Rallye Monte-Carlo - FIA Press Conference | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
This page contains archived information and may not display perfectly

Rallye Monte-Carlo - FIA Press Conference

20.01.16.
Summary of the pre-event Press Conference organised by the FIA for the 2016 Rallye Monte-Carlo, where Kris Meeke was fastest during the shakedown

Present:
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Motorsport
Eric Camilli, M-Sport World Rally Team
Thierry Neuville, Hyundai Motorsport
Kris Meeke, Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team

Q:
Sébastien, the title defense begins again for you right here in Gap, your home town. How is your motivation ahead of the season start?
SO:
It’s always a great feeling to start with Monte Carlo, even if it almost feels too early; the break between last season and the celebration of becoming world champion is too short before it’s time to restart another season. Of course, I am very excited to be here again, this is a very special event and all the drivers have a lot of respect for this rally. Before you fight with the other drivers, you must first fight and survive the conditions. To be competing before so many fans, I enjoy a lot. It’s a long week with a bit more pressure – physically it’s harder. But at least I am just out from holiday, should I be able to make it!

Q:
Does the challenge of Monte Carlo ease with the years of experience?
SO:
I don’t think so! Experience helps generally in rallying. But it’s very important in Monte Carlo. Even in the test you cannot face every condition. I can count experience from the last editions, which have been pretty good for me with two victories. I know it will be tricky, it’s never easy with the tyre choice and it’s no surprise to say that’s one of the keys here. If we make no mistakes here (on the tyre choice) or behind the wheel then it can be good.

Q:
A couple of years ago, your father was very angry with your tyre choice…
SO:
He told me, how could you be so stupid! I will not make that mistake again to take just one spare and be so aggressive. I would never do that anymore, not unless we have some very unusual, easy conditions. We have quite a bit of snow in the recce. If nothing more comes out of the sky, I don’t think there will be much more on the rally, but there are lots of icy parts with a tricky start. Yes, tricky conditions.

Q:
What did you learn last year that will help you this season?
SO:
I think as long as you learn, you improve. If you stop learning then you don’t go in the right direction and you don’t stay stable, you go down. We talk about the experience, already; for my car, my team, my co-driver, we learn a lot, but one of the parts where I am stronger is that I have much less pressure on my shoulders. Whatever happens, I have become world champion and I have achieved the dream, even more than once. I don’t say I have this in the pocket and I don’t care about the result, that’s not true. I still enjoy the chance to drive those fantastic cars and with the relaxed feeling, I hope I can make another good performance again.

Q:
We have a new Hyundai here, do you want more drivers to make a closer fight?
SO:
I always say I am excited to have as many people fighting and I am impassioned to see what they have done, I just hope it’s not too much! It’s good to have strong competition, last year the competition was not bad. OK we took the title early, but look at the rallies: I have to give a lot. I said a few times now I think last year was my best season ever, it was the best result I ever produce and it’s not going to be easy to recreate that, but this is my goal.

Q:
Eric, a huge opportunity and challenge awaits you as you begin the 2016 season. You told me it was a ‘dream’ to be in a WRC car with a manufacturer, how does the reality feel so far?
EC:
I am not nervous, I have no pressure. I am here to learn this year. It’s a big opportunity for me. I only started rallying three years ago, now I am here: the dream has come true. I am looking forward to tomorrow, that’s all.

Q:
You have visited M-Sport in the UK, what did you think? What is your opinion of the team so far?
EC:
We have a good relationship. I want to do my best and my maximum, it’s on my hands with my co-driver and my engineer. I am ready, I hope. You always have pressure, it’s a competition, but I have time to learn and I don’t have to prove my maximum speed in this first event. [I will] Take pleasure and stay competitive, I am like that. I have time.

Q:
What have you been doing to prepare for this event? How was testing? What do you think of the car?
EC:
Testing went very well. It was possible to push quickly and set the car. I know my level is not the same, I want to stay feet on the ground and do rally after rally – we will see after.

