14.01.14

Rallye Monte-Carlo - Pre Event Press Conference

Transcript of the pre event press conference from Rallye Monte Carlo

Present:
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Motorsport
Elfyn Evans, M-Sport World Rally Team
Thierry Neuville, Hyundai Motorsport
Kris Meeke, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
François Delecour
 
Q:
Sébastien, you return to defend your Championship title in 2014. How different does starting the season as World Champion feel compared to this time last year?
SO:
Compared to last year, it’s a big difference. I was quite nervous this time last year and worried to know where we are. We wanted to know if we had done a good job with the car, we had a lot of questions. Luckily, after one stage, we had a good answer and we knew the car was well born. This year it’s different and we have number one on the door and everybody is expecting and waiting for us to win this rally. But everything can happen. The meteo (weather) is difficult for this rally. I will try to do my job – I haven't won this as a WRC round, only in the IRC. And I would love to win.
 
Q:
Is it an advantage – for the meteo – that you come from Gap?
SO:
Maybe a little bit, I have some friends around! But with the weather you don’t know who to trust – like always we will trust our team. 
 
Q:
Do you expect it to be tougher this year?
SO:
We always say it’s hard to get it [the title] and harder to stay at the top. It’s good news to see more manufacturers coming – it’s been a long time since we saw four cars, this is good news. For the competition I’m sure the performance of every car will be close – at least we know for the three who have been there before. For the new one [Hyundai] we have to wait, but I expect them to be fast. We have a lot of competition, and with the new regulations the one leading the Championship will have the disadvantage on day one. I’m sure there will be more fighting in the Championship.
 
Q:
The 2013 WRC season finished just 60 days ago, how much testing have you done since then and do you feel you had a successful Monte test?
SO:
Let’s say the break was not so long! Last year was the first title and I had a lot of request and a lot of trophies to pick up from all around Europe – and that was nice. Then I had two weeks of holiday, which I enjoyed under the sun and with no telephone and no contact with the rally – that was important. But now it’s good to be back in the rally car and good to start with Monte-Carlo, especially starting in Gap. Starting in Gap is a special moment and I expect a lot of support. Sporting, it makes no difference, there are only two stages [I know], but the others are all new in my life. Only François [Delecour] might have done some. I’m very happy to be here.
 
Q:
Elfyn, a fantastic opportunity with a full WRC season ahead of you with M-Sport. How are you feeling ahead of one of the most challenging events on the Championship calendar?
EE:
I’m under no illusions this will be easy – I’ve got a lot to learn. For the first half of the year I’ve got to get experience and we’ll see then about the second half of the year. It’s important that I keep improving and I’ve got to show promise. 
 
Q:
This time last year you were here as weather crew for Ford. As you stood freezing on the mountainside could you have imagined that in just one year’s time you would be in a WRC car?
EE:
To be honest I never imagined this. Last year was a great development year and this is a fantastic opportunity to continue that development. I’m really looking forward to this challenge.
 
Q:
How has the pre-event testing been going? Do you feel you are adapting to the WRC car?
EE:
We had two good days of testing with good preparation and with the car we have done as much preparation as possible. I’ve done a lot of research into this event, but it’s a real lottery. The key for me is to get the experience and to get to the end of the event. 
 
Q:
You have an experienced ice note crew for this event, your father Gyndaf, former British Champion, and Phil Mills, who has competed eight times here alongside Petter Solberg. No doubt some great advice from both?
EE:
It does help the confidence and they are very experienced and they’ve worked hard over the Christmas period to get the best system. This is the first time for me using an ice note crew. We know what we’re aiming for and I hope it will all work out on the event.
 
Q:
Thierry, you begin 2014 with a brand new team at Hyundai. What are your initial thoughts on the car after testing? What is it like being part of the team?
TN:
It’s at the beginning. Everything is new. Hyundai started last year creating everything, then half way through the year they started developing the car. It’s all quite new, but for the last two months I drove the car and we developed in the good direction. The last test was good, it was nice and I enjoyed the car with a good feeling – but we know we are far from the top performance we are aiming for.
 
