by Rob Wilkins.

Manfred Stohl has had a strong start to the season with the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally team, notching up points on four of the six events, including a podium finish in Mexico. Here speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio, the Austrian looks back on his year to date and ahead to round seven in the WRC next weekend, the Rally d'Italia Sardegna, which runs from May 18-21...

Q:
Manfred, you have been competing in the WRC now since 1991. This is though your first full season and thus far I think it is fair to say you have had some good results?

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Manfred Stohl:
Yeah I am running very well this year. I am quite happy with the car and I hope it will continue like this.

Q:
Obviously the highlight so far was your third in Mexico you must have been especially pleased with that?

MS:
Yeah of course - and we were very close in the Monte Carlo Rally and we were very close in Argentina [to a podium too], so we are quite well under way now and quite happy so far. But we just wish for a little more luck [to get another top three finish].

Q:
You had another good result on the last event in Argentina too, when you finished fourth. That of course was a landmark event for you, your 100th outing in the WRC. How special was it to reach that marker?

MS:
For me it was not something very special because I never drive in the national championship and I start from the beginning on the World Rally Championship. I have 100 events but I think I am one of the newcomers in a World Rally Car in the World Rally Championship, because there I have only 25 or 26 events, where as people like [Mikko] Hirvonen have much more than me already. But that is how it is.

Q:
Staying with Argentina, the FIA weren't too happy with yourself and Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Sordo and Gigi Galli for those donuts at the finish. Can you comment anymore on that and what you think about their response?

MS:
It was a bit of an unlucky thing because the organiser asked us and showed us the place where we are to make the donut. And we just followed the order from the organiser and finally the FIA was not happy with it.

Q:
Next up Sardinia, another gravel event... What's the plan?

MS:
Last year I had a very bad Sardinia Rally. I was sick before it because of some food [I eat] before the rally and I could not make a proper recce - and I had not so good a rally as a result. But I am very optimistic for the rally this year and hope we can make a similar result like Argentina.

Q:
Any testing planned prior to that?

MS:
No tests are planned for Sardinia.

Q:
Broadening the discussion slightly, what's your aim for the season as a whole?

MS:
It is hard to say because we are already in joint fourth position in the world championship. In the beginning before the season our aim was to be in the top five in the world championship. But now we are trying to be top four or three - whatever. You have to make your aims all the time bigger than you expect. So we try to finish somewhere near the top three or four.

Q:
How have you found the Peugeot 307 in comparison to the Citroen Xsara you used last year?

MS:
It is very difficult to compare. Each car has its positive and negative sides but I am quite happy with the car I have now. I hope it will stay like this and even improve a little more.

Q:
Bozian Racing run the 307's for the OMV Peugeot Norway WRT, how have you found working with them?

MS:
I know them [Bozian] from 2003, when I did with them, I think, two rallies. It is quite a nice team - a family team - and I feel very confident in there. Also I am quite happy with the support from Peugeot Sport. So at the end I am quite happy so far. It is very nice.

Q:
How have you been getting on partnering Henning Solberg?

MS:
Henning is a very nice guy - very funny to work with him and we have all the time good fun together. I am quite happy to work with him.

Q:
Final question: after Sardinia, the WRC goes to Greece then we have the summer break - 10 weeks or so off - are you looking forward to a bit of time-off or would you rather the season wasn't quite so spaced out?

MS:
Yeah, I mean when you do all 16 events it is quite nice if you have a break during the summer and I like it. I think it is good idea because normally the rally driver never has a break. The Formula One driver has in the winter time a break and the ski driver has in the summer time a break. So I am quite happy now for the rally driver that there is also a break.

Q:
Thanks for your time Manfred.