by Rob Wilkins

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH HENNING SOLBERG: CLICK HERE

Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg has had some pretty strong results in the first half of the season, including of course that podium finish at his home event in Norway back in February. Crash.net Radio caught up with him recently to chat about his year thus far and to get his thoughts on the second half of the season, which gets underway with the Rally Finland early next month...

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Crash.net:
Henning, looking back on the first half of the season, were you happy with how things went generally speaking?

Henning Solberg:
I have to say I am pleased. I am now sixth overall in the drivers' championship, just two points behind Petter [my brother] and four points behind Dani Sordo. I am very happy with that.

Crash.net:
You finished the first half of the season on quite a high didn't you with three points finishes in succession in Argentina (5th), Sardinia (4th) and Greece (5th)?

HS:
I was very, very happy with those three rallies. Of course if I had had a bit more luck I could have got onto the podium, but I didn't. We will try and reach the podium now in the second half of the season.

Crash.net:
You have scored points in 5 of the 8 events to date, including taking a podium finish on your home event in Norway. I guess that was the highlight so far?

HS:
That was a very, very rewarding event. It was very stressful to do my home rally but we managed to get on the podium and that was really great.

Crash.net:
How have you found things adapting to the Focus, having used the Peugeot 307 in 2006?

HS:
It is coming. I am struggling a little bit with how the car is for me. The other guys have done a perfect job with the car, but I need some more time to get use to the car. We don't have much testing, so I have to do it on the rallies. I take it step-by-step. But I am pretty happy now and we are getting closer to the top and that is the aim we have.

Crash.net:
Have you done or are you going to do any more tests before the second half of the season?

HS:
We have done some tarmac tests and some gravel tests. So it is looking better. I am not so use to tarmac and therefore I have to learn. I have sat in the car with [Jari-Matti] Latvala, as he is a very good tarmac driver and he has done a lot of asphalt events in the WRC. I have tried to learn a little bit from him. It is coming.

Crash.net:
There are four asphalt events in the second half of the year. You don't have much experience on tarmac. How tough will that make things for you?

HS:
Yeah it will be tough. Ireland is going to be a very, very difficult rally.

Crash.net:
Are you going to do any sort of special preparations for those events?

HS:
No, I only need to drive more on tarmac. I will try and maybe get some more tests. I will also do some go-karting - with a proper gear go-kart and do some hours on the track. I have to do some practising with all kinds of cars and then I can get more use to tarmac.

Crash.net:
Next up we have the Rally Finland, are you looking forward to that event?

HS:
I am really looking forward to Finland. I was fourth there last year and had my best result there. We were very, very close to the top.

Crash.net
How are you getting on with your team-mates, Jari-Matti Latvala and Matthew Wilson?

HS:
It is working very well. We are a good team and we are friends. We all try and do as well as we can to get as many points as possible and then we will see where we end up at the end of the year.

Crash.net
You are currently sixth in the drivers' championship. What's the target for the year overall?

HS:
If I can keep my position and be close as possible to these other guys that would be great. Then we will see what happens in the final few rounds.

Crash.net
It looks like the WRC will revert to a 12-event season from 2009. What do you think of that?

HS:
It is OK, if we can have not so many tarmac rallies. If that is the case it will be very, very good. It will be a very, very good championship.

Crash.net:
Will it make it tougher do you think for Norway to get a second chance at hosting a WRC event, now that there will be four less slots?

HS:
I am not sure. I don't know how they are going to do it. I hope Norway will get an event. In the championship we need two winter rallies. There will be only one next year, so that is a bit boring without Norway. I hope we can have two winter rallies in 2009. It is very, very nice to drive on the snow and on the ice.

Crash.net:
Final question: You are obviously a Ford man, but who do you think will win the drivers' title and who will take the manufacturers'?

HS:
I think it is looking very, very good for Marcus [Gronholm], but it will be tough for him on the tarmac events. It will not be easy [for Sebastien Loeb] to beat him on the gravel but we will have to see on the tarmac. In Monte Carlo it didn't look so good for the Fords compared to the Citroens - but maybe M-Sport will have done some good work with the car before the tarmac events [and the new spec car will give Marcus a boost]. We will have to wait and see.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH HENNING SOLBERG: CLICK HERE