26.06.14

LOTOS Rally Poland

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
LOTOS RALLY POLAND
 
Pre-event Press Conference
Thursday 26 June
 
Present:
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Motorsport
Robert Kubica, RK M-Sport World Rally Team
Kris Meeke, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Juho Hänninen, Hyundai Motorsport
Krzysztof Hołowczyc, Lotto Team
 
Q:
Jari-Matti, you are currently second in the Championship, 33 points behind team-mate Sébastien Ogier. You have had a strong first half of the season, can you continue to improve on your performance?
J-ML:
It’s been a very good season apart from Portugal. That was disappointing for me. I started to attack when I should not have. It is fine. I cannot change that and we lost the points. We came back in Argentina and the last rally was good, but we hit a rock after I lost some focus and we lost some Championship points. Saying that, the Championship is still open. 
 
Q:
You competed here in 2009, but it did not end well. How do you feel about coming back here and is now the opportunity to right the wrongs of that event?
J-ML:
2009 was the worst moment in my rally career. I hope to wipe away that memory in this rally. The only nice moment was when I was crying on the side of the road. It did not look so good, but a group of photographers started clapping their hands. That was a nice moment to see them showing their support. I have the feeling that my motivation is high and I want to look forward not backwards. I think this rally will be different to the last few events. Sardinia and Argentina were more technical and here we are with fast flowing roads. Normally fast roads suit me but lately I have been better on technical roads. I hope that I get a feeling for it. Shakedown was a good feeling and I hope to carry that on. I need to be confident and the result will come. I try to keep the good feeling. 
 
Q:
What is your impression of the stages? 
J-ML:
For me the roads are close to Estonia. I have taken part in some historic rallies there. The surface can be soft and sandy like Argentina, but the character is also like Finland, fast and flowing. There are more open areas in fields and not forests like Finland. You have a combination of wide roads and narrow roads. In Finland it is more flowing and the rhythm changes there. Also, you get longer straights here than in Finland. 
 
Q:
Robert, Rally Poland marks the home event for you - are you feeling any extra pressure because of that fact?
RK:
To be honest, it is the same as all other rallies this year. For me the rally is different to last year. These are brand new stages for me. It is different to previous events and I need to get used to these fast stages.  There are a lot of Polish fans and that is nice to see. We do not have so much time to spend with them, as they appreciate our free time, but it is always nice to see people cheering for you. Krzysztof and other Polish crews are also here for the local spectators. 
 
Q:
Does the same approach continue here; focusing on consistency?
RK:
My approach is the same as any rally. The final result is better without mistakes. It is impossible to prepare. I am fighting guys like Seb (Ogier) or Jari-Matti who have so much experience. If you bring these guys to an F1 race it would be different for them. For 20 years I have been on a race circuit. Jari-Matti said that he did historic rallies in Estonia but, 14 years ago I was karting and making a career driving in a different sport. He was rallying.  Now I change to rallies and I hope to get better and better. Sardinia was a good point of the season for me on gravel. Coming from Argentina and Mexico was difficult, but I am getting better and better on gravel stages and enjoying the stages. Last year, and at the beginning of this year, I had so many doubts on braking marks and lines and now I enjoy. Pushing the car to a limit is enjoyable with experience and knowledge. Until now, I was not enjoying it. If the pace notes are working well in some places, then we will see. 
 
Q:
Kris, you were not here in 2009 but you have competed in Poland previously in a C2 R2, winning the two-wheel drive category back in 2006. This weekend it’s a different prospect - what are your thoughts on the weekend ahead?
KM:
I was very young then (joking) and still young now. I came in 2006. It was the first event for the C2 R2 front-wheel drive car. It was great to drive these cars on fast roads and good dependence. It went well and we won the class and have good memories from that. On this rally my feeling is the roads are so fast and you need to feel confident and have a sixth sense for the high-speed sections. Shakedown felt good and we tested last weekend and it was very useful. It was a working test where we had rain on the second day and the surface cut up quite badly. Some narrow sections can cut up on this rally so we need to be comfortable for the second pass. We will see when we arrive for the second pass. The second stage in Lithuania could be soft and some forest sections here (Poland) may be the same. All the front-wheel drive cars are behind. With 80 or 90 cars on the rally, it could be quite soft. 
 
Q:
What is the objective here for you? 
KM:
Argentina was good after day one and then we consolidated for two days. Sardinia was good day one and then we had the alternator problems and ran first on the road for two days. It was impossible to try and move up. It is important here to get a good feeling for a high speed rally. 
 
Q:
Juho, we saw you in Rally Italia and you led the rally briefly before an off forced your retirement - how are you feeling ahead of this event?
JH:
For sure, this morning the first driving after the accident in Sardinia I was a bit nervous. The road was quite fast and I try to get a better feeling. We will see tonight on the stages. They are very fast. 
 