Q:
What’s the best thing for the car?
TN:
I still need to get more mileage with it. I drove it most on Tarmac, the chassis feels good. We can improve on every part. We are happy to be here and to have assembled the car early enough to start this rally. But now we have the season to develop the car and we hope to be competitive from the start of 2015.
 
Q:
Is it frustrating to come to a development year after being so competitive last season?
TN:
I did my choice; I knew it would be hard over the next years. I am developing the team and I know my pace is good and fast enough. There were no mistakes last year and now the hard work is coming on development. We will give our best, like in the past, and hope it comes together as quickly as possible.
 
Q:
You haven’t always enjoyed the best results on the Monte…
TN:
I was always a bit afraid in the past, but now it’s a completely new rally. The stages are different to Valence, it’s a nice rally and I look forward to it. But there are some big challenges: there’s some ice and some bumpy parts. We have all this rain in Monte, but who knows? Maybe it is snowing on the Col.
 
Q:
How is the atmosphere in the team?
TN:
There’s a lot of excitement. Everybody is happy to be here now, the engineers have all done an amazing job in a short time. You can see many people are tired at the end of last year but now it’s more work coming and I think we are all in good shape now and we can’t wait to start.
 
Q:
Kris, a full WRC season ahead with Citroën beckons. You are no stranger to Citroën after competing with them in the JWRC and a few events last year. What does it mean to you to be back full time in the WRC?
KM:
It’s great to get the opportunity to get the full season, it’s something I never had before. To start with a team which has so much experience, and to start in a good car is really great. In the last three or four years I have found myself in a position where I am doing the development and testing, so to step into a car which is ready to win rallies, it’s good. I have a lot of experience to gain and it’s very nice to have the full season to build that experience up.
 
Q:
Monte-Carlo was successful for you in the JWRC but not so later in your career. What can you do to change that?
KM:
Everybody knows this is a massive challenge. With the altitude, it’s hard to predict where the tricky places are. I’ve always enjoyed this rally though. My speed was never an issue and in Juniors I won here in 2005. And in 2009 and 2010 [IRC rounds] when I was driving for Peugeot, I had a good battle with Seb [Ogier] in those years. Unfortunately I didn’t make the finish. It’s always been a challenge, the stages around Gap are different to the ones closer to Valence – they are very technical and tricky. These stages will throw everything up, but we are the best prepared we possibly can be. 
 
Q:
What would you like to achieve this year?
KM:
I’ve been around a while, but I’ve never had this opportunity before. I need to finish rallies and then allow the speed to come through naturally rather than trying to force it. On the second half of the year I know the rallies a bit more and it would be nice to be fighting more consistently at the top then. But I have some learning to do first.
 
Q:
How was the pre-event testing? Do you feel you have fully adapted to the car now?
KM:
This is a fully-developed car and it’s shown it’s able to run at the front; that’s one of the best things about this team: I can learn so much. They know all about that car and that cuts down my learning. We’ve done three days’ testing for this event and learned a lot, but there’s but no substitute for doing rallies. We’re here to get started.
 
Q:
François, you won Monte-Carlo 20 years ago and we see you back in the Fiesta RS WRC now. What made you decide to compete again?
FD:
Physically, I am in good form, I make a lot of sport every day. Monte-Carlo is incredible, it’s such an important event for me. To be back and to do this event again is magical. I don’t know why it’s magical, but it is… when I was the young boy I would listen all the time to Radio Monte-Carlo. I am so happy to be back in the WRC with a good car. It’s a good challenge for me and I try to make a good result.
 
Q:
What result is possible?
FD:
I have done this rally 18 times and I know it. But, when the weather is like this, anything can happen: you can find some snow, and it’s easy to make a mistake on some ice. I didn't make a mistake in 18 times; maybe this will be the first… It’s a very difficult rally, you can be sure of this.
 
Q:
Have you had a chance to test pre-event?
FD:
I need to test, the young drivers are driving so fast! I know how it’s going. I did some test to learn the car. Two years ago I drove a completely different car in the [Peugeot] 207 [S2000]. I have done maybe 100 kilometres, it’s not enough but I am so happy to be here.
 
