by Rob Wilkins

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MANFRED STOHL: CLICK HERE

Manfred Stohl has competed in over 100 WRC events and now stands on the verge of making his debut in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge next week in Portugal. Crash.net Radio caught up with the Austrian recently to find out about that and to get his thoughts on the WRC...

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Crash.net:
Manfred, you are going to compete on the Rally Portugal again soon. How did the deal to compete there come about?

Manfred Stohl:
The organiser called me and asked me if I wanted to take part. I was just happy to get the chance and we soon came to an agreement. That is how it started.

Crash.net:
Obviously Portugal is not a round of the WRC this season, but the second round of the IRC. Would you like to do a full assault on the IRC in the future?

MS:
I am open to everything of course. But it is all related at the moment to sponsorship and because my long term backer, OMV, retired from rallying, it makes it harder for me.

Crash.net:
You will be using a Peugeot 207 S2000 in Portugal. Have you driven that car yet?

MS:
Not at the moment, but I hope I can do a little test or shakedown before the event.

Crash.net:
How different is the 207 S2000 going to be to the World Rally Cars you have piloted these last few years in the WRC - and will you have to adapt your driving style?

MS:
I am sure it will be very, very difficult to adjust and to understand exactly how the car works.

Crash.net:
What are you hoping to achieve on the Rally Portugal, because while you won't know the car, unlike most of the other competitors you do have experience of the event from last year?

MS:
It is hard to say. I don't know on what level the car is. If it was my own car or if it was a car from one of the manufacturers', you know where you are. It is very, very difficult to predict what I can achieve. From a drivers' point of view I am sure we can fight for the win. But we will see. I am happy to have the opportunity to drive and if everything works well we hope to have a good result.

Crash.net:
You mentioned when we last spoke at the end of last season that you might compete in the PWRC this season, that obviously didn't come to fruition, did it just come down to budget?

MS:
In one way yes [it was to do with the budget]. But on the other hand as I have said all along, if I compete in the PWRC, I want to do it in an alternatively fuelled car. The FIA has not done anything to get the rules prepared to give 'greener' cars a chance and that is why finally it didn't happen. There is still hope but at the moment nothing is happening.

Crash.net:
What else have you got planned for this year and could we see you out on any other events?

MS:
Right now I have many plans - but nothing is confirmed and nothing is in place, except Portugal. We will see. We have the European Football Championship now in Austria and so all the sponsors, all the press, all the television is focused on that. As soon as that has gone, maybe it will be better for motorsport.

Crash.net:
Are you missing the WRC?

MS:
Of course - when you have been doing it for a long time you do miss it. But it is a bit disappointing what it is like at the moment and where it is going. It is missing a bit of professionalism in my view. If you finish 20 minutes behind and you are still fourth overall, as was the case in Argentina [with Conrad Rautenbach], that is a bit worrying. There are not enough drivers' there. It is missing the quantity.

Crash.net:
Do you think Mikko Hirvonen can beat Sebastien Loeb to the title?

MS:
I am not sure. I don't think [Mikko] Hirvonen is the right person for it.

Crash.net:
Do you think anyone can beat Sebastien this season to the title?

MS:
Not this year. It is not easy, but if someone can, it is [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT #2 driver] Jari-Matti [Latvala].

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MANFRED STOHL: CLICK HERE