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...

Q:
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?

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Gigi Galli:
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].

Q:
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?

GG:
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.

Q:
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?

GG:
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].

Q:
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?

GG:
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.

Q:
Your last event was Sardinia, and as you mentioned earlier you had to retire at the end of day two. Again a good finish was on the cards though wasn't it before your exit?

GG:
Yeah for Sardinia I have to say it was OK. We didn't start very well because we took a small risk on the tyre choice and we choose a very soft compound in the morning on the first day. It was a mistake and after two stages the tyres were completely finished. We had to work very hard to manage the tyres on the last stage [of that loop]. Also we spent the first day just trying to find the right set-up for the Sardinia. By the second day though, I was really happy to drive the car because by then we had a good set-up. Unfortunately as you know at the end of the last stage [on day two] we broke the fan and the cooler and after that we lost all the water and we couldn't reach the service area.

Q:
You had that little 'incident' with your co-driver at the end of day two in Sardinia. How is Giovanni [Bernacchini]'s nose now?

GG:
I have to explain what happened. After the stage when we realised we had lost a lot of water we tried to repair the cooler and after that we needed some water. We tried to find some water, but the river it was deep and it was too far from the car. Giovanni and me, we decide, Giovanni to stay just near the car and I was on the river with the bottle. I put the water in the bottle and I fling to Giovanni. But unfortunately with one bottle I hit Giovanni on the nose and that is what happened. It was absolutely... what can I say?

Q:
An accident?

GG:
Yeah an accident. It was not... I didn't want to do that.

Q:
Is he ok now? You are still friends?

GG:
Yeah it was only a small cut. No disaster. Maybe after that the people [the media] tried to speak too much and they think that I tried to kill him! But it was not like that I can tell you.

Q:
Now after that you had to watch the recent event in Greece, the Acropolis Rally from the sidelines, like you had to for Mexico and Spain. How difficult was that?

GG:
You know after the retirement of some of the manufacturers' teams it is quite difficult to find a seat. This year it will be very hard to find something. Anyway I try to work very hard to find something, but at the moment it is not easy.

Q:
There has been speculation that you might be back with a Subaru Impreza once the summer breaks come to an end. What can you tell us about that?

GG:
There is nothing that I can tell you that I know. Of course we try to speak to every team and I am ready to do something. But there is... I don't know. What I can know is that every team at the moment is OK and there is no place to change something. I would like to find some solution to do some rallies with maybe a private team or something like that, but there is no plan with a manufacturer team that I can tell you.

Q:
Looking further ahead, can you tell us anything about 2007?

GG:
At the moment, no - it is maybe too early yet to understand what is going to happen in 2007. Hopefully we can know something in September or something like that. But for now it is still too early.

Q:
Widening the discussion slightly, what have you made of the WRC this season and the form of Sebastien Loeb?

GG:
OK, Sebastien we know, everybody knows Sebastien. Sometimes I think it is the machine because every time it is on the podium and we can see that on the result [time and time again]. I have to say sometime he is lucky too. I saw on TV in Greece when he reached the service area [at the end of day two] with almost two wheels. I have to say that probably the team did a great car and it was something special. In that case it was very, very, very lucky. I have to say also I think that Marcus [Gronholm] this year is very fast. Unfortunately he has been quite unlucky. Probably the car was, is still not reliable enough. But for sure compared to last year, between Marcus and Sebastien it is more equal. It is not a big gap like last year. That is my feeling and probably if the Ford was a little bit more developed it would be closer.

Q:
That's great Gigi - thanks for your time. Good luck sorting something for the remainder of the season and we hope to see you out in action soon.

GG:
Yeah I will do, together with my supporters, my best to get back out.