by Rob Wilkins

Subaru's managing director Richard Taylor hasn't had the easiest of years at the helm - but, despite that it has not all been bad for the Banbury-based outfit and work is progressing well on the new car for 2008. Radio caught up with him just prior to the final event of the season, the Wales Rally GB and spoke to him about 2007 and more...
Richard, how would you sum up the 2007 season for Subaru?

Richard Taylor:
Clearly it has been a poor season by our general standards. We haven't produced the results or the performances that are typical of Subaru or that we would have aimed for or expected to do.
Obviously not a good year, as you say, but what lessons have been learned and what positives can you take from the last two years?

I think we will perhaps wait to draw final conclusions until after GB [Subaru finished 4th, 7th and 9th on Wales Rally GB and secured third spot in the manufacturers' championship - ed]. But overall we have learned a lot about the current car. In the last few months in particular we have made a few steps forward with a lot of learning towards the 2008 car. To be fair though that hasn't been reflected in the results we have achieved and at the end of the day that is all you can be truthfully judged by.
You will have an unchanged driver line-up again next year, how much will that help?

Yes of course it does - continuity is good. We hope to add to the strength of the overall package too by bringing in some additional test driving expertise to the team. Partly this is because with the new car coming on stream we are just going to have more work load than it is reasonable to expect Petter [Solberg] or Chris [Atkinson] to undertake.
Kris Meeke has been linked to that role. Is there any news on that front and who the test driver might be?

No, we have not finalised anything yet. Kris has had a run in the car with us and gave us some very, very good feedback and demonstrated his abilities as a test driver. But we are still considering exactly what our needs are going to be and we will be working that out over the next few weeks.
Petter Solberg seems to have been quite down at times this year, how worrying is that?

Obviously the results have been very frustrating for everybody in the team. But particularly for Petter as he is the one at the front and the one actually sitting in the car and trying to make it work. It is our job to improve the car and to give him the vehicle that enables him to get the results we all want to see.
How is work progressing on the new 2008 spec Impreza?

It is coming along very, very well. We have made very good progress with the project over the last three or four months. The car looks very, very good and everything we have seen of it so far is positive. But of course again we have got to get the car out there and really prove it works and make it reliable and make sure we have the right level of performance.
Have you pencilled in yet when it might actually make its debut next year?

No, as we have said for a while now, we are going to wait until the first tests have been undertaken in the early part of the New Year before deciding when we will actually launch it on event.
How difficult is it going to be to get back and challenge Ford and Citroen?

Of course it is hard. This is a tough competition and the manufacturers' in it are all fighting to win, so it is difficult. But that is what we are here for and it is our job to do that. I am quite certain that with the new car we will be in the right ball park and we will be fighting for rally wins.
General speaking, do you think the sport is going in the right direction, in terms of reducing the number of events per year and in restricting the amount of engines teams can use and so on?

There are a number of different issues here - control of the costs through the engines, the transmissions, that sort of thing is a positive step forward. In the short term possibly bringing the number of events down is a reasonable way to go as well. It is a good way of controlling costs. But we have got to be sure going forward that we create a good spectacle and that we provide the fans and the media with something to promote and something that is really positive. I think we have got to think very carefully now where we go for the longer term. Obviously that is an on-going debate at the moment in terms of technical regulations, calendars, where events should be and so on. But we have to provide a real spectacle that is of interest and indeed is the right structure to attract more manufacturers'.
Do you think rotating events will work?

On a personal note I think the concept of rotation is OK. But personally I wouldn't do it for the whole series. To me it seems more logically - and I don't think at this moment that we have got enough events to have 24 events, to have maybe eight or ten events that are fixed in the championship and rotate the remainder to get us up to a 12 or 14 event championship overall [RT was speaking before the calendars for 2009 and 2010 were confirmed on December 7 - ed].
What changes do you think would help the WRC in future years?

As I say I think the spectacle has got to be right and the promotion has got to be right - that is the biggest thing. For both the spectators and the manufacturers' the level of promotion in the championship has got to be absolutely right. The concept that has been talked about, of having a promoter for the series that can work with the manufacturers', with the events and with the FIA, to give the whole series the highest possible profile, is the right way to go.




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