15.01.13

Rallye Monte-Carlo - Pre-Event Press Conference

Pre-event Press Conference organised by the FIA for the 2013 Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Rallye Monte-Carlo 2013 - Pre-Event Press Conference
Pre-event Press Conference
Tuesday 15 January
 
Present:
Michèle Espinos (“Biche”)
Mads Ostberg, Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Motorsport
Michal Kosciuszko, Lotos WRC Team 
Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
 
Q:
On the 40th Anniversary of the WRC it is a pleasure to welcome you as the winning co-driver of the 1973 Rallye Monte-Carlo, competing this weekend in car number 73. Do you still hold special memories of the 1973 event?
“Biche”:
Yes, for sure. It’s so difficult to explain. It’s a good memory for that. I do this Monte now because it’s my pleasure. It’s a good experience.
 
Q:
Are you here just to enjoy the experience then?
“Biche”:
No, we try for the finish. Maurizio Verini was in Fiat when I was also in Fiat, he’s a good friend and he’s quiet… not the same as Andruet, totally different! It’s good, we hope to finish.
 
Q:
Across your career you have competed over some of the most legendary events, what have been the highlights for you?
“Biche”:
A lot. So different, but a lot!
 
Q:
Mads, a new season and a big change for you! You are now the lead driver of the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team. Are you ready for the challenge ahead?
MO:
I have been working many years as a privateer and now I reached one of my main goals. But now I need to prove that I deserve the seat. We need to show that I can perform well and give some good results to the team. Some challenges are bigger than others. Like this one…
 
Q:
You begin Rallye Monte-Carlo for the first time competitively, having only seen the roads as safety crew previously. What is the target for this event?
MO:
I am ready for the challenge, but you need a different approach for this rally. If you have been to this event before then you come with a different approach and you know how to drive slow enough to get through the rally. Anything can happen here – it’s easy to do a mistake. We will try and stay focused.
 
Q:
As part of a manufacturer team you can take advantage of a full test programme before events, something you have not experienced in the past. How much will this benefit you and how has testing gone so far?
MO:
For this one, it’s difficult to know. But for the next rallies we can do better preparation [than last year] and this will definitely help us. I am happy to do a lot of testing, to get the chance to drive the car on snow on tarmac tyres and things like that. It’s been good to do a couple of days in France, getting used to everything – now I need to start the rally.
 
Q:
It is the start of the season and every driver will be aiming for the title; is that your plan and what will it take to achieve that?
MO:
The main ambition for me… I’m not starting with the main goal of winning the Championship. I need to start and get some good results early on, but we will have a new champion. Mikko [Hirvonen] is the only guy in the same seat this year, everybody else been changing and we have Volkswagen coming with two good drivers. But nobody really knows. I feel ready to push hard on the events I have done before and be careful on the new events, but it’s going to be a very open season.
 
Q:
Sébastien, we have all been waiting patiently to see the Polo R in competition, after all the testing and development it is now time to see what it can do. Are you and the car ready for Monte?
SO:
Of course, we are very well. It’s a long time ago that I participate in this conference. I am very happy to be back. It’s the start of a very interesting season. It won’t be easy – we see that this morning, it will be very tricky. But I expect this and I am happy it’s difficult. The real stages are tomorrow and we have to stay on the road.
 
Q:
With a brand new car at the start of one of the toughest rallies on the Championship calendar, do you think a win is possible this weekend?
SO:
Really we don’t know. This morning we didn’t learn anything, the condition was changing all the time. It’s too early to talk about victory, we will do our best. Last year I pushed as hard as possible to see what is possible and we are interested to see the times. But I really need to finish this event. The team needs me to finish and it’s going to be difficult with this condition.
 
Q:
Are you disappointed Sébastien Loeb is retiring and you won’t have the chance to fight with him on each event?
SO:
We have to respect his choice. He has won so many rallies. We have to understand. It would have been great to fight like two years ago, but it’s not like this, it’s a few events. We won’t have to focus about him. We want to fight for the victories and the Championship. At the moment I don’t know about my car, I just want to focus on my race and not anybody else.
 
