by Rob Wilkins

Red Bull Skoda team boss, Armin Schwarz talks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about the squad's season to date and explains why he thinks things will only get tougher as the year goes on...

Q:
Armin, you have embarked on a new challenge this year at Red Bull Skoda. How are you finding things thus far?

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Armin Schwarz:
Well thus far from our point it was quite busy to organise a new team and to get new drivers' and everything. I hadn't realised it would be so much work and what would be needed to put the team and everything together and so on. I think seeing the season now going almost to half season for us though, things are much better in place. We are looking more after technical stuff now and also planning already for next year and further on. That is the basic thing what we are doing at the moment.

Q:
Are you missing driving at all?

AS:
Well I will do for sure an historic event with one of my own cars and there might be something later in the year, maybe on an off-road rally. But in WRC that has been and that is history.

Q:
To date this season Red Bull Skoda have scored 14 points towards the manufacturers' - your best finishes, two tenth places, one at Monte Carlo and one in Spain. How have you assessed things so far results wise?

AS:
Well to be totally honest I think in Sweden we had a very good chance to finish maybe fourth or fifth with Mattias Ekstrom. Unfortunately he couldn't get it to the finish. Also with Gilles [Panizzi] in Monte Carlo I think we had a better chance for a better result and especially with Harri coming in for Sardinia and Greece we had high expectations of what we can expect. But, I mean saying that we have not really had a chance to modify the car very much for this season. Harri was struggling in Sardinia and Greece with the car and his feeling for the car. So we are working now on a proper set-up for Harri so that he feels confident and can go at the speed he wants. As for our second driver, Andres Aigner we are very satisfied that his learning curve is quite good. I think Matthew Wilson or Jan Kopecky are all in the same range of young drivers, they all know it is not so easy to come in and just compete with a World Rally Car at a very high level.

Q:
Colin McRae showed last year that the Fabia WRC could be very competitive and he almost took a podium in Australia (prior to a clutch problem). He was also seventh on Wales Rally GB. Are those sorts of results a realistic target for the team?

AS:
I think if we get a rally like Australia where everybody more or less retires then it could be possible to achieve the same result. I think on the Skoda side it is most probably Francois Duval [with the First Motorsport-run Fabia] or Harri Rovanpera [with us] who can do that. But we have to be realistic. We are not developing the car very much. With every team it is down to set-up but there is no real development work going on, on the car itself. So if we are realistic our aim is to keep the car trouble-free - so no technical issues on the car - and then we try to do the best possible result we can. However if there is no real development going on it will be more and more difficult to aim for such results.

Q:
Harri Rovanpera has struggled since joining Red Bull Skoda. What is being done so he can find more speed with the Fabia?

AS:
We made a test in Sardinia with Harri. It was almost two-days testing with him and he made his set-up on shock absorbers and he made his set-up on diffs, because it was the first time we run the passive diffs on gravel. Once we started the rally though we found out and Harri found out that it was not really what he wanted and then we struggled really to do something on the rally. Between Sardinia and Greece we faced the problem that we lost the test car on the test in Sardinia [when Harri crashed], so there was no chance to test really for Greece and that's where we are. So like I said before we try very much to get Harri up to speed with further testing and also maybe we will do some development on the steering where he struggles. You know it is always difficult if you have a range of drivers and nobody addresses really points for one driver and then you have to make a value how much money you want to spend for certain things and what is sensible to do.

Q:
Rovanpera is of course teamed with WRC rookie, Andreas Aigner. Have you been pleased with his form?

AS:
Yes very much, very much. I mean he has done six rallies in a World Rally car now and he came in with almost no testing. He has had some really good rallies and has set some good stages times. I mean the results are not always what he expected but if you compare his stages times when he came in and how he has progressed with his times [since then] it has gone very well.

Q:
There is a long break now. What are the Red Bull Skoda team doing during this period?

AS:
Well we had a short test just two days ago in Austria with Harri's car from Greece just to analyse what we can do and what needs to be done. We will do further testing as soon as we have done some development work now on the bits and pieces we want to develop.

Q:
What are you targets or aims for the second half of the year?

AS:
It is the same. We want to see Harri hopefully in the top five or top eight for Cyprus, Turkey and the UK.

Q:
You mentioned 2007 earlier. What is happening on that front?

AS:
There I can't tell you very much today because we are just making proposals to Skoda and to Red Bull. But this will be - if it will be decided then I think it will be late September or October sometime.

Q:
Is the aim to continue with the Red Bull Skoda programme?

AS:
Yes of course but we have to give them options. There are three or four options what Skoda or Red Bull could do in rallying - and then we have to see what they are keen to do.

Q:
Looking at the WRC as a whole, what have you made of the sport this year? Has it coped following the loss of Mitsubishi, Peugeot and Skoda in an official capacity?

AS:
For me it is a big loss. I mean everybody is still talking like they are in, but I mean you can see, I can only talk on our front, but I think it will be more or less the same for Bozian Peugeot and also for Mitsubishi, if you are not developing like a manufacturer 1 team and you have not the possibility to develop like manufacturer 1, you are dropping back and the gap gets always bigger and bigger and your results get worse and worse. So I think then the World Rally Championship will struggle with three manufacturers' and just two cars. So then they really have to think what kind of rally and which way of rallying they are doing in the future.

Q:
Final two questions: What have you made of Sebastien Loeb's dominance?

AS:
I think the dominance of him is first of all because he is a brilliant driver and he makes almost no mistakes. Secondly he has stayed with team since he has grown up. He is taking all the assets together, what he can get from Citroen. He is in a French team he is French. They have most probably the best quality control of a car what I can see, because there is almost no retirements, no technical issues, whatsoever. I think that gives him the confidence just to drive rallies and not have to think about any technical issues.

Q:
What have you made of Daniel Sordo since he stepped up from the Junior WRC? How big a star is he?

AS:
I think he is one of the people really to look at because he has shown clearly his performance this year. He is capable of driving fast and he stays on the road and all that in his first year in the WRC with a World Rally car. I think it is a little bit lucky for him as well coming in when the competition is high on the one end but not so high like it has been in past with more manufacturers' in the championship.