by Rob Wilkins.
Mitsubishi boss Isao Torii was at the 2005 Rallyday last Saturday and, while 'his' team may not have had the results they had hoped for this year, he is eager for them to grab podiums in the final few events of the season.
Here speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio he reveals more...
Isao, are you enjoying the show so far?
I'm enjoying it very much. I brought my family. This is the first time for me. I saw the heritage of the rally car and lots of Mitsubishis, from one to the latest line - fantastic!
How do you assess the season to date?
This year, you know, this is still our development period. So, in the first half of the year, we continue the development and try to progress. Now, on the second stage, the second-half period, we are hoping to challenge for podiums as much as possible with our three drivers and, at the coming Rally GB, we will try again to challenge for a top three finish.
We've just had the Rally Finland. I think it is fair to say it wasn't the result you had hoped for?
The Finland result is not our expectation. Harri [Rovanpera] was in his homeland - and his home town – and, last year, he did a very good job until he made a mistake. This year, our expectations were that he would show up good performance, unfortunately [he did] not though.
For Gigi [Galli], it was a first time for him to drive a WRC car in Finland. In the past this year, he showed very fantastic driving, but did not get a high position. So, coming to Finland, we were expecting to get a good result and finish the rally and get a higher position. But, unfortunately, he made a mistake. He needs more experience and I'd like to invest in him, to give him a chance to drive more.
Next up, obviously, Germany. You've opted for Galli instead of Gilles Panizzi? That must have been a difficult decision?
Yeah, of course. Panizzi is a tarmac king, [but] we had a big discussion in the team then finally decided to take Gigi for future investment.
Actually, the German Rally is not our rally. Last year, our two cars went off and even Gilles, you know, the tarmac king, didn't make any good result in the past. So, from this data and this year, Gigi's performance, I'd like to take Gigi to give him a chance to experience the German Rally for the future.
What can you tell us about Mitsubishi's plans on the driver front for 2006? Can you reveal anything there?
Ha ha! That is... everyone asks me that... but so far we are still working on that. I cannot say anything at the moment. Please wait, you know...
You were saying about investing in the future with Gigi though?
Of course, this is part of our young driver education or our young driver programme. Last year, we nominated three young drivers and, this year, we picked up Gigi from these three and we'd like to continue this young driver support system. So I hope he will be in a Mitsubishi car as well.
What are your hopes for the rest of this season and for the next one?
First, in 2005, the German Rally and Rally GB and then our biggest event, Japan Rally. Last year, we skipped the Japan Rally, our home land. So, this year, we have to show a good result on Japan Rally and show Mitsubishi fans in Japan what we can do. Then Corsica and Catalunya should be good for us on tarmac. I hope we have some chance to get a good result.
In 2006, our car will be better with next year's homologation process and, hopefully, I can prepare a good driver line-up. Then, we want to challenge for the championship.