by Rob Wilkins.
Petter Solberg's co-driver, Phil Mills kindly took time out of his schedule at the recent Rallyday to talk to Crash.net Radio
Here, he chats about the current state of the WRC and the new Impreza, which is scheduled to be officially unveiled next month at the Frankfurt Motor Show - and loads more...
Phil, here at the Rallyday, the weather is not exactly good at the moment [it was raining very heavily
], but are you enjoying things so far?
Yeah, it is great - great atmosphere, great people and great cars. It's just a very special day out.
Good to get close to the fans as well, I'm sure?
Yeah, it is and it is something we don't get enough opportunity to do. Even on the Wales Rally GB, when we get down there, you get these slots you have to push into and it always seems a bit strange because the whole world championship is now so condensed because you have got 16 events, the time slots to do this sort of thing are so few and far between. It is just nice to have a whole day here, where you can just mingle and do whatever you want and chat to people. There are [loads of] fans - half the people here are dressed in Subaru gear, it's just amazing.
You mentioned 16 events there. There is talk that, in 2007, we might have more, which will make things even more hectic. Is that good or bad?
Yeah, there is talk about 24 events and all this sort of thing [but], as far as I can see, that is impossible to do. We all said 14 events was the limit, that 16 was stretching it. Everybody in the championship who does 16 events says it is too stretched and would like it to go back down to twelve events. My personal opinion is it should be twelve events with three cars teams - and the third car of each team should be an under-25 driver to get some youngsters into the 'big time'. That's my philosophy on the future of the WRC. But 16 events on the schedule means it is very, very stretched.
The year to date has been tough really for you, what with the form of Sebastien Loeb?
It is tough. It is not the year we planned, not the year we predicted. We've had lots of problems along the way. We are struggling in the dry a little bit. In the wet, there is no problem at all. But it's not the year we planned. We've had some breakages, some offs, some self-inflicted accidents - Monte Carlo and so on. It's not the year we planned - we planned to be world champions this year. There is a 30-point difference as we stand, and it is difficult to close that gap.
Is it possible though?
It's mathematically do-able - whether it is realistic, though, I'm not sure. But we continue to go to every event to try and win it outright. It is as simple as that and we will never change that philosophy.
Obviously, next year, you should have a better chance, what with Citroen
and Peugeot pulling out?
Yes and no. The French cars aren't simply going to disappear into an underground lock-up. There is a fair chance that someone like Sebastien [Loeb] will come back in a Citroen
and run privately, and it will still be a world-winning car for at least next year. It's not just going disappear.