WRC - Rallye Monte-Carlo - Pre-event press conference transcript | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - Rallye Monte-Carlo - Pre-event press conference transcript

  • gb
20.01.22

Transcript of the pre-event press conference organised by the FIA for the 2021 Rallye Monte-Carlo on January 20, 2022.

2022 WRC - Rallye Monte-Carlo - Pre-event FIA press conference - Sébastien Ogier and Sébastien Loeb

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team – Sébastien Ogier (FRA), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team – Thierry Neuville (BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally1
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team – Sébastien Loeb (FRA), Ford Puma Rally1

Q:
Our reigning champion Sébastien Ogier, a brand new era is beginning for the WRC, you’ve had more opportunities to test in the past weeks, what are your thoughts on the car? What do you expect?
SO:
It’s more open than ever. Everybody is looking for answers and the first one will come this weekend only. We have been testing, a little bit, not so much personally, but the team a little bit more. The team is always feeling they are not ready when you start a new era and they would always like more testing. It’s interesting, but it’s open at the moment to know where we are in terms of performance. For sure the car is different from before and for sure we have to expect they a bit slower – even though at some point we have this extra boost from the hybrid. Generally, we will be a bit slower than we have been in the last year at the moment, but I’m pretty sure this will improve quickly. It’s always a new challenge for the drivers and for the team. Maybe we have to adapt somehow the driving style. This weekend nobody is really ready and maybe the one that is able to adapt quicker than the others is going to make the difference.

Q:
In terms of percentage, out of 100, how much do you need to adapt and how much does it change?
SO:
It’s difficult to put numbers like this. Of course it’s different. The cars are more understeer and heavier, heating quote more the tyres than they used to do. Let’s see. So far in my career when I had a new car I won events, so I shouldn’t be afraid of going into the new era – especially with no championship pressure. But, of course, this is Monte Carlo and I still want to do well for me and the team.

 
Q:
How many kilometres have you done in testing?
SO:
I have done three days in December and one more in January, well one was cut in half because I crash. We have seen a lot of crashes in the new cars. I hope this will not be the case this weekend.

Q:
These are the safest rally cars you’ll ever get into?
SO:
More than the performance, of course the drivers are always looking for driving and performance and to have fun, to make the fun in safest environment possible. Danger is always present, but it’s nice to see the FIA and everybody is doing all it can to improve the safety.
 
Q:
Thierry, how adaptable are you? Are you used to the new car?
TN:
Like Séb said, it’s difficult to know how ready we are. I’m not afraid of the change, we have some decent mileage in the car and we were able to improve the feeling. There are so many new things, the car, the technology and the characteristics of the stages. And the weather looks drier than any I have seen. The days are long with no service, I hope we don’t have to be mechanics too much and we can enjoy.

Q:
How much testing have you done in the dry?
TN:
I think I am the only driver who has not driven on snow with the new car. We had a test session with snow, but there was too much [snow] so I skipped my day and I use that day for one more session on good conditions. At the end I don’t think this will be a disadvantage because I think the conditions will be quite stable. I think the conditions will be much drier than we saw in the past. We have done what we could, it was busy, but we have managed quite well and we are as much looking forward as anybody.

Q:
How difficult will it be losing the centre differential and some of the aero changes?
TN:
It felt OK in testing, but once you get to the stages with different surfaces, we’ll see more. We didn’t drive properly in the snow with the spiked tyres. It’s hard to say. We adapted to the car before with the active differential and you could adjust the car to your style. [Now] We have to make a changes to the diff ramps for the whole season and make a decision across three drivers. There is more compromise, but it’s the job of the driver to make it work.
 
Q:
Séb, firstly, congratulations on your result at the Dakar Rally. Many people who competed there, would now be sleeping for a few weeks, but here you are! Firstly, how are you feeling ahead of the event and how successful was the test at the weekend?
SL:
I am fresh. No problem. When Dakar is going well, in the middle of the afternoon you are back at the service park – I had quite a good Dakar. I didn’t sleep in the dunes, I was in the bed every evening. I’m not tired, just trying to switch to something different.
 
Q:
What are you thoughts on the Puma and the switch to the hybrid system? How complex has it been to get to grips it?
SL:
The car is quite powerful. Séb and Thierry said everything about it already. We have more power for a short time, but the [full] power is not so consistent. You have to anticipate when you need the power. It’s a bit heavier and we lose the central diff and manual shifting again. I don’t know will it be faster or slower, but the feeling with the car is quite good. The balance is quite good, we have a bit of understeer in the slow corner. I’m happy to be here.

Q:
Have you seen the conditions like this?
SL:
So dry… I don’t think. I don’t remember to do Turini full dry with no snow even at the side of the road. It’s like a Tarmac rally with soft tyres.

Q:
Will you do more events?
SL:
I have no idea. Potentially. We only speak about one, we will speak about more rallies and this and that later. It was too complex to put together all [the programme] in one time, the rest we discuss later.

