by Rob Wilkins

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH RICHARD TAYLOR: CLICK HERE

Subaru launched its new car less than two weeks ago on the Acropolis Rally of Greece and after finishing second Petter Solberg declared that the Banbury-based outfit is definitely on its way back to its former glories. Crash.net Radio caught up with managing director Richard Taylor recently to chat to him about that event and to get his thoughts not only on the next round in Turkey, but also on the rest of the season too...

Crash.net:
Richard, how much of a boost was it for the team to see the new car do so well straight out of the box?

Richard Taylor:
Obviously we were all very, very pleased with the performance of the car and with the way the whole event went in Greece. We started off with a deliberate strategy to go steady and see how we got on. The car was very strong and very reliable throughout the event. It performed very well - and that was really without either of the drivers' pushing at all, other than Chris [Atkinson]'s fastest effort on Sunday morning [after he re-started under the SupeRally].

Crash.net:
How important was it for the team to launch the car now, as opposed to after the summer break?

RT:
I think overall our objective with launching the car in Greece was to make sure we are in the strongest possible position for the second half of the season. However much testing you do, it is never quite the same as going and competing. We believe that rather than doing two or three more tests before Finland we would be much better off doing a couple of rallies because that will accelerate the learning curve and put us in a stronger position.

Crash.net:
How difficult was it to bring that launch forward?

RT:
Whenever you launch a new car, it doesn't matter if we had waited another month, two months or six months, it would still have been a big challenge and a big effort towards the end. It was something we had been preparing for and it obviously didn't come as any great shock to us because we knew that was what we had been aiming at. It was a lot of hard work from a lot of people - from the design team, the car builders, the test team particularly and everybody. But it was worth it.

Crash.net:
What feedback did you get from Petter Solberg following the Acropolis?

RT:
Very, very positive - you will have seen lots and lots of his quotes and he really believes the car has huge potential and can be a winning car. He thinks it is a lot easier to drive and just all-round is a really big step forward.

Crash.net:
While Petter finished second, Chris Atkinson didn't finish in the other car and he retired on day two with an electrical glitch and on day three with suspension damage. What were his thoughts on the new car?

RT:
As we said, Chris got a fastest stage time on the Sunday morning, when on the previous two days we had said: 'Take it steady and learn about the car and lets see what we can do in what are clearly very difficult conditions'. Sunday morning we told him to go for it on the first stage - and obviously he was fastest. Unfortunately on the second stage he had a bit of a spin and damaged the car and wasn't able to fix it. But these things happen. Both drivers' had the same sort of feelings and reckon the new car has loads of potential. They are really pleased to be using it.

Crash.net:
Obviously the Impreza WRC2008 is very different to its predecessor - where has it been improved most?

RT:
It is all-round because we were able to start with a clean sheet of paper, which was the first time for a long time. The base is better in the sense of the wheelbase of the car, the weight distribution that we are able to get from it and the centre of gravity - all of those things are significant factors. We have got what we believe is the ideal car now to move us forward and to be competing for wins in the second half of the season.

Crash.net:
How is the team going to approach Turkey?

RT:
Similar to Greece to be honest - it is a slightly different type of event. It is still really part of our learning process. We will take it steady at the beginning and then we will see how it goes.

Crash.net:
Turkey of course though like Greece can be another rally of attrition can't it?

RT:
It certainly can be. Conditions can be variable. Sometimes it is dry there and sometimes it is very wet. It can certainly be a rally of attrition. But again the main thing for us is to learn a lot more about the car and make sure we cover as many miles as possible with both cars.

Crash.net:
How much testing has the team got planned during the summer break prior to Finland?

RT:
Obviously we will be doing some testing and indeed we have got to particularly work on the tarmac side of things. We have done very little tarmac work yet and that is only just beginning. Obviously three of the events in the second half of the year are on asphalt. But we believe that the new car will be good on tarmac. We think the whole set-up of the car - and going back to the weight distribution and the centre of gravity, the key factors that we wanted to get in that car, that will help us on those events.

Crash.net:
If you had to pick out any one of the events during the remainder of the year, which one do you think Subaru is most likely to win on and why?

RT:
The first tarmac event in Germany will be quite tough, but I guess some of the traditional 'Subaru favourites' - New Zealand, Japan and GB - they have got to offer us perhaps the best potential.

Crash.net:
There have been reports Subaru is going to run a second team in the WRC next season. What can you tell us about that?

RT:
It is something we have talked about over the last 12-18 months. But the last six months we haven't focused on that. We have concentrated all our efforts on getting the new car ready and it is certainly something we are interested in for next year. Indeed with the reduced number of overall events in the championship we would like to be running three or four cars on a full-time basis. So, yes we are looking at it, but nothing is firmed up as yet.

Crash.net:
Is it likely?

RT:
I would like to think that it is reasonably likely. It is certainly one of our objectives for next year.

Crash.net:
Related to that, what drivers' would be in the frame - would any Brits be considered?

RT:
It is early days yet. We talk to a lot of people all the time and we know that there are people that are interested. But it is a matter of putting together the right arrangements with everybody to actually make it happen. I wouldn't like to predict anything yet. But certainly there are a couple of British drivers in there that we are talking to.

Crash.net:
Of course one of the people that have been linked to the team is 2007 British Rally champion Guy Wilks.

RT:
Guy is somebody that is very, very enthusiastic about Subaru and who we have kept in touch with over the last 12 months or so. He would certainly be one that we would be interested to see in a car with us.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH RICHARD TAYLOR: CLICK HERE