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Q&A: Luca Pregliasco - EXCLUSIVE

30 July 2007

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...



Crash.net
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?

Luca Pregliasco
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.

Crash.net
Can you give us some details on how the deal to use the Citroen Xsara came about?

LP:
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.

Crash.net
Astra enjoyed a lot of success last year with Toni – what can you do in Germany? What's the aim?

LP:
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.

Crash.net
Kronos Racing and Manfred Stohl have struggled a little bit this season with the Xsara - is that a worry?

LP:
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.

Crash.net
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?

LP:
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.

Crash.net
Will Toni get a chance to re-familiarise himself with the Xsara prior to Germany?

LP:
Yes, we will have a small test – just 50 kilometres, so that Toni can get the right feeling. Toni only needs a few kilometres to get the right feeling and get in touch with the car properly to have a good event. We will definitely test. If you start an event without testing, even a few kilometres, it wouldn't be the right investment to do.

Crash.net
You have already told us this might not be a one-off. Can you shed any more light on that?

LP:
Let's see after Germany what happens. Germany is an important event for Toni and for sure it will not be the last one - although which event we will choose afterwards, is difficult to say. We would be delighted to sign with a manufacturer and have a full season next year. But today there is tough competition in rallying. It is tough in the car and it is even tougher outside to get a car for a full season.

Crash.net:
When might something be confirmed for the future?

LP:
Ha! It is difficult to say today. I don't know what will happen after Germany. It is already good to be there and to try to show the best. I see Germany like all the other events we have been doing. It is kind of an investment for the future and Toni is the right driver to invest in because he deserves it. He is reliable, he is competitive and he is really a driver you can rely on all the time. You can see that from his results. He is a driver that is very consistent. During his career he has only made a few small mistakes. He really is a fantastic driver and I really think sooner or later a manufacturer one [team] will have to think about him [again].

Crash.net
Finally who would you tip to win the drivers' title this year - Marcus Gronholm or Sebastien Loeb?

LP:
Marcus this year is doing well. Sebastien made a small but big mistake in Sardinia and that mistake was not great for him in terms of points in the championship. But there will be a big fight and at the end it is difficult to say today who will win. However, I still think Loeb can win – and will win. I really do believe that, even though it will not be as easy as last year.


TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH LUCA PREGLIASCO: CLICK HERE


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