Q:
Do you want to do more?
SL:
Yes, but I don’t know what I will do on the side. I will so Extreme E and maybe [World Rally-Raid Championship] and I don’t want to do 15 races, we have to find a compromise.

Questions from the floor:
 
Maxime Malet, L’Equipe (FRA)

Can you tell us more about your new co-driver? Why did you pick them? What are their main qualities? And how things went during recce?
SL:
It’s the co-driver, except Daniel [Elena] I drove with the most. There were a few tests when Daniel did not come to the test session and she was driving with me. She knows my notes, I was used to having her with me – I didn’t look anywhere else. She is passioned about the rally and she is a friend of mine and I knew she would be happy to come with me.
SO:
It’s a similar story: he tested most with me in the last years and when Julien [Ingrassia] decided to stop, his was the first name to come to my mind. It’s a different job from test to race. He is stepping up and I can see the pressure on him a little bit – I see that and I try to relax him, the best way to do your job is not to think too much about [the pressure].

Joost Custers, Autosportwereld.be (BEL)

Q:
Sisteron is the only stage with snow and ice – gamble for the tyres?
TN:
Séb can tell us his choice!
SO:
It’s always difficult to talk about the tyre choice, but it’s pretty clear for this stage we need something else than slick tyres, but we also need to see what happens: some of the snow can disappear partly. As well as that this stage is linked to two dry stages, so I think we can say all of us will have four slick tyres on the car somewhere!

Marco Giordo, Autosprint (ITA)

Q:
Séb Ogier, any news on your WRC programme?
SO:
Pretty soon I would say. At the beginning of February you will hear some announcement from my circuit programme and then I will be able to share a little bit more on my rally programme.


FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Toksport WRT – Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), Škoda Fabia Rally2
PH Sport – Yohan Rossel (FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2
Saintéloc Junior Team – Eric Camilli (FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2

Q:
Eric, what are your thoughts on the conditions?
EC:
There is no snow, it’s nearly dry – but still this is the Monte Carlo Rally and still there is some ice parts. If you take the slick and find the black ice, it will be very, very slippery – you have to be careful, but still it’s like a sprint.

Q:
What will be your approach?
EC:
First I try to get points, but if you want to fight for the title then you need to win some rallies. The level, especially this year and last year, is very, very high in WRC2 and you have to push hard from the first to the last kilometre.

Q:
What have you done in the lead up to the start?
EC:
As usual, like many drivers, I do sport and try to make the recce well. You can see in WRC2, you can win by one second in each rally. On every rally the pacenotes have to be the perfect ones and to avoid the puncture, we have to have every detail with the team and the car – the preparation, I don’t want to say it’s like WRC, but you have to be close.

Q:
Andreas, you are our reigning WRC2 champion back for more with Toksport this year. How are you feeling heading into this season? The defence of the win here will be tough with an impressive field, with already two previous winners beside you!
AM:
It’s a completely different rally from last year – some new stages, but the most change is with the condition. It will be nearly all dry and like a normal asphalt rally. This thing about starting with a difficult rally with the anticipation of all the changing conditions, I don’t think we will feel that the same. It’s a bit of a shame, I like these tough conditions. The stages are beautiful though. I’m excited to see the hybrid cars and with the conditions like this, we can judge the pace [of the Rally1 cars] on a pure Tarmac rally.
 
Q:
It’s still a challenge though…
AM:
Yes. Starting with the two tricky stages in the dark, the first one is quite narrow – it’s a long time since we have done that one. I’m looking forward, I think we have a nice weekend ahead of us.

Q:
It will be a big fight in WRC2?
AM:
Yeah! We are many drivers who want to fight at the top. The three of us have a good chance, but there are others who want to give everything. It’s really important to score points from every rally when we have so few [events]. You want to be on the pace and, of course, you want to win this historical event.

Q:
We welcome our reigning WRC3 champion and winner of Monte last year within that category. Yohan, its WRC2 this year and some super strong competition - how confident are you feeling?
YR:
I am happy to be here and starting a full programme. I don’t know the result, but we need to go for one step and then another this year. It’s very important to compete with the guys sitting next to me. I don’t know on the result, we need to go on one rally and one rally and see.

Q:
What do you think of the route?
YR:
Honestly, it’s a completely different rally. It’s not easy. The weather is strange. It’s asphalt, but not normal asphalt – the temperature is very low. Tomorrow you start the championship in Turini. I know this stage from French championship when the stage is completely dry, but now it’s very different and difficult.


FIA WRC3 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Sami Pajari (FIN), Ford Fiesta Rally3
Jan Černý (CZE), Ford Fiesta Rally3

Q:
Jan, we saw you here last in 2010 in the IRC! You’re here with the Fiesta Rally3, firstly tell me about the car - how does it feel, how much testing have you done?
JC:
I’m so happy to be back, it’s incredible. I wait this moment for eight years. The last years I drove only Czech events with the R5 or Rally2 cars now we are a little bit down with the car. It will be really difficult for me, after seven years in Czech Championship to be back in WRC it will be tough – and for my co-driver it’s his first time in WRC. It’s like a dream for him.

