2014 Rally Italia Sardegna - Pre-event Press Conference
Transcript of the pre-event press conference organised by the FIA for the 2014 Rally Italia Sardegna.
Thu 05.06.14, 6:06PM
Pre-event Press Conference
Thursday 5 June
Present: Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Motorsport
Mads Østberg, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Hayden Paddon, Hyundai Motorsport N
Martin Prokop, Jipocar Czech National Team
Q: Sébastien, you have won here in the past and you know what it takes to win in Sardinia. What’s the secret – do you want to share it with the boys? SO: No! I think to start I just want to say I was a bit surprised after the recce that the road is a bit rougher than last year and a bit more difficult, especially day one will be a really tough one. To be honest I prefer the last edition of the rally but this one is like that. Obviously it will be a tough job to open the road on day one that’s for sure. I expect to lose time especially to guys like Mads because it’s quite bad to be first on the road. But I don’t want to complain because the rules are like that but I have to mention it because it’s a real fact that it’s a big disadvantage. But my main target is my team-mate Jari-Matti. He is my main rival for the Championship at the moment so I have to focus on him.
We saw an epic battle between you and Jari-Matti in Argentina, he seems to have raised the bar competition-wise and is now one of your toughest opponents? SO:
It’s easy if you look at the Championship points and he’s the main one so yes, definitely. But the season is still very long so we cannot forget completely the others but at the moment it’s obvious he will be really fast. It’s important to focus mainly on him but not to forget the others. Also when I start a rally I try not to finish second or third or just in front of my team-mate. I just try to be ahead of course but I expect a tough job this weekend.
You mentioned the road sweeping tomorrow. You are used to that but when you are going through those stages mentally does it effect you and do you get frustrated because you can see the time loss? SO: You don’t have to get frustrated. You have to do your job as good as you can and don’t take too much care about the times. That can push you into a mistake. It’s never easy to find the limit and know exactly if you are doing the best performance you can. You just have to deal with yourself and the car, do your best but don’t try to follow the others because it’s normal they will be faster.
Q: Mads, you were injured on the final day of Rally Argentina - a hand injury that prevented you from completing the rally. Is everything okay now? MO:
Definitely the thumb is working again. It’s not back to normal but for sure driving today in shakedown was no problem. It’s working and I’m glad we had the long break so we can be ready.
How are you feeling ahead of Rally Italia? You’ve been here quite a few times before so you have a lot of experience in Sardinia. Are you feeling confident going out there this weekend? MO:
For sure. For me Sardinia is one of my favourite events. I always enjoy coming here, I enjoy the stages and somehow I feel a lot more at home here than in other places, even though I am far away from home so I don’t know why. It’s a nice place, with nice roads and I really enjoy it. After the recce everything is perfect and I’m ready to start.
So what’s the strategy for you this weekend? Unfortunately it was a bit of an early bath for you in Argentina. Will we see you fighting with the leaders this time around? MO:
I hope so for sure. We were taken a little bit by surprise in Argentina. We’ve done no testing since that so for sure it’s going to be a careful approach on the first day. It’s so slippery and there are so many of those dips and bumps that we saw in Argentina that caught us out. We will be maybe a bit more cautious than we planned before arriving but after we saw the stages in the recce it was a little bit maybe unexpected. So we need to consider that, have a decent first day and push a bit more after.
With eight stages tomorrow is there an element of caution that comes in when you’ve only got that remote service? MO:
Not really. If you go off, you go off. It doesn’t matter if you have service and then two stages. Okay if you do small damage to the car you can cope with it hopefully but the biggest challenge is the stages, not that we have remote service.
Hayden, this is the moment you have been waiting for for a long time, a manufacturer drive with Hyundai Motorsport - how are you feeling ahead of Rally Italia Sardegna? HP:
We’re as ready as we can be. It’s been a long wait since the contract was signed, we’ve been waiting six months now for this opportunity. Now it’s here I have to do the best as I can. We’re working well with the team at the factory and I’ve been doing some testing in the car. Even today at shakedown it was a chance to find out how the car handles in these conditions for the first time.
