10 Jul 08
How have you got on with the new soft compound Pirelli gravel tyre?
We haven't tested it yet. I think the earliest opportunity will be the Finland pre event test.
There are three asphalt rallies in the second half of the year. Do you think your car and drivers will give you an advantage on this surface?
The asphalt rallies are all quite specialist events and both our drivers are probably more confident on gravel than they are on tarmac. After seven events on gravel, in Germany we're going to be learning a whole lot of other stuff. We're not going there to set fast stage times; our priority is still to ensure that the cars make it to the finish so we can make the most out of the experience.
What is your objective for the 2008 season now? Has this changed from January?
The brief I've had, and the idea that myself, Monster [Tajima - Suzuki team principal] and the entire team agreed is that we need to learn this year. We didn't come into it with any preconceived ideas that we'd get out of the truck and start challenging the top teams. We know we haven't done as much testing as possibly the likes of Subaru or Citroen did before they introduced their new vehicles but we're making the most of what we're doing this year. If that means we need to sacrifice rally results in order to gain experience of the whole length of the event, then fair enough. From Finland onwards we need to ensure both our cars are running until the end of each event and we maximise the opportunities we have.
Can you make a prediction - anything at all - about the second half of the WRC season?
This year is proving to be an interesting battle between Citroen and Ford. They're both playing the game and the mix of events coming up should show the strength of both teams. Citroen I think are going to be a lot stronger when it comes to tarmac and Ford are going to remain stronger on the gravel events. There's not a lot in it at this point, and my prediction is that it's going to be tough to pick a winner before rally GB. If you want another, then I reckon we'll have rain in Germany and some more in Wales!
What is the latest news regarding any Suzuki supported Manufacturer Teams for 2009?
For now the focus remains on our own SX4 World Rally Car. Until we have fully developed the car we've got I don't think it would be in anyone's interest to put a vehicle out there that wasn't capable of mixing it with the top guys.
Can you give me a podium prediction for Finland?
I think it will have either Hirvonen and Latvala, or at least one of them, in there. I also think you'll find Loeb there as well and maybe Gigi Galli too. I'm not sure of the positions but I reckon the top three will come from those four.