Q:
Surprised at how dry the conditions are?
JC:
Very. I prefer more snow and ice. This is how it is. The stages are incredible with a lot of difficult parts. I’m happy for the weather and the spectators and the team! The stages are really nice.

Q:
Will you do a full season, Jan?
JC:
I don’t know. I want to do the whole WRC3, we will hopefully be in Sardinia, but we have to see if we can find the budget.

Q:
Sami, you are the reigning Junior WRC champion from 2021 and this your first Rallye Monte-Carlo, do you feel ready/nervous/confident?
SP:
It’s nice to be here. This is an iconic rally, it’s my first time and I know it will be a huge challenge, but one that I’m very excited about. It’s not part of the [JWRC] championship, so I try to focus on one rally and not take any pressure.

Q:
What have you been doing to prepare yourself? What are your thoughts on the stages? How much of a challenge will it be?
SP:
We made some basic pre-event testing, three days. We tried to find all the different conditions, but it’s not so easy to train for this rally – you never know what it will be like. I hope we prepared well.
Q:
And what about your programme this year?
SP:
Of course we are paying full attention on WRC and try to do as many rallies as we can. So far we don’t choose the main thing about the [JWRC] prize, we will choose after this rally. It’s nice to have some small experience from Rally3 so we can be wise.

Q:
How was the recce – many surprises?
SP:
More or less as I imagine, maybe I expect more ice and snow like everybody said, but, OK, it can still change a little bit. It won’t be an easy rally.


FIA RGT CUP

Present:
François Delecour (FRA), Alpine A110 RGT
Manu Guigou (FRA), Alpine A110 RGT

Q:
The 90th edition of Rallye Monte Carlo and you return to compete in the RGT class, what are your thoughts on this year’s route conditions?
FD:
I have no idea! For sure I have big experience in Monte Carlo and for the R-GT situation, I won here five years ago with the Porsche. But Monte Carlo is always a complicated race and difficult rally. I have no idea on the tyre choice, especially the situation for Sisteron, where we have six kilometres of ice approximately. I am so happy to be here in Monte Carlo again.

Q:
Is that the only place with snow?
FD:
It’s one stage which will be difficult with the snow, at the moment – and it’s only six kilometres of snow and ice from 20 or 22km. Sisteron will be difficult for the two-wheel drive cars because we have only one spare wheel, compared to two [spares] for four-wheel drive [cars]. I don’t know what’s going on in the stage before – it’s sure we need at least snow or stud tyre in Sisteron.

Q:
Are you feeling confident?
FD:
I know very well Monte Carlo and I have done nearly all the stages this year. I have been everywhere, but I don’t like so much Turini this way. Going down tomorrow night and in Moulinet, it could be humid, I don’t like so much. I have done 21 or 22 times – starting with the [Talbot] Samba Rallye, with no studs. This was in 1984, it was so difficult on the snow.

Q:
Will you do the whole season?
FD:
We try. Normally the situation is good. I try to find the full budget.

Q:
This will be your 23rd competitive outing on Rallye Monte-Carlo, is the win in 1994 the best memory?
FD:
For sure 1991 was great, everybody remembered that. But in 1987, with the [Peugeot] 205, the route was completely full of snow. The Col de Madone behind Monte Carlo was full of ice and the motorway and everything was blocked. In the Ardeche we have a two-metre snow wall, it was great, fantastic. In 1984 with the Samba and no studs, it was terrible. I have so many memories.

Q:
Manu, you were last year’s R-GT category winner, how tough will it be to give a repeat performance this year?
MG:
For me, Monte Carlo is a really difficult rally. You have a lot of ice and some changes on the road: ice and dry and it’s wet too. This year it’s maybe easier than last year. Last year near Gap, we had a lot of tough mud, we had snow and ice. This year, as François [Delecour] said, we have only six kilometres in Sisteron-Thoard. It can be easier, but I think Monte Carlo is not so easy, you have a lot of salt. You do the recce in the first and second stage, downhill it was slippery with salt. It’s a difficult rally.

Q:
Even without the conditions, this is a difficult rally…
MG:
We have only two-wheel drive and only one spare wheel. It could be difficult on Saturday morning: two first stages are dry and we have Thoard which is very slippery.

Q:
And you will do the full season?
MG:
Yes. I try to do all the season as last year. it’s a good championship. We have nice rallies in Italy and Catalunya. I hope François could do the same thing with me and we can fight all of the season.
Questions from the floor:

Joost Custers, Autosportwereld.be (BEL)
Q:
François, have you ever seen such sunny and dry conditions?
FD:
Maybe 1989 with the 309, not completely dry, but a little bit like this. Maybe one or two times. Dry like that… maybe the first time.