by Rob Wilkins.
Gigi Galli has defied the odds this season and despite being left in the lurch following Mitsubishi's last minute decision to can their factory WRC programme, he notched up his first podium finish at the Rally Argentina at the end of April. Indeed he has managed to compete in five of the eight events thus far - two with the Lancer WRC and three with a Pirelli backed Peugeot 307. Here he speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio
about his year to date and his plans for the future...
Gigi, at the end of last year when Mitsubishi pulled out things looked tough for you. How difficult has it been putting together a programme following their exit?
I have to say obviously it was a big pity what happened to Mitsubishi. We spent two years trying to develop the car and trying to get better with it. This year, 2006, it was the year that we had to find a result. The potential of the car is there, we saw that a little bit in Monte Carlo - and in Sweden the car was reliable and also quite fast. We worked in the past to develop the car to the 2006 specifications with no active differentials and everything was set-up for the new 2006 rules. After that, it was a difficult because in December we couldn't find a programme because all the other teams had made their plans. So I was really pleased to find an agreement with Pirelli and to do a small programme with the Peugeot 307 in the Pirelli colours. I think we did a good job in Argentina and also in Italy, until we had to retire with a cooler failure. But OK, that is the rallying and now we have to work very hard to find some solution to do some more rallies. But at the moment, unfortunately, we don't know [what will happen].
Looking back at those first two events with the Lancer, obviously Monte Carlo didn't go to plan as you didn't finish, but fourth in Sweden was a good result wasn't it?
Yes of course - it was also a great result for the team because I think the main thing was that, Daniel Carlsson, for him it was the first time in the Mitsubishi Lancer and it was after, I don't know, the first leg, it was very, very fast and for me, it was a big fight. OK I lost [in the battle for third at the end], but only by a few seconds and that is something that is good for the rally and for me it was pleasure also. It is good when you have the chance to fight and sometimes you can win and sometime you can lose, it is not a problem. I think the main thing was it was a great result for Mitsubishi - and that was a great result for me.
The Pirelli programme with the Bozian-run Peugeot 307 brought you back into the fold for France, Argentina and Italy. How difficult was it to jump into the 307 without any testing?
We did just 60 or 70 kilometres before Corsica, but it was just to understand the cockpit and the seat position and so on - it was not a proper test. But anyway for me it was a great chance to try to drive another car different to the Mitsubishi. It was pleasure for me to understand the difference of the car, the seat position and the view and the full active differentials. It was for me the first time driving a fully active car. It was quite unfortunate in Corsica because we couldn't find a good base for the first rally with the 307. It was not easy for me to reach a good pace, especially on the first leg and after that we couldn't make much progress [as we had lost too much time].
Argentina of course saw you take your first podium in the WRC. You must have been delighted to do that, especially as it was only your second event with the 307 and the first with it on gravel?
Yeah as you say, it was the first event on the gravel [with the 307 for us] and we didn't do any testing before. It was quite difficult to find the pace and also it was difficult to understand the car because on gravel and tarmac the set-up is completely different. But I can tell you it was a great pleasure to drive every kilometre and learn the character of the car. I think we did a good job - a great job, especially on the first part of the second day. After that we reached third position and we had Petter [Solberg] in front of us, but he was too far, maybe 40 seconds in front, I don't remember well and behind us was Manfred [Stohl], more than one minute back. After that we decide to try to get on the podium and in fact at the middle of the second day the rally was already finished for us.