Q:
What is the strategy for this event?
JH:
There is bit of everything, fast and wide sections and, at the same time, forest tracks that are narrow and still fast. Finding the good line is important. Okay, the test went quite well. It was good for the set-up and to get more experience. It is a bit different to the other rallies and maybe we will try something different on the second runs. 
 
Q:
Krzysztof, great to see you back here at Rally Poland, how are you feeling about the weekend ahead?
KH:
It is Important to be here for the spectators and the people who love motor sport in Poland. For the last five or seven years, I have been a cross-country driver. One time a year I get to drive another faster car. My WRC experience was five years ago. My focus now is the Fiesta, it is so exciting to be here. There are good drivers - flying. In my opinion I need to be on my limit and stay on the road. That is not so easy here. The rally will be fantastic. I am here and will try to do my best. 
 
Q:
You have won this event multiple times and were sixth overall in 2009 with the Ford Focus. What are your thoughts on the car?
KH:
There is fantastic traction and a different engine. Last time I had a 2.0-litre and it was easier to drive. Now I need to keep the revs in a good place to keep the speed. In this car you need proper experience. I only did one small rally of 60 kilometres and 30 kilometres as a test. It will not be easy. This year’s event has a combination of stages from other years and new ones. The older ones are easier for me to drive, but the ones in the north of Poland and in Lithuania will be completely new. They are a combination of fast roads, narrow and jumps and sixth gear and high revs!
 
Q:
What are your motorsport plans for the foreseeable future?
KH:
My cross-country programme is the plan. I have a rally in Spain and some other rallies and then we carry on the preparations for Dakar. The team is testing our cars in Morocco and we are testing new things on the Mini. 
 
QUESTIONS FRON THE FLOOR:
 
Marco Giordo 
Autosprint (Italy)
 
Q:
Robert Kubica, what will you do next year?
RK:
I will hopefully be competing somewhere. That is all I can say. You never know in your life, we will see. I have not made my mind up. It is very early. 
 
 
FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP
 
Present:
Karl Kruuda
Jari Ketomaa
 
Q:
Karl, we have already seen one win from you this season in Sweden; looking back on your events so far have you been happy with the first half of the year?
KK:
I was more confident before the event, but that was before I saw the stages. They are not what I expected. They are much faster and more tricky and the rain has not made it easy. It would be nice to win another event, but it is not easy. A podium would be perfect for me.
 
Q:
What are your thoughts on the stages here at Rally Poland?
KK:
You can touch the outer banks but there is not much room to make a mistake. Some stages are very fast and straight. There are quite a few corners and you can push in places where you can. The car is fantastic. I managed to get a better set-up for my driving style. 
 
Q:
Do you feel you can challenge for the win here? What will the strategy be?
KK:
If the competition is not strong there is nothing to fight for. It is possible to fight for the top of the podium. I will try everything I can to do it. If I can reach the end of the year on the podium, I will be extremely happy. A win is a bonus. 
 
Q:
Jari, the FIA WRC 2 Championship is shaping up to be a really great battle for the title. We have seen you scoop two second positions this year so far - how are you feeling about your chances here in Poland for the win?
JK:
For sure, there is strong competition and many good drivers who are always on the pace. It will be a good fight, but it will be hard to win in WRC 2.
 
Q:
What are the biggest challenges facing you on this event?
JK:
These are very fast stages, like Karl said, and few corners where you have to attack. If you want to win it is a case of high speed everywhere. It will be a close battle in all categories for people who want to win this. I am enjoying it. The roads are similar to events in Latvia and Estonia that I know quite well. We go for it when we feel confident. I think on every stage you need to be good. You need to run well on all four days. A problem on Friday makes it difficult to catch it up on Saturday. You need to go as fast as you can and as well as you can. I need to drive fast and see where we end on Sunday. The tyres will be perfect and we should not face a lot of punctures because there are not many rocks on the road. Tyre wear will be minimal. It is not an issue.
 
 
FIA JUNIOR WRC CHAMPIONSHIP
 
Present:
Martin Koči
Aron Domzała
 
Q:
Martin, you are third in the Junior WRC after the first round in Portugal, thoughts ahead of this event?
MK:
It is great. The roads are very fast and I like it and will enjoy it. I like the stages. This is my second year in Junior. It is not so easy to win in the first year. But we continue to improve. The DS3 is a great car and we will fight for a podium. They (stages) are quite different in Lithuania. They can also be very funny. It will be interesting. But, no-one knows who will be the fastest, we have not been before. 
 
Q:
What is your career history?
MK:
My father was professional in the European Rally Championship and helped me to try it. I started when I was six with smaller cars and circuit racing and then, when I was 16 and I got my driving license, I began the proper rally. 
 
Q:
This is a home event for you. How does it feel to compete on home stages? What about your preparations and testing?
AD:
Super. We had a two-day test and it was quite good with good weather conditions. On the second day we had heavy rain, but I managed to find a good set-up. I like the car very much. I don’t have high expectations, but if we finish without SupeRally (Rally 2) it will be a success. This is only my fourth year.