by Rob Wilkins
TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH LUCA PREGLIASCO: CLICK HERE
Astra Racing will return to action in the FIA World Rally Championship on the Rallye Deutschland next month, when they enter a Citroen
Xsara WRC for Toni Gardemeister. Crash.net Radio's
Rob Wilkins caught up with Astra team boss, Luca Pregliasco recently and got the details on their plan of attack in Germany...
Luca, first up congratulations, you must be delighted that your team, Astra Racing are going to do the Rallye Deutschland and are going to be back working with Toni Gardemeister?
It is very good. Toni is a good driver and he deserves this opportunity. The Xsara is still the car to beat in Germany and I think the dual will be good. Of course the result will only come at the end of the rally, but it is for sure a good event for Toni.
Can you give us some details on how the deal to use the Citroen
Xsara came about?
We have been trying to do something since the beginning of the season with the Xsara but there have been a few problems in terms of budget, time and logistics. We have tried many times to do a rally with the Xsara. We tried to do the Rally Argentina once [Gigi] Galli withdrew from his programme. But in the end the only possibility was Germany. It is a good package for Germany. Toni likes tarmac. He is good on gravel but he likes asphalt also. It was nice last year in Germany [Gardemeister and Astra finished fourth overall on the Rallye Deutschland in 2006 - ed]
and this year I think it can be even better for us, even if the competition is tough.
Astra enjoyed a lot of success last year with Toni – what can you do in Germany? What's the aim?
It is difficult to say before the event. But I think we can fight for a top four or top five position - and if everything goes right why not third place - a podium? Anything more than that though will be difficult.
Kronos Racing and Manfred Stohl have struggled a little bit this season with the Xsara - is that a worry?
I don't know about Manfred. He was much better last year with the Peugeot 307 but maybe the feeling and the car was another story. This year he seems to be struggling a lot with the Xsara. I guess Toni will not have this problem because he has always had a good feeling with lots of different cars, even right at the beginning, when he drives something for the first time. I don't believe he will struggle with the car. He had a good feeling last year and although we won't know until after, I reckon he will do a good job and will have 'the right feeling' with the car without any problems.
Toni has been competing this year with the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05. Will that experience help in Germany? Are those outings with the Lancer good news for you, as Toni will be 'match fit' for Germany?
Last year, Toni was very good with the Xsara - and before, for that matter, with the 307 too. We had some very good results - even in Cyprus [our last outing in the WRC together] we did well, despite the problem with the tyres. He was ready again to do another good result there [Gardemeister eventually finished 5th in Cyprus in '06 - ed]
. It is difficult to do better than last year now but we can do something similar. We hope that a good result will help him for next year and that is something that we really would like for him.
Will Toni get a chance to re-familiarise himself with the Xsara prior to Germany?