14 Dec 07
2007 Production car World Rally Champion Toshi Arai takes a few moment to talk to WRC.com about this season and the new title.
How does it feel to win the P-WRC for the second time?
I'm very pleased although I didn't enjoy Higgins and Pozzo retiring. I was just relieved. After Japan I had a really bad feeling but I was convinced 90% that I could win - I just couldn't do anything but I have never experienced waiting like that, as in 2005 we won the championship on our last rally.
Was this year's victory harder than 2005? Was the competition tough this season with so many national champions contesting P-WRC?
A lot harder! During 2005 I wanted to show my speed on every rally - it was important to win rallies but the championship wasn't so important for me. On the first rally in Sweden this year there were so many fast drivers that I had the confidence I could win but it was too hard. My tactics were to fight over the long term rather than rally by rally - it was important this year to win the championship.
The competitors this year were of a high standard - lots of national champions with good experience and different styles. It was a difficult season with a really good chance to fight. Most years there are about five real challenges but this year there were at least ten.
What was your best moment of this year?
My best moment this year was in New Zealand because we had a real fight with Niall McShea. In the rallies this year I have usually attacked about 80-90% maximum as my aim was to be consistent throughout the year but in New Zealand it was more like 110%. It was very important to be on maximum attack as it was the only way to test the limit and improve my performance.
Do you have any special celebrations planned in Japan?
I've already had a small celebration with my family and friends but we have plans for a bigger one with STi, my sponsors and journalists, maybe next week.
What do you think of the new car?
The new car is a third generation Impreza and it's very, very good, especially the rear suspension. It has changed from McPherson struts to double wishbone so the grip is much better and it doesn't break so easily. It's more stable, especially in the fast sections. The chassis and engine are third generation - in fact, it's all different so we'll have to modify everything. I'm a bit anxious about any unknown troubles so we'll have to do some more testing.
Have you decided what six events you will contest in 2008? Will you contest more rounds and will you tackle any Asia Pacific events?
We haven't decided which events we'll do next year but it will probably start with Sweden. The conditions in Sweden will be good for the new car as there won't be much stress for it on the snow. We don't have any plans for APRC but if the sponsors offer then I would like to have the chance to do it too.
You've driven a World Rally Car in the past, do you have ambitions to drive one again in the future?
Yes, I would like to. It depends on STi and my sponsors but now we have another P-WRC title, maybe it will be possible. Next year I would like to do at least one event in a World Rally Car - Japan - and if possible a couple more too. We'll have to wait and see.