ERC - Rally Liepaja pre-event press conference | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

ERC - Rally Liepaja pre-event press conference

15.08.20

2020 Rally Liepaja - Pre-event press conference transcript

Rally Liepāja, FIA European Rally Championship Round 2 of 6 Liepāja Olympic Centre, 20h00, 14 August 2020 (streamed live on Facebook)

In attendance:
Nikolay Gryazin
Emil Lindholm, Team MRF Tyres
Alexey Lukyanuk, Saintéloc Junior Team
Mads Østberg, PH Sport
Mārtiņš Sesks
Oliver Solberg

Q:
Your first time in Liepāja this weekend Emil, what are your hopes and targets?

EL:

Yeah, first time. The roads remind us a bit of our roads back in Finland and it looks good so far. The target is definitely to get through the rally and to see how our MRF tyre performs, to get valuable data, to get info and to develop it further. I think we have a fair chance of getting into the top five but tomorrow will show.

Q:
You performed well in Rome but how are the tyres coming along because they must have more experience on gravel than they do on Tarmac?

EL:
This is definitely true and, already, qualifying showed already that the tyre is quite good on gravel. Honestly, the development has been super-fast and I’m so delighted to see this because this is only the second rally I am doing with the gravel tyre and, already, it’s showing this kind of pace. The development is really speeding along and I’m sure there’s much more to come.

Q:
You’ve been busy, Rome, another rally in Italy on gravel, which you nearly won, what was that like?

EL:
That was a great rally. I’ve said the roads here are nice but they were as well in Arezzo. It was a close one and we really were in for the win until the last stage when we had a technical issue forced us to retire before the last stage, which was a shame but that’s rally and this is a new weekend.

Q:
Turning to Oliver Solberg, back in Liepāja where you won last year. Ott Tänak always tells me you’ve got to at least match your performance from the previous year so what is your target?

OS:
No pressure, thank you! It’s just fun to be back driving on these fast gravel roads again, it’s been a long time now so it’s really cool. First time in the recce I forgot how fast these roads really are so it’s good fun to be back.

Q:
You had a good run on the Qualifying Stage, second fastest but you seemed surprised by your time?

OS:
I said to my co-driver, ‘wow, what a good time from Østberg’, he did a 2m12 or something, wow that was a good time but I didn’t understand it was my time because my co-driver [Aaron Johnston] took a different time. I thought he’d beaten me by a second so I wasn’t so happy but then I saw it was my time!

Q:
How pleased were you with your podium in Rome?

OS:
Definitely, I was very happy. Rome was my first time on [pure] Tarmac and I was coming with no expectations at all. But managing to do the times that I did I was very happy and it was great fun to do those times on a Tarmac event, it was really good.

Q:
We saw your closest rival last year, Alexey Lukyanuk, was down in ninth after the Qualifying Stage so how competitive will it be between you all?

OS:
It’s definitely really close and I think there was definitely some road cleaning between the R2s and the [Qualifying Stage] so I think he had a disadvantage. But otherwise I think it will be very close and tomorrow will be flat out.

Q:
A question from Mikołaj Sobol from Rallypl.com, you are high up in the standings after Rome so what is the plan, is it to continue in the ERC and put a championship campaign together?

OS:
We will see what happens. We are very good in the championship now and we just try to stay consistent this weekend and do hopefully a podium. If it goes well and the plan goes together then hopefully we will do more ERC.

Q:
Turning to Mārtiņš Sesks, the home-town hero. Third in 2019 but obviously in a different car and in a different category. But for this year what are the hopes?

MS:
Well this helps to get us ready for Rally Estonia, it’s very good preparation here to drive alongside Ken Torn and the others who are here from ERC, some very fast guys so it will be aa very fast weekend with some nice battles.

Q:
We see everyone arrive in Liepāja for the rally but how strange is it or how cool is it to actually be having the rally in your hometown, staying in your own bed and going to the places you do in your everyday life?

MS:
Well it is a bit strange, it’s kind of a little bit harder to prepare for the race because normally you arrive three or four days before the recce and you have a flight and a hotel before and you get quite well prepared. Now I’m at home it’s like it’s Rally Liepāja but I still have things to do here so it’s quite a busy week.

Q:
What has been going on in your world during lockdown?

MS:
Well we had some good test kilometres since Sweden and we also won two national rallies in Lithuania so kind of prepare for this one as a big event and this will be our final preparation before Estonia.

Q:
Turning to Alexey Lukyanuk, championship leader after one of the best drives of your career in Rome. How are you feeling coming into Liepāja?