Q:
Can you win the Championship?
SO:
I always have that target and I hope for good results, but it’s difficult to estimate. I need some time comparisons to see what I can do. At the moment I am speaking in the wind – once we do some stages then I can give you some more idea.
 
Q:
Michal, a step up for 2013 as we see you compete this season in a World Rally Car with the Lotos WRC Team in a MINI WRC. A big change - are you ready for it?
MK:
It’s incredible for me. I didn’t expect it would happen. Here I am sitting with a multiple world champion and driving within the same category. It’s really impressive! I can’t wait to start. This car is a different dimension for me, how you can use the speed and brake so much later. 
 
Q:
How has the testing been going so far? How much have you done?
MK:
I’ve done one day of testing, which is not a lot, but it’s something. I did more than 100 kilometres on a mixed road, which helped me to get used to different behaviour of the car. We had snow at shakedown, which was very positive for me to drive in difficult conditions. I have never been on these tyres in such a light and strong car.
 
Q:
You have had success on this event in the past, winning last year in the PWRC category. What will be the strategy this year?
MK:
Last year we had a good race and won the races in the category, this year is more demanding. This year I will follow the other drivers – the guys with more experience. I need to reduce the gap, but first of all need to be at the finish.
 
Q:
Who do you compare yourself to?
MK:
I want to be at the finish, then I compare my car and see if it looks the same as it did at the start! I will not compare the times.
 
Q:
What are your hopes over the course of the season?
MK:
To enjoy the year and enjoy these great events and a very nice car. I spent a lot of years in JWRC, SWRC and PWRC and finally there’s nothing in front of WRC – so I am very excited about that and I would like to improve as a driver.
 
Q:
Sébastien, normally you start every season with the ambition to be champion, this year begins differently for you with just four events on your WRC calendar. How do you feel about the ‘different’ season ahead?
SL:
For sure it a bit different, but I feel happy about that. I spent a long time thinking about retiring, now I make the decision and I have other plans – and I am excited about those plans also. It’s exciting to be here at the Monte-Carlo Rally, it’s a nice rally from which I have good memories and it’s my co-driver’s home rally. It’s important to start this one, but the situation is not the same. I am just here…
 
Q:
Is the motivation the same?
SL:
The goal is not the same, but the preparation for the rally is the same. On the recce, everything was really serious. If I am able fight for victory, I will try to do it. But if not, it’s not as bad as in the past. I am here for fun and in the conditions… it will be fun.
 
Q:
This is a true Monte, isn’t it…
SL:
I have never done the rally with a lot of snow, it’s always been one stage or half a stage, but usually more like a tarmac rally. At the moment, it’s not like this, the conditions will be tricky. On the shakedown, I think we were lucky it was in the field, because I think some time everybody went in the field somewhere! But tomorrow, it is not in the field, tomorrow we have walls, rocks and ditches. Let’s see what we can do.
 
Q:
If you’re not going to be world champion this year, who will you be putting your money on?
SL:
I wouldn’t put my money on anybody – but it’s exciting! [The champion] Will be another one and, for sure, it’s going to be interesting to see Jari-Matti [Latvala] and Mikko [Hirvonen]. I am looking forward to seeing what happens.
 
 
FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP 
 
Present:
Esapekka Lappi, Škoda Motorsport
Sepp Wiegand, Škoda Auto Deutschland
 
Q:
Esapekka, we see you compete this year in selected WRC 2 events with Škoda. A great opportunity for you as part of a factory team, how much are you looking forward to it?
EL:
It’s a really big challenge for a small town boy! This is a strange situation, everything has happened so fast. But, I have only driven two tarmac rallies before. I’m glad it’s snowing now! This will be a really big challenge.
 
Q:
What’s your strategy for the event?
EL:
I will start slowly and move step-by-step forward and maybe raise the speed if we can. But, the target is to finish the rally with no problems.
 
Q:
What do you think of the stages?
EL:
They are very tricky. I have no experience with these roads. Maybe we have too much detail in the notes. Everything is really challenging – we want to come back next year.
 
Q:
After so much success last year, is there pressure on you to do the same this time?
EL:
No. I have a contract now so I don’t have to show anything. Maybe on gravel, but not on tarmac.
 
