Citroen privateer Petter Solberg recently confirmed that he will skip the Rally Australia next month, the tenth round in the 2009 World Rally Championship. Radio's Rob Wilkins caught up with the Norwegian recently and spoke to him about that, his year in general and his plans for the future...
Petter, we have just had Rally Finland, unfortunately you had to retire there, but things were looking good early on for you and you were running second overall post-SS3, just 7.1 seconds behind eventual winner, Mikko Hirvonen. How hard did you have to push to stay with the works cars driven by the likes of Mikko and Sebastien Loeb?

Petter Solberg:
It actually went better than I expected and I decided to push hard. Unfortunately though, after a jump we landed and the tyre went off the rim. We went off the road. I managed to continue and got back on and was going quite fast - despite a punctured tyre. Then I got a double puncture and I went off again in the last corner before the finish line and retired [from the first day]. [On day two] I had overheating problems - something happened to the engine. But at least I tried to drive on the Saturday. However there is no chance when the engine is broken.
You have been competing with your own team this year of course, what's that been like?

Of course it has been a lot of work, but it has been a lot of fun too. The team has been working really well and at least I kept up my image and kept my fans. It helps from that point of view. But obviously next year I need something different to drive so we can fight properly for a win.
How much of a challenge has it been being responsible for the running of the team and actually driving too?

Honestly I have so many good people around me in the team here - and my wife in the background and a lot of people with experience, that it has not been too bad. Unfortunately we had some problems on some rallies and we lost some very good places. But it is going much better than I expected and actually the whole year has been better than expected.
Overall then have you been happy with how the season has gone?

I am very happy with the results. We are much faster now than we have been for the last few years - even with an old car. The plan was just to take it rally-by-rally and see how the budget was and just to stay in there and have some fun. It has been working really well - and, like I said, we have had some good results. We were fighting for the win in Greece and we were second in Finland in front of the Citroen factory cars [before the problems in SS4]. It was quite enjoyable.
You are going to miss the next round of the WRC in Australia, how disappointing is that?

Of course I really, really wanted to compete there. But if I am going to get something different to drive for Spain and Rally GB - or maybe just GB, I have to start to work now. It looks like there are no manufacturer seats for next year. There is no space at either Ford or Citroen because they have signed their drivers' for two more years. I think I will have to do my own thing for one more year and then hopefully I can get into a factory team for 2011.
What are you hoping to do for Spain and GB?

I don't know anything yet. Okay it says in Autosport that I am eying a Ford. But everything is just rumours. The only person that knows what I am working on and what I am planning is me. I just have to wait and see. If I can help some of the other teams and maybe that will be a little bit of the plan for next year. It is also important though to follow up what I am doing now for the last couple of rallies and start to plan it better than everybody else for 2010.
The Citroen Xsara WRC has always been good on asphalt - could you possibly use it in Spain?

Maybe I could do that for Spain because it is a car I have been looking forward to driving on tarmac. Let's see. I am working flat out these days on different options. But the plan for next year is to fight for the world championship. All the things I am doing now are very important for next year's planning.
Have you considered the IRC as an option?

The IRC is a good thing and it is a good championship. The only thing is, if I am going to do the IRC, is that one of the manufacturers' is interested in me doing it, and they also have a good plan for winning the world championship in the future. For me I am waiting. But you want a proper commitment from a team that really wants to win and have a good future with you.
Staying with 2010, what do you think of the WRC schedule for next year?

The only important thing for me is - I don't look at the schedule or rallies or whatever, it is just - if it is good for the teams and for the manufacturers'. Less or more rallies are not so important. It is just what the manufacturer wants for the future to keep them in the championship all the time - that is the main thing. I am there to go fast and make a good show for the spectators. That is my job.
One major change announced by the WMSC concerns the SupeRally. What are you thoughts on how that is going to be overhauled for 2010?

The rules are changing every year and that is a detail. That is not something we should be thinking about. The main thing is to get the manufacturers' in there, get the value for money and get them fighting. All these other changes with whatever they want with the tyres or SupeRally - it is all details [and unimportant] compared to the whole championship. Two manufacturers is not so much. That is the main problem. You need manufacturers.