By Rob Wilkins

Peugeot WRC driver, Markko Martin enjoyed what was probably one of his best rallies of the season at the weekend, when he managed to finish third on the Rally Finland. While the Estonian had already had three podiums this year - in Sweden, Mexico and Cyprus - this was the first time he felt he had managed it on merit and really felt at one with the 307 WRC.

Here speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio on the Thursday prior to the Rally Finland we caught up with the former Ford ace, and asked him all about his season thus far and his plans for 2006...

Q:
Markko. We have had a good portion of the season now, how do you assess things for yourself - and of course for Peugeot?

Markko Martin:
So far it hasn't been really fantastic for me, but up until the last rally, I managed to stay in the top three of the championship all the time and that was good. But all the time we were missing some pace. We really didn't have the speed to fight for the top places. But I think now, maybe in the second half of year, I believe we may have a bit more of a chance. We should be able to improve - and hopefully claim back some good places in the championship as well.

Q:
Now you did your home rally - the E.O.S Peugeot Rally, a few weeks back. I believe you made a step forward there, didn't you?

MM:
That is a really good event. I always enjoy doing it, because it is in my home country, so it is nice to drive there and we had some really good improvements on the car. I managed to use them for the first time and it really felt great. So hopefully I can bring that feeling to Rally Finland and try and do a very good result here. We won the home event, but that was easy. We will try our best here as well. I've won in Finland before [in 2003] and was second here last year. So hopefully it will work for me this year.

Q:
Citroen and Sebastian Loeb have been pretty unstoppable this year and have seemingly been on a different level. Do you find that frustrating?

MM:
Not so much me to be fair, because I haven't been that close to battle with him. I have been further back and have had my own difficult times to get use to the new car and team. So I think it is more frustrating for people like Marcus [Gronholm - my team-mate] and Petter [Solberg], who have been in the same team and they have just fallen back from what they were last year. So it is more difficult for them to accept that someone is beating them all the time. I expected to have a bit of a low key season, after joining a new team, at least at the beginning of the year. But overall Sebastien has been way to strong for everybody.

Q:
Now as we mentioned there Citroen and Michelin really have had that something 'extra' this year. Do you think Peugeot have taken their eye of the ball following their decision to quit or is it more to do with the different tyres the two makes use?

MM:
I think Peugeot have done a lot of work and a lot testing this year. You can't say there is a lack of effort. I think it is just that one combination works really well at the moment and everybody else needs to up there game a bit.

Q:
There has been a lot of talk about 2006 already, particularly on the drivers' front. I assume you are you hoping to stay in the WRC?

MM:
I hope so but it is not going to be easy. There are not so many drives available next year. Everything depends on what Sebastien Loeb and Citroen do. I mean if they stay together then there is a better chance for everybody else if not... it all depends on what is going to happen to him.

Q:
Have you spoken to Ford, Subaru or Mitsubishi? Can you tell us anything about that?

MM:
I think I have a manager to do that! I haven't really spoken to anybody.

Q:
Assuming though that the worse case scenario happened for you and you didn't get a 'works' drive. Would you stay on and do a privateer or semi-privateer effort?

MM:
I think it is quite tough to go the privateer route, because it is going to cost so much money and there are not so many companies that are around or are willing to pay that money. So it is quite difficult. But ok, we will see what happens. It's a [long pause]... it just the 'silly season'.

Q:
Continuing to look at 2006 - what do you make of plans to pair events and have them back-to-back?

MM:
I don't really see much point of that really. Yes everybody has said they can save some money but it is going to be a really small amount of money that they are saving. So you can't really do more rallies because of that. Of course it makes sense to do rallies like Australia and New Zealand at the same time - as everybody saves travelling time and costs. However it is still an event and a cost. I think, my personal view is, that the FIA should reduce the number of rallies at the moment because it difficult for all the manufacturers to be in the sport so if you put more rallies in its quite difficult, I think, to find the budget.

Q:
There is speculations though isn't there that there could be even more than 16 rallies in 2007?

MM:
I think the FIA made a mistake two years ago to go two rallies more instead of two rallies less. If they do that move again then that is I think the end of it.

Q:
Of course one of the main problems with not having new events is that you can't incorporate new countries into the WRC. How would you tackle that?

MM:
There are a lot of events that don't have to be in the championship at the moment. I think they can have better events. I think the championship can be more spread out too than it is at the moment with the current amount of rallies.

Q:
What are you aims or hopes for the remainder of the season?

MM:
We will see how this event goes this weekend. If we can do a good result here then I will be looking forward to the end of the year and we should be able to do better everywhere and hopefully be in at least the top three [in the championship] at end of the year.

Q:
What about the tarmac events coming up?

MM:
I think those will be difficult for us.

Q:
Thanks Markko. Good luck in the rest of the season.