What are your thoughts on the car? How has the testing been going? Do you feel at one with the car? HP:
From the very early stages I felt really comfortable in the car. The feeling is very similar to some of the cars I’ve driven in the past. It suits my driving style which is not to slide the car so much and use the front axle like a front-wheel-drive car. It suits me like that, it’s very neutral. We’ve done some small changes in testing and it’s easy to adapt the car to my liking. The most important thing is to feel comfortable in the car. The speed will come later.
What has the team been saying to you about the weekend? What are your instructions? HP:
We’re all on the same page on that one. For me I need to get as much experience. I need to learn because it’s my first time on this event and there are some very tricky stages here. We need to know where the places are we can push, where we have to look after the car. I need to get as much experience as possible for myself and for the team. After here we get onto events we know and we can start pushing more.
What do you think of this event coming here for the first time? HP:
Not as bad as I thought. I was expecting a lot more twisty sections from videos I’ve seen. But there are some fast places, which is quite nice. But there are narrow sections as well with rocks on the side of the road so there’s not a lot of room for error. Keeping the car in the line and hitting the braking points is critical.
You’ve talked about pressure, is it difficult not to put pressure on yourself? HP:
It’s difficult but I’m going to handle that by not looking at the times on Friday. On the first day in Spain for my first time in a World Rally Car and on gravel it was very difficult. I was looking at the times and I got very demoralised and that started to play games mentally. I’m not going to look at the times tomorrow. I’m going to concentrate on my driving and enjoy it and assess where we are with the feeling of the car and start taking more notice of the split times on Saturday.
What is the toughest challenge here in Sardinia? Is it tomorrow or the Monte Lerno stage at 60 kilometres? HP:
For me tomorrow is the hardest day with 160 kilometres of stages and they are quite tricky stages with a lot of tricky places, a lot of rocks. The Monte Lerno stage will be challenging but I think it will be easier because it’s nice and flowing and it’s easy to get a good rhythm. MO:
I have a question for Hayden. How many rallies are you doing and will you be testing for each rally? HP: Why, are you worried? MO: Yes! I was just watching the times on shakedown and you were beating me. If that’s your first kilometres in the car I’m a bit worried. HP: I’m doing seven rallies and will do a test for each rally. MO: Good.
Martin, it was a tough start to the season for you but your best result came in Mexico with a fifth overall. What have you thought of 2014 so far? MP:
So far overall it’s okay to be ninth in the Championship, it’s perfect because the aim for us was to be in the top 10 at the end of the season. For this I am happy but I am still not happy with the speed and how fast we are doing the events. On this we are trying to improve. In Argentina we can say it was better and were able to improve. We had a good fight with Robert [Kubica] and Elfyn [Evans]. This is important for us. When we have a good fight with somebody we can improve in that way. In the past, in Juniors, we had some very good fights, especially in Argentina. In the last years I did not have so many good fights because it’s impossible to fight with the factory drivers. Argentina was a small step but there are still more steps to take.
What have you done to find improvements – is it set-up work? MP:
A lot of things we changed but the set-up we can’t do too much. We are not finding too many things on the car. It’s all about me and finding the confidence. If we are fighting with somebody you forget all the worries. I need to find some drivers to fight and hopefully I can have some fights on this rally. It’s really my favourite rally, I’ve had the best times in Juniors here, also some bad moments, but it’s a good rally.
What have you been doing to prepare for this rally both physically and with the car? MP:
Physically it’s no problem. I had two days testing in Czech Republic. It was not the same surface but I was happy to have two days in the car so I feel a bit better for that. We don’t have too many test days during the year but I am always happy to be in the car.
