by Rob Wilkins

Subaru's asphalt star, Stephane Sarrazin was in Cyprus at the end of last week to support the Cyprus Automobile Association's campaign to raise awareness of road safety issues. Here he talks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about that - and his hopes for the Rallye Deutschland, his next event in the FIA World Rally Championship...

Q:
Stephane, you are in Cyprus at the moment to help raise awareness of road safety issues. Tell us what that has involved?

Stephane Sarrazin:
We are here in Cyprus for safety reasons just to explain to normal drivers - or young drivers to be safe on the road. Don't push too much, respect the rules and use a seat belt. Public roads are not for racing or rallying. So I am just here to tell them to respect these rules.

Q:
How important do you think it is for drivers' like yourself to support these kinds of initiatives?

SS:
OK I am a driver but when we are racing or rallying we have helmets, seat belts and do it in the security of our car, we push but it is normal for us. I just want to tell them also we respect the rules when we are on public roads. We are doing normal speeds and it is much safer and much better for everybody. It is better to go 'normal' on the road.

Q:
Subaru have had a tough season to date in WRC. You've done the asphalt events in Monte Carlo, Spain and France, scoring points in all three events. Have you been happy with your own form?

SS:
I was a bit disappointed in the last two rallies because although I scored points, it was not the big points I expected. But the team is doing a good job and the car is really fast. I am sure in Germany we can do well. Monte Carlo was my best event of the season. I finished fifth and a lot of the time I was in the top three in the times so it was very good for me and I was very happy. So I hope in Germany I will fight in the top five again and why not get big points?

Q:
How realistic do you think a top-five finish is in Germany?

SS:
Yeah I was in the top-five last year - I was fifth when I lost my handbrake and I spun and it was a bit difficult. But I was quick on every stage [and eventually finished eighth]. I like this rally a lot, even if it is a very difficult rally. It can be very muddy like in 2004. But we have a very good car and the team is working well and I am sure we can do well.

Q:
What's being done to improve the car for the Rallye Deutschland?

SS:
We changed a few things. We did a big job with the tyres in development. Two weeks ago I was in Italy to test the tyres. I did four days - many back-to-back comparisons and I think we found something good for Germany. The team also is trying to improve the set-up to give me, as a driver, more confidence in the car to push more. Every small detail will be important and I have high hopes for this rally.

Q:
Will Germany be your last outing in the WRC this season?

SS:
I don't know normally, yes - my programme is only for the tarmac rallies this season. But I hope to do a gravel rally at the end of year. I try to push the team to the maximum to give me more chances in the WRC. I need to improve on gravel. I did a few rallies last year on gravel and so I want to prove I can be fast also on gravel, so I hope.

Q:
Last year you did eight of the 16 WRC events, has it been difficult only having the four to do this year?

SS:
Yes exactly - last year I did eight rallies and I am doing only tarmac this year. That was a bit disappointing but that is the way it is. I am fast on tarmac and I can fight with the top guys and the team knows this. But on gravel I need to learn. So I am pushing a lot to have gravel in my programme. I am also racing with Aston Martin this year [in the American Le Mans Series] so I am very busy. But my target really, my first target, is to improve on gravel.

Q:
What plans do you have for 2007? Do you hope to stay in rallying?

SS:
I hope to. I want to prove I can be on podium so I hope to stay with the team next year. I know everybody in the team and I know the car very well and I am sure we can do very well in the future.

Q:
You mentioned your programme with Aston Martin a moment ago. You have done a fair few sportscar events this year, the Le Mans 24 Hours and various ALMS events, is that a direction you are considering?

SS:
We have done four events in the ALMS - and we won the last race [in the GT1 class at Lime Rock] and so that is very good. It is a highly developed car and it is a big championship and so it is good training for me. I spend time with my team-mates and the engineers and I push to the maximum, so it is very good. At the Le Mans 24 Hours we were leading the GT1 category but unfortunately we lost the clutch [three hours from the end] and so we were very disappointed. But it is good because I don't have a full programme in rally and so it is nice to drive this car as well.

Q:
Final question: the 2007 WRC calendar was announced this week, it is going to include an extra tarmac event with Ireland being added to the line-up. That is good news for you isn't it?

SS:
Yeah it is perfect. It is very good because it is five rallies now on tarmac - so it is one more chance for me. Five rallies in 16 is quite a good percentage. I am very happy, it is good calendar for me and I hope I will drive with Subaru next year.