Francois Xavier Demaison is the man responsible for preparing Petter Solberg's Citroen Xsara WRC between rounds of the World Rally Championship.
Having worked with Solberg at the Subaru World Rally Team – and helped Marcus Gronholm to two world titles at Peugeot – the French engineer knows what it takes to make a rally car go quickly. He spoke to AUTOSPORT's David Evans about the season so far and this week's Rally Poland.Q. Are you surprised at what Petter has done with the Xsara this year?FD:
I am. I remember when I worked at Peugeot and we fought with this car [Solberg's 2006 Xsara] with the 307. Now there is a big gap between the Xsara and the C4 and the Ford, so it's a big surprise to see the times Petter can do with the Xsara.Q. What more can you do to Petter's car for Poland to make it quicker than it was in Greece?FD:
Poland will be different to Greece for the temperature, it should be better for the car. We have a test on Monday and Citroen is still doing some improvements on the [engine] maps for the car. The hardware in the car will remain the same, but maybe we can adjust the fans and make everything to the optimum for Poland.Q. Do you see a change in Petter from when you worked with him at Subaru?FD:
He's much more relaxed. Some people in the team say the Petter of today reminds them of the Petter who was world champion in 2003. He doesn't need to worry about any of the politics or anything like that, he can just get on with driving the car – and finding the sponsors, of course.
When he first contacted me and talked about driving the Xsara, I was a little bit afraid. I thought that, maybe after one or two rallies, he would become bored of this. But he's still here and he's clearly enjoying it and making a very nice story in the WRC. It took him some time to accept that the car was as good as it could be, but now we have found a little bit more, he wants more and more.Q. There's talk of Petter switching to a Peugeot 307 for Finland. Would he find more with a Peugeot 307?FD:
It's hard to say. At the moment, Peugeot has stopped with the WRC. The engine in the car is strong and it is free for us to work on as we like, but it takes more than just an engine to win a rally. You can't just sit on the engine, race around and win - you have to look at the chassis and suspension. Petter's brother has spoken to him and told him how good the 307 is, but I tell him that we would have to do a lot of work to the chassis of the car and this could take time and money to do.Q. When does he test the Peugeot?FD:
We were going to test the two cars [Xsara and 307] after Greece, but the Citroen needed to go on the jig and have work done to it. Now, providing the Xsara is not damaged in Poland, we will go straight from there to a gravel test in France where he can compare both cars.Q. Do you think Petter can win a WRC round this year?FD:
He could have won in Greece without the problem. It's difficult with the remaining rallies trying to beat Ford and Citroen, they have more suspension travel and developments on the engine and other things. I think it's possible, but I think he will need a little help from the others.