by Rob Wilkins.

Sebastien Loeb's mountain bike injury this week was a bitter blow for Kronos Citroen, especially in light of just how tight the battle is for the constructors' championship. Crash.net Radio spoke exclusively to Kronos team boss, Marc van Dalen on Thursday about Seb's accident and who might be brought in to replace the Frenchman while he is out injured...

Q:
Marc, Kronos have done tremendously well this season, just how big a blow is Sebastien's mountain bike accident especially as you are now keen to win the constructors' title?

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Marc van Dalen:
It is a really tough situation for us because like you know the battle for the manufacturers' championship is very close, so we have lost the very best driver we had this year - and everybody knows the level of Sebastien. Anyway we have to deal with it - we are fully behind him, we are supporting him and we have called to tell him that we are going to try and help as much as we can - so what can we do other than that?

We have to think about the best option and the best solution for us for the future now. We don't know yet how much time he needs to be ready again - it can be one rally he will miss, it can be two, it can be three, we don't know yet. And nobody can know it exactly at the moment.

Q:
Can you update us on how Sebastien is doing?

MvD:
He is still very tired from being in the hospital and he had an operation yesterday [Wednesday] morning. So it is time for him to sleep and to rest and to let us do the best we can to help him.

Q:
When did you hear about the accident?

MvD:
Just yesterday [Wednesday] morning he called me to explain the situation, so it was very bad news for everybody in the team. We were are all shocked but we have told him we are fully behind him. If somebody in the team has some problems or troubles, it is like we have - we are all together in this team when we win and when we lose and when we have some problems. We are a big family so everybody was very shocked yesterday.

Q:
Related to that and I realise it is still early days, can you give us any ideas on who is under consideration to replace Sebastien while he is out injured?

MvD:
There are different options for us. In any case it will never be the best option, because it is impossible to have the best option as it is impossible to replace Sebastien - you know the level where he is. We take our time to think about different drivers who would be ready to replace him and there are three, four, five names. We think about the pros and cons for every driver. I think it is better to take some time to have a really good think about it and to be sure the choice that we are going to make will be the best one. In any case, it will never be the best one, because it is impossible to replace Seb. So that is why the situation is difficult and it is not easy to decide.

Q:
Any idea when we might hear who is going to be brought in?

MvD: [Long pause] I mean there are around four to five drivers and it is difficult to tell you exactly which one [we might go for]. Honesty we are considering different drivers', we try to make the right decision even if it is never right, like I said before. The only objective we have is to try and put a little pressure on Marcus [Gronholm] at the next rally, otherwise he is going to win it easily, which is not what we want. So we will see over the next few days.

Q:
Changing the subject slightly, to the season as a whole, you must be very proud of how the team has done?

MvD:
Yes, because when we started the season nobody expected we would win eight rallies and be leading both championships after twelve rallies. It is a human story - we knew that it would be a big challenge for everybody. We try to achieve it in the right way and it is working perfectly - that is why we are so disappointed to see what happened to Sebastien. It is a shame but that is life. So we have to show everybody that we are a strong team altogether now and that we can find the right solution before Sebastien comes back.

Q:
What's been the most memorable moment for you so far this season?

MvD:
There are a lot. The first victory in Mexico was very important, because it was the first for Kronos in the FIA World Rally Championship. But the fight in Japan and in Cyprus last weekend, when we also won makes me very proud. We have had a lot of good moments, a lot of good team work and all in all a lot of fun.

Q:
Can you give us your thoughts on the performances of your three drivers - Daniel Sordo, Xavier Pons and of course, Sebastien?

MvD:
Sebastien is an unbelievable guy. He is very quick everywhere and makes very few mistakes. He knows exactly what he has to do, no pressure, no nothing. I have read somewhere he is like a robot. He is in some ways but he is a real human guy too. A very good guy - and the human side, especially, is very good with him.

Xavier made a very good start to the season, because it is never ever easy to be the team-mate to Sebastien. He has had a good season - he has had some troubles from Germany and Finland, but now he is back and Cyprus was a good rally for him. I hope he can finish the season with some very good results

Regarding Dani - I mean it is difficult for him now, since the last three rallies. In Finland he went off because it is a very difficult rally like everybody knows, especially when it is your first time there in a WRC car. After that he made some mistakes with his belts in Japan and he went off in a stupid super special stage in Cyprus. So, OK, I know how Dani is - he is a strong guy and he is clever, so I hope he can be back on it for the next rally.

Q:
There is a lot of speculation that Kronos might become a sort of Citroen 'B' team in 2007 is that a possibility?

MvD:
It can be yes - in any case we want to go further with Citroen as the relationship is very good. So we are trying to stay involved with them. Our dream would be to have two cars in the championship next year and run just behind them. I am sure when Citroen are back with two cars and if we can run two cars with two good drivers, we can be a strong team altogether. But it is not the case so far. We are working to do this and I think the situation will be clearer in the next 15 to 20 days.

Q:
Will Kronos definitely remain involved in the WRC next year?

MvD:
I hope so and I am working hard for that because it would be stupid if we stopped after a season like this one. It is important for us to stay involved. We have proved to everybody we are at the right level and it is important to stay there. If we can do something with some other drivers', maybe young drivers' that would be good - and there are a lot ready to work with us, the only thing is we have to find the right sponsors and the right help to achieve those goals.

Q:
Final question, how important is it for Kronos Citroen to take the manufacturers' title?

MvD:
Yeah it is important, even if it was not our objective at the start of the year. When we began the year the aim was to help Sebastien keep his drivers' title, but rally after rally we saw it was possible to fight for the manufacturers'. We are still leading, we are 7 points ahead of Ford - so even if we have lost our number one driver for one rally, we are still going to fight. We are going to do the best we can to keep the manufacturers' title.

Q:
Will Citroen be increasing their help over the final part of the season to help ensure Kronos take the constructors'?

MvD:
It is like how we started. The situation with Citroen is very clear - we run the cars and they help us as much as they can; to make the tests and to help us enter very good cars. For sure, they want to help us as much as they can to keep the title. But the current situation with Sebastien is not easy. We will try, believe me it is not a question of motivation. We are really motivated, all the team together and we are going to do the best we can.

Q:
Thanks for your time Marc - and wish Sebastien a speedy recovery from all at Crash.net and on behalf of our readers and listeners.