Q:
How is the relationship so far with your new co-driver Nicolas Klinger?
EC:
It’s good. He’s an old friend. The relationship is very, very good – he has a lot of experience and we have a good synergy in the car. We’ll see how it goes after this first rally! No, no problem with that.

Q:
What is your aim for the 2016 season?
EC:
Our target is, like I told you, to learn rally after rally. I don’t have big experience, this is only my 45th rally and the first one with the World Rally Car. I have a lot to learn. I did only eight rallies in the World Rally Championship, so I don’t know… Poland. And Sweden as well, this will be my first time on snow. Malcolm [Wilson] has confidence in me, so I want to say thank him for this opportunity. It’s a dream.

Q:
Thierry, a brand new season and a brand new car awaits you. How much are you looking forward to the season ahead?
TN:
I want to make a copy of Seb’s season last year, if I do that, it will be a good year! For us, definitely last year was very hard. I wasn’t on my best at the end of the year. I was lacking some pleasure to do what I do. But now the motivation is full and the chance is the same for everybody to get the good result. We fight for that. This is the moment we have been waiting for and I can’t wait to get started.

Q:
How was the car at shakedown? Does it feel better than last year’s car? If so, in what way?
TN:
For sure it’s an improvement, this car has been properly developed in Hyundai Motorsport – that was not the case before, we had many parts from everywhere and the car was developed in Korea. This is a proper racecar and the first feeling in shakedown was good. I am happy to have the new car now.

Q:
What’s your strategy for this event?
TN:
To give our best, to drive as good as we can, there are no excuses. Particularly on this event, we have always had some difficulties, but last year we enjoyed a lot. It should be more easy this year.

Q:
What were the conditions like on the recce?
TN:
Difficult, but this is Monte Carlo, so the conditions will change every two hours! For sure some stages high in the mountains will be cold and the humidity will turn to ice. It will be tricky, there’s less snow than in years before and it’s melting… we will be with slicks on snow on some sections and this will be more difficult. [Last year] We were mainly on snow tyres on asphalt and that’s not as difficult as slicks on snow.

Q:
Kris, how do you feel about your new long-term contract with Citroen?
KM:
I’m quite happy to be honest. In this game, you want to secure your future. Mostly all of my career has been rally-by-rally and not knowing the future, so to finally say we have a bit more commitment is nice. It allows me to get involved in a new project from the beginning. For us, this is an interim season; we’ll do the rallies with PH Sport, the important bit is the future, we have a new project in 2017.

Q:
Is the pressure off for the first time?
KM:
It’s different, the pressure is never off. It becomes more simple. Like Seb said, when he’s achieved what he wants to achieve it takes some pressure off, but I’m still trying to achieve that. Maybe [the pressure’s not the same] on the events this year, we’re here for the experience and to stay sharp. It’s the experience with the new car, we leave no stone unturned and try to create the best car we can. There’s pressure associated with that. I would never say the pressure’s off.

Q:
This is a good start though, fastest at shakedown…
KM:
We got into the stage quite early. The stage was destroyed quite quickly, but the feeling was good. Shakedown means nothing, especially when the road is not so similar to the rally. As always with Monte Carlo, we have a long, long weekend and we have to be really accurate in every decision in and out of the car and try to make correct choices.

Q:
Is this one enjoyable or difficult?
KM:
It is a huge challenge, it’s the Monte Carlo Rally! It never ceases to surprise. Over the last two years, we have faced everything: a very wet 2014 with a lot of black top on asphalt, then in 2015 we had some snow which meant we had to cross the tyres, but we learned a lot. This time will be no more simple, but I’m a bit more relaxed having been through the conditions.

Q:
What’s the objective?
KM:
To enjoy it and get through, to get the experience. Get those choices in and out of the car right, like I say, and you can achieve a result at the end. There’s no target this season, we’re not fighting for a championship position, it’s about going and enjoying the rallies and seeing how we go.

FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Elfyn Evans
Quentin Gilbert

Q:
Elfyn, we’ve seen you in a World Rally Car for a couple years, but it’s all change now and WRC 2 is the way forward. How do you feel?
EE:
Obviously, it’s not a change I would have liked. I’d like to be in a World Rally Car still but this is the situation and it’s up to me to make the most of it and to make sure I’m back in a World Rally Car as soon as possible.

Q:
Is it fair to say you are favourite for the WRC 2 title?
EE:
Yeah absolutely, I have to be here to win. There’s no question about that. To be honest, I’m looking forward to the year, the guys have been working hard on the new car in the last few months and so far everything is positive. It’s two years since I have done anything in WRC 2, but I’m sure I’ll adapt pretty quickly.

Q:
How do the upgrades to the Fiesta R5 feel?
EE:
The car is generally stronger with more torque. Like I said, it’s two years since I was in the R5 car, so it’s a bit like going back to the old car. It does feel strong, but only time will tell how we get on.

Q:
Has losing the WRC drive made you more determined?
EE:
I don't think there were any problems with motivation or the work ethic, it’s just that it didn’t work out for one reason or another. It has made me really focus and look at areas where it didn’t work out. I think we all know that on my day I could be very, very fast in the top class. There were strengths, but some weaknesses as well – this is a good opportunity to put them to bed and be on the button when I come back [to the World Rally Car].

Q:
What were those weaknesses?
EE:
Oh come on, you’re not going to make me spell them out? I think it’s there for everybody to see, there was a little bit of inconsistency and a little bit of technique and maybe some stuff out of the car, how I was perceived was not necessarily how I feel. I’m going to let the world know I am enjoying it!

Q:
How did it look from the recce?
EE:
The stages are fantastic, really nice. The weather’s improving all the time, but the roads will get dirty very quickly and on the way in from shakedown it was freezing. I don’t think it’ll be straightforward, but if the weather’s as we expect, there will probably be less snow than previous years.

Q:
Do you expect to walk away with WRC 2?
EE:
I’m sure it won’t be a case of walking away with it. There are a lot of fast drivers, there’s no such thing as walking away with it, but, like I say, I have one goal in mind.

Q:
Quentin, welcome back – how much are you looking forward to your Junior WRC prize drive and the season ahead?
QG:
Yes, last year was incredible for us. We won two championships and this year is the new one. The objective is the same.

Q:
How were the conditions on the recce?
QG:
The recce was quite good, a little bit of snow in the long one and Sisteron, but I don’t think that will be the same on the rally – the forecast changes, this is Monte Carlo! The Monte Carlo is a long, long rally and it’s easy to do a mistake. It’s important to drive sensibly. I want to take the maximum information from the car, this is my first event in the four-wheel drive car this year.

Q:
Have you tested for this year?
QG:
Yes, two sessions last week – on tarmac which was a little bit wet and also some snow. We did also the Rallye du Var, the last French Championship round last year, and we won the R5 class in front of Freddy Loix. So, so far we are happy with the car.

Q:
That must have been a great confidence boost?
QG:
Yes, we have confidence – but we will see after the first stage.

Q:
What’s your aim for the year?
QG:
The objective is the same as last year, to win. We have quite good experience of four-wheel drive, we did some rallies in 2014 with M-Sport. It will be possible, but for sure Elfyn is here and some other drivers like [Esapekka] Lappi, [Pontus] Tidemand [Jose] Suarez, it will be an intense season. An exciting season.


FIA WRC 3 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Jordan Berfa
Martin Koci

Q:
Jordan how feel about the event?
JB:
We are really proud to be here. It’s my first Monte Carlo and I have to say thank you to Peugeot Sport for getting us to be here. I hope to make a great season in WRC 3. I did two runs in shakedown and I am glad of the car and happy with everything. I keep my fingers crossed.

Q:
How did you feel after the recce?
JB:
There were some tricky conditions, especially in Sisteron – these will change since Saturday, there will be a big evolution of the road. During the recce it was icy and snowy, but it will be different in the race. I will be really careful: you can have trouble in a lot of corners. I am here to make a lot of kilometres.

Q:
What’s the objective