You have competed many times here in the past, what will be your strategy? MP:
It’s always difficult. It doesn't matter if it’s two long stages or four short stages and remote service. You have to save the car in the difficult sections and try to drive as good as possible. I like the stages although they are more rough than before.
FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP
Lorenzo, this year we see you compete in the WRC 2 category again, currently you lie in second position in the Championship as we come to your ‘home’ event - we have yet to see you on the top step of the podium, could it happen here in Sardinia? LB:
This is my home event and I am second in the Championship. I hope to win a rally finally. At the beginning of the season my only goal was to improve myself and see where I am. Now we are second in the Championship and have a good chance. I want at least a podium but I have to arrive at the finish because anything can happen in rallies. I am satisfied with the season and how everything is going. My goal is to improve; I am improving so I am happy.
How would you assess your season so far? Are you pleased with your pace? LB:
My goal was to be consistent and not fast because I am still learning my pace notes. This was first rally where I have 40 per cent of the pace notes since the beginning of the season. We start to push more in some stages to know where I can be. I hope to do a very good result here in Sardinia.
How much testing and preparation have you done ahead of this event? LB:
I did Saturday and Sunday a couple of days of test and did more than 100 kilometres to test the car, to get the right set-up and also push a bit in the car and find the limit. I’m comfortable with the car but it’s not only about the car. Tomorrow is the most important day with four stages that are really tough. You have to pay attention and like we see in Argentina that after the first stages Nasser [Al-Attiyah] was out in front but he was driving at a normal pace, not pushing. We have to be consistent. Anything can happen. It’s important to go fast but we have to pay attention because the rally is very long.
Nasser said his win in Argentina was about clever driving. Will that be the case for you this weekend? LB:
Yeah. He told me he had been there 10 or 11 times. He’s a very experienced man and this was important for him in Argentina.
What about the Monte Lerno stage, which is 60 kilometres long? LB:
For everybody it won’t be easy. We’re going to see how it’s going to be the rally from tomorrow night. It depends on my position to find out the tactics for Saturday. It’s too early to be speaking about the tactics for the long stage.
The Championship is looking good for you so far, was the aim this year to go for the title? LB:
If I can get a victory in the season and some other good results we could be there for the win but to win the Championship is not my main aim. I want to improve myself and see if I have a future in the WRC. It is not for long that I have raced so it’s okay like this.
Sébastien, this is the WRC debut for the Citroën R5 car, you begin your ‘prize’ season after winning the Citroën Top Driver award last year. How much are you looking forward to competing here in Italy? SC:
I am really happy to be here. I think this weekend will be a really tough rally over three long days. The first thing I expect is to get the most experience for me and my driving. It’s my first race in a four-wheel-drive car. I need to fix a lot of things and also for Citroën Racing we have to make a lot of kilometres to do good experience and to be really competitive during the whole season.
What are your thoughts on the car? How has the testing gone so far? What are the strengths of the car? SC:
I drove the car the first time at the end of January one week after Monte Carlo. Since this time we made a really good job. The car is getting better and better. It’s still very long to go and like all new cars anything can happen or nothing can happen. The most important thing will be to do our best and we hope everything will be okay.
What are your expectations for this weekend, what are you hoping for? SC:
I hope we will be competitive. The car is good and I have a good feeling. I take a lot of pleasure to drive a four-wheel-drive car on gravel, it’s really good. First we have to look where we are and how the competition is around us then after we will think about the car.”
What do you think about the stages here? SC:
The stages are quite nice but a little bit difficult. Tomorrow is a very long day with four stages and only a remote service. My plan is to drive carefully during the first stage of the morning and see how I feel and how I am in the car. The recce went quite okay so we will see.
What are your expectations for the event and for the season ahead? SC:
As I said I will try this season to take the most experience that I can with this new car. After, we will see. We have to see race-by-race how it goes. For sure I am a competitive driver so I want to be in a good position at the end of the year. But it’s too early to say something like to win the Championship. I don’t know if I will be able to do it or not. But we will try to do our best.