by Rob Wilkins


Petter Solberg's co-driver Phil Mills was hoping for better in the second part of the season, but to date, his expectations - and Subaru's for that matter - haven't really been realised. Radio spoke to Phil recently at the Castle Combe Rallyday and got his thoughts ahead of the back-to-back asphalt events in Spain and Corsica...
Phil, what have you made of this year's Rallyday?

Phil Mills:
It is superb. It is just a very special day out with all this Group B machinery flying around. The weather is nice this year and you can tell by how many people have come through the gates just how popular events like this are.
When we spoke before Finland you were hopeful that the second half of the season would see some good results. Unfortunately it has been quite tough...

It has been a difficult three or four seasons now. But the new car is early in its development stages and that is where we are with it. You can't go testing all the time like you use to be able to years ago and so you are testing on events now. It is very frustrating testing in public. It is a slow, slow job, but we are getting there, albeit slowly.
How are things looking ahead of those two asphalt events in Spain and France?

On asphalt we know roughly where we are because of how we performed in Germany and on high-grip events, such as Corsica, it will be okay. We seem to struggle on the low grip events, which is events like Catalunya, and so we don't expect to do too much there. But we are not really concentrating on tarmac too much anyway. There is only one proper tarmac rally next year [Spain] - and Ireland, which is a very muddy event. We are concentrating on gravel development and that is where all the work is going into.
Have you done any testing since the last event in New Zealand?

No, we have had no testing at all. As I say, we are concentrating on the gravel rounds. There is a test going on this coming week [September 22 to September 26]. We will be running on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It is not massive things. It is only small things to do to the car. But they still need to be tested and we are quite looking forward to seeing what happens.
Japan and Wales follow the back-to-back asphalt events in Spain and Corsica - are you feeling more positive for those rounds?

I will tell you after the test! [laughs] But Japan is obviously very, very important for Subaru and we would like to go there and have a nice result. Okay, not necessarily in terms of winning it, but it would be good to go there and have a proper fight and get a good result, especially for our Japanese employers.
Mikko Hirvonen is currently battling with Sebastien Loeb for the 2008 drivers' title. Do you think it is looking more like Sebastien will take the crown now?

That is difficult to say. Sebastien is the favourite for the next two tarmac rallies - but he certainly won't get it all his own way. If you look at Mikko's performance in Germany and so on, he was not far away. I know Ford have got something new for the tarmac and I think they will have more power from the engine. It should be close and I don't believe this championship will be over until we get to Wales. I can't see it being tied up before then.
There is talk Marcus Gronholm might come out of retirement. Do you think he should come back and would you like to see him come back?

Yes and yes. He is one of the all-time greats. He retired winning events. He didn't retire having gone off the boil in anyway. He went out of the business right at the top of his game. He would be rusty, definitely for two or three events, but he would come back and he would be competitive a third of the way through the championship. No question at all. He is a great character and a great ambassador for the sport. I would like to see him back.
Are you looking forward to 2009 and the fact there will only be 12 events?

We have got an extra six weeks at home next year if you take out the events and the testing. That will be good for us. I think it is good full stop. It reduces costs and I must be honest, if you turn the television on and see a gravel rally and do the same a week later and see another gravel rally, people get a little bit bored of it. It is the same with 18 events in Formula 1 - it does get boring and everybody says the same thing. If you reduce it down you keep it a bit more exclusive. I think it is a very, very good thing to do.
Subaru will have a 'B' team next year, will that be a positive thing for you and Petter?

It will be very good for us actually as you end up testing on events now, as I said earlier, and so the more cars you can get out there the better. That is one of the problems that we have had. We have been very much on our own. But now we can get more customers out there. They are not tied by the same rules as us and so they can test different components. It will work very, very well. I wish we could have had it this year.
Would you like to see the Subaru WRT run a third car, possibly with Guy Wilks in that seat?

That goes without saying. He needs to get out there fairly soon and everybody is trying very hard to make that happen. That is very important and needs to happen quite soon.
The 'Wilks 500 Club' is quite an innovative programme isn't it?

It is - and it is an ambitious programme that he has set for himself. But he seems to be halfway there and good luck to him. Everybody is supporting it the best way they can and I really hope it comes off.



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