AL:
After the qualifying not really fantastic to be honest. It was not the start we were hoping for. Actually, finishing the qualifying I thought we were quite okay, I believe at my maximum but it looks like small things delayed us on the way, like being first on the road after the two-wheel-drive cars. It looks really strange and frustrating but I think it’s the worst qualifying of my career.

Q:
It was on this event in 2013 that you first came to prominence but you’ve never won here so what do you think is kind of missing?

AL:
I’ve never estimated it in that way actually. You cannot win every rally and I was never focusing on doing something extra here, I’m just trying to deliver my maximum. A lot of things in the way all the time and I don’t care about not winning to be honest.

Q:
You went on a walking holiday after winning in Rome to clear your mind for this rally, what was that like and is it true you had a challenging trip getting here?

AL:
Yes, it’s true and I actually had some doubts we could make our way to the rally. At some point I thought if we get to the rally then already it’s a small win and it was a big relief when we finally made it to this location. It was not so easy to switch from hiking in the mountains to managing all things for the rally but we are here and that’s the most important thing.

Q:
You’ve probably never started that high up on the road before unintentionally. How demanding is it going to be with a lot of very competitive drivers around you?

AL:
I believe it will be challenging and demanding. The idea is to have maximum fun because in our situation we cannot really do much starting seventh on the road. On the gravel like that it matters a lot. I will try to have some fun.

Q:
Turning to Mads Østberg, we’ve seen you in the ERC before but what is the main target for you being here?

MØ:
Well the main target is obviously to prepare for Rally Estonia. Of course, everything was decided a bit late and we only knew for a week before we came here that we were doing the event. It’s part of our preparation for Estonia but of course it’s nice to be back in Latvia. I have actually been here eight years ago to compete in the national championship so it’s nice to be back.

Q:
The stages then were in the Talsi region and they’re very different to the stages around Liepāja. Can you give us an insight into what we will see this weekend?

MØ:
Of course, all the stages have a big variation of speed and that’s what surprised me maybe the most because I was expecting these fast and wide roads everywhere. But it seems there are a lot of narrow, twisty and flowing roads as well, which I am happy to see because I think we will have more of that in Estonia so it makes the preparation even better for us. For sure it’s challenging to switch the speed so many times. You do a junction, you are out on the wide and fast road for maybe six kilometres, just flat out all the time, you do a junction and then you are on a narrow road so it will be a big variation of speed.

Q:
Do you feel you come here as a favourite with all your world championship experience – is there a little target on your back?

MØ:
It could be of course but we have to be realistic as well. There are a lot of drivers here with experience of the event and also with the championship. I haven’t really driven a car in six months. I’ve had one day of testing and most of the cars here have been driving or testing for three or four weeks now. I’m a bit down at the moment but I am improving step by step and it’s basically why I am here, I want to build my speed and my confidence but of course when I start an event I focus on the times as well.

Q:
Turning to Nikolay Gryazin, fastest on the Qualifying Stage, a two-time winner here, what kind of emotions does this rally bring to you?

NG:
It’s nice to be back and also in the ERC, it’s nice to come back. Liepāja for me was always a tough challenge because in 2017 I was really sick. After the qualification and it was really difficult to drive against [Kalle] Rovanperä, but we did it and in 2018 it was more mental problems because we were competing for the ERC1 Junior Championship and it was also difficult. Now I don’t have any standings in ERC to worry about so I can just enjoy my rally and enjoy myself. About the qualification it was okay. I still feel like I am not in the best shape with this new car but I am getting better and better and I hope this rally will be good preparation for Rally Estonia. Okay, Estonia is more slower with more jumps, here you can increase your bravery in the fast sections. In the narrow sections I don’t think about Estonia too much but it’s quite a tricky one, it’s really fast. Also, the simulator time at my home has helped me to gain all this experience with driving style and stuff. On the test I did 50 kilometres but I did a rally in Lithuania but the games are helping me a lot.

Q:
You have a different co-driver for this event in Konstantin Aleksandrov. How is that partnership coming along?

NG:
It’s very good. He lives near me in Riga so have been chilling together and we have the possibility to drive together on the simulators. We are making the pacenotes, playing a lot to make our pacenotes. As I said before it’s not too strange to hear his voice in the intercom because we have spent a lot of time together.

Q:
Latvia is like a second home to you, you now live of course, but you drove for SRT, the big team from Latvia, so does it give you a bit of advantage the fact you have been based here for so long?

NG:
I can say a little advantage because I started my career in Latvia and I can say I understand the surface. I can’t say I remember all the stages because this rally for sure is in the opposite direction. But to have the knowledge of the surface is the most important thing for this rally.

ENDS