Q:
Sepp, last year you competed in the IRC now you take the step into the WRC by competing in WRC 2 this season. What an event to start your programme with - Rallye Monte-Carlo! Are you ready?
SW:
I am really happy to be here. It’s the first time I drove on snow in the shakedown!
 
Q:
How did it feel?
SW:
Nice, I like slippery conditions – it was similar to gravel roads. But as well, I have also a new co-driver and we never drove before in the rally car. Today was the first time, in shakedown, but I have a good feeling and I’m happy the rally starts tomorrow.
 
Q:
Would you be happy with more snow?
SW:
I don’t know. The stages are really difficult, they are narrow and there is no place for mistakes. With snow, I cannot imagine how difficult they will be. Maybe it’s better in the dry conditions, but for sure this rally is really difficult.
 
Q:
How was recce and how is that co-driver relationship?
SW:
The recce was okay, but in these stages, to write notes is really difficult. It’s hard to find the right words, but the work with my co-driver is really good. We try to find a good thing to describe the corner, it’s really nice and shakedown was good. We found the good rhythm – really looking forward to tomorrow.
 
Q:
What do you hope for from this event?
SW:
I hope to finish every race and have maximum points and I will try to learn as much as possible. I want to be a really, really good rally driver in the future.
 
 
FIA WRC 3 CHAMPIONSHIP
 
Present:
Sébastien Chardonnet
Renaud Poutot
 
Q:
Sébastien, WRC 3 for you this year. We saw you compete on different WRC events last year, including this one. We saw some great pace from you, what will see this year?
SC:
It’s approximately the same. This year it’s WRC 3 and this is a very good opportunity for us. We took some experience last year, and the plan this year is to do our best and win the Championship. We have seven races and six results for the Championship. We start here in Monte-Carlo and continue, all in Europe – it’s a good thing.
 
Q:
What will it take to win?
SC:
I don’t know. We always try to do our best in the car and at home to get ready for the races. We will see which competitors will be in the Championship. For the moment, we don’t know and we need to be sure.
 
Q:
This is a tough event for you?
SC:
We learned a lot last year. This was the first world rally we did last year and we got a lot of experience, also with the tyres. This year it will be difficult with a lot of snow. This morning, we try and find the good feeling with the tyres. We did no testing before. It was interesting to get some snow in shakedown. We will see what we can do.
 
Q:
Are you happy with the set-up?
SC:
Yes, of course. We try a different way and try to do the best choice we can.
 
Q:
Renaud, how difficult has the recce been for this event and how tough will the event be?
RP:
At the moment, it will be very difficult for the driver and most of the drivers know that. The experience of Monte starts for me in 1995, when I was official driver for Fiat Abarth. That year, I won the Cinquecento Challenge, but for me this was another life. Now I am almost retired, but finally this year I feel like I was 20 after the recce and all that snow. In Sisteron the last time I was there was in 1996 in a Subaru Group N and I was very happy and very proud to come back there. I want to fight.
 
Q:
You’re not going to make it an easy rally for Sébastien [Chardonnet]?
RP:
I don’t know. He is like me 15 years ago. I expect him to have the best rally possible, but he will have a retired pilot just behind him and I will push him.
 
Q:
What’s the most difficult part of this event?
RP:
The most difficult for me is to be fast all the time and in 20 or 30 corners of each stage, you have to say: “Don’t do too much, keep calm.” And finally this is the only solution to make the result. You can be frustrated some times, but it’s like that with every Monte-Carlo I drove. It will be the same at the start of the St Jean en Royans stage and it must be the same at the finish line. I have this experience and, for me, maybe it is very helpful this time.
 
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
 
Martin Holmes
Martin Holmes Rallying, UK
 
Q:
Sébastien, in 1979 your family was responsible for winning this rally. Did your grandfather give you any advice?
SC:
My grandfather, he was dead in 2005 and I was driving in the race track at that moment, so we never talk. But, of course, a lot of people around me talk about the stories of 1979, [Bernard] Darniche and the Stratos. I am quite proud of it, and I explain my grandfather can be there to give me some help. I just listen to a lot of people who know my grandfather, I listen and I try to make my way about it.