 that he was quick and a very good tarmac driver. I think he just needs more experience.