555 Subaru World Rally Team boss David Lapworth talks about the teams new deal with Petter Solberg, who might partner the Norwegian in 2003 and more...

Q:
David, why Petter?

David Lapworth:
Obviously the first priority for us has to be to sign a driver who can win rallies and championships, and having worked with Petter for the last three years we're perhaps in the best position to make that judgement about his talent. But almost as important, and this is backed up by the reputation of other great drivers in history, is the way the driver interacts with the people in the team and the way he helps motivate them as well as providing technical input. Petter has proven to be as much a team player as he is a fast driver. If you needed more, then I could add that Petter handles the media and the fans better than anybody. We're very happy to have him on board for the future.

Q:
Why a three-year deal?

DL:
The three-year deal reflects two things - our confidence in Petter and Subaru's commitment to a long-term future in rallying. Petter is at a vital stage in his career and it's important for him to know that he is in a team that is able to help him achieve great things while he's at the top. We've been able to share our plans for the future with Petter and he's as excited about them as we are. President Takenaka (FHI) and President Katsurada of STI are big supporters of the WRC programme and are proud to have Petter as a member of the Subaru family. Over the last three years, he has proved himself a great representative and ambassador who epitomises the Subaru spirit.

Q:
What can you tell us about your future plans?

DL:
The greater integration of FHI engineering and research and development resources into the team is going from strength to strength and we expect to see the fruits of our efforts over the next 12 months. We've also expanded our engineering team in Banbury and our development and test programme. The progress we've demonstrated in the past six months is only the start and we're very confident of maintaining the momentum.

Q:
What about the rest of the driver line up for next year?

DL:
Tommi [Makinen] certainly remains an option as Petter's teammate, he has built a strong relationship with him and the rest of the team. At this stage our strategy for next year is not confirmed. Once we have a clear idea of the objectives, then we'll look to get the remaining drivers in place.