 
FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP
 
Present:
Robert Barrable 
Armin Kremer
Julien Maurin
 
Q:
Robert, back again in 2014 in the WRC 2 - we saw you compete last year, what is the aim in 2014?
RB:
Coming back to the World Championship this year is very important for us and to come to Monte-Carlo, I’m quite nervous. It’s very hard to determine what’s ice and what’s not. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m nervous though.
 
Q:
What do you think of the 50 kilometre stage?
RB:
It was a real mix of loads of different terrain. It was quite tight and twisty to start with. It’s down to the weather how it will affect it. I did ice notes last year and it really changed. It’ll be intense, but the plan is to get through with no problems.
 
Q:
Have you tested?
RB:
No, we had the gearbox rebuilt over the winter and didn’t do an extensive pre-event test. That’s probably why I’m a bit apprehensive – I just want to get to the end.
 
Q:
What do you feel you learned from last year that can help you this year?
RB:
I learned about the events and how to attack. It’s more of a tactical game, last year was good and I hope I can come back to it and capitalise on what we did.
 
Q:
Armin, you were second on this event last year in WRC 2, the Championship you return to this year. We however see you switch to the Fiesta R5 - have you tested with the car at all? What are your thoughts?
AK:
The feeling is very nice. It was 1997 when I started first and I finished my career in 2005. And it’s a big step coming with me and the car [since then]. I start with a new car after I drove the Subaru last year. I won the German Cup [last year], but now the car is really nice. I hope the technical standard is very nice – let’s see what we can do for the race.
 
Q:
Have you done some testing?
AK:
I did one day testing on Friday in dry conditions, we will see what we can do for the race.
 
Q:
How many kilometres?
AK:
100.
 
Q:
Do you feel confident?
AK:
Yes, it’s nice and easy to drive. There’s not so much power after the fifth gear… but that’s normal.
 
Q:
Will you do the whole season?
AK:
Not at the moment, we will look what we can do after this race.
 
Q:
What about the conditions?
AK:
Nobody can tell me what comes in the next days. We hope our ice crews make good notes for us then we can drive.
 
Q:
What would you prefer for the weather?
AK:
It’s Monte-Carlo, so we must look for the roads. Some snow might not be bad.
 
Q:
Julien, how are you feeling before this event?
JM:
I am a little bit confident, but it’s a difficult condition. I have done the event before.
 
Q:
What’s the secret of this event?
JM:
To go to the end you need to make the good choice of tyre and to be very concentrated. The conditions are very changeable – so to stay on the road at the finish is most important.
 
Q:
Julien your first year in the WRC 2 category - how much are you looking forward to the season ahead?
JM:
It’s very good. It’s good to be competing on the gravel and the asphalt.
 
Q:
What is your aim for this event and your strategy?
JM:
There is a lot of good driver and we need to learn and try to do good results. 
 
Q:
I have a question for all of you… which is the most difficult stage of the event?
RB:
I would take stage eight because on the recce it seemed to be the one with the most mixed conditions and changeable surface
AK:
The long one, that’s tough.
JM:
The long one is very difficult and also SS8 was a very slippery stage as well. 
 
 
FIA WRC 3 CHAMPIONSHIP
 
Present:
Quentin Gilbert
 
Q:
How do you feel ahead of the event Quentin?
QG:
Good. I am happy to be here and start. Last year was a very good season for me. I was second in the Citroën Top Driver and WRC 3, but this year I hope to win the Championship and it’s for that I start Monte-Carlo. This is my first Monte and it will be difficult in the conditions. I am happy.
 
Q:
How confident do you feel ahead of this event? Have you tested at all?
QG:
Yes, last month at home. I had a good test. We have tested the different tyres. It was a good day testing for us.
 
Q:
You changed your co-driver from last year, is that working well?
QG:
Yes, it’s a good relation. It’s good for me, he is a good co-driver.
 
Q:
How was the recce?
QG:
It will be difficult stages. It’s a very difficult rally – there are a lot of changes. It will be tough, but we will see.