by Rob Wilkins

Subaru team leader Petter Solberg will be gunning for his fourth successive Wales Rally GB win next weekend, when the FIA World Rally Championship heads to Cardiff for round twelve.

Speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio as part of our build up to the Rally GB, the Norwegian gave his views on Sebastien Loeb's domination in the WRC, the new Impreza, which will be unveiled next week, and loads more...

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Q:
Petter, we spoke to you back in March, following your back-to-back victories in Mexico and Sweden but, since then, it is fair to say the season hasn't really gone to plan for either you or Subaru, has it?

Petter Solberg:
[laughs] It has been not very good since then. It is a really strange feeling actually, going from two wins to not so many good results in a row but, obviously, there are some reasons for it. We have dropped back a little bit, but that is how it is. We will come back very soon, I think.

Q:
Why do you think Sebastien Loeb, Citroen and Michelin have been so utterly dominant?

PS:
They have been incredible. I think the whole package has been just absolutely perfect. We have struggled with a lot of small things. Like everybody knows in rallying, the sport is about going a little bit up and a little bit down. Of course, I am jealous of Sebastien, that is for sure, but they have got everything right and that is how it is sometimes.

Q:
They appeared to be even more dominant on asphalt in Germany. That doesn't bode well for Corsica and Spain, does it?

PS:
I really want to forget the Germany Rally very quickly. Corsica and Spain are a different type of rally, but still we are struggling on tarmac, that is for sure.

Q:
The WRC heads to Rally GB first, of course, and we are back on gravel for that. That's good news for you and Subaru, isn't it?

PS:
Yeah, of course, gravel is much better for us. However, we have been struggling even on gravel the last few rallies. So I don't want to say that it will be easy or... what can I say? I think it will be a difficult rally for us, given how it has been looking on the last few gravel rallies.

Q:
You have always gone well at Rally GB. You took your first WRC win on the event in 2002, and won in 2003 and last year. A good omen by all accounts?

PS:
Yeah, I have won three times in a row in GB - it's a very good record, of course, but it seems like it is a different story on gravel this year, I must say. I don't want to put any pressure on myself by saying we are going to go there and just take them. It will not be like that at all.

Q:
The situation in the drivers' championship looks a bit bleak for you now. You are 38 points behind Loeb with only five rounds to go. Have you given up hope of taking the title again this year?

PS:
[pause] I hate to say this word, I hate to say it, but it is looking very difficult. I am in rallying to be the best and to win, and to be so far behind now, it's... boring. And I almost used a bad word! I am a little bit fed up.

Q:
Work has already started on the new Impreza for next year, which you are going to use from the Monte Carlo Rally in January 2006 - and which is going to be officially unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show on September 12. How is that all going?

PS:
They are working very hard. I haven't tested it yet but, obviously, if we are going to have any chance to win the championship next year, we need some big steps. The guys are working absolutely flat out now to get it extremely good for next year, so let's cross our fingers.

Q:
When will you drive it for the first time?

PS:
When I come back from Japan.

Q:
How do you think things will shake up next year?

PS:
First of all, my plan is to win the championship. I think it is going to be different, with a number of drivers in different teams. It will be interesting to see what is going to happen to the different manufacturers. Some are going out and others are coming in; so there will be some changes [in the WRC] that's for sure.

Q:
Do you reckon the Xsara will still be up there by the end of the season if it is only entered in a semi-privateer capacity?

PS:
Well, privateer... I don't know how you are going to call it! If Loeb is still staying with Citroen and driving for a 'privateer' team, he will not accept that the car is being any worse or slower than this year. I think they will push and be behind him 100 per cent anyway, because they are going to have him as their driver for the year after [if they continue]. So I think they will still be very, very strong - it is just that we have to improve a lot.

Q:
What about Ford and Mitsubishi? Do you expect them to up their game?

PS:
Mitsubishi is coming very quick now. They are working very hard and it seems like they are going to go up to next level now and closing in on the other teams. Ford is coming with new car, so they will always be there. I think it will be a very tough fight for the championship next year. But I will not give up the title next year, I tell you - that's 100 per cent!

Q:
Final two questions on the future of the sport. There is a lot of speculation on the calendar for next year and 2007. How do you feel about events being paired?

PS:
Well, of course, it will be good for Norway. I think maybe we will have chance for a World Rally Championship round in Jordan too. I think it is a good thing for cost savings and many other areas. It will be good.

Q:
What do you make of suggestions there could be even more than 16 rallies in 2007?

PS:
I don't care. It is up to manufacturers. I am just a driver - nothing else.

Q:
As you mentioned, Norway is bidding to join the WRC. The prospect of your home country hosting a round in the not to distant future must be good?

PS:
Yeah. In Norway rallying is... the people are absolutely mad about rallying and I think it will be very good for me to show exactly what I am doing around the world [in my home country]. It will be one of the biggest sporting events in Norway - no doubt.

Q:
Thanks Petter and good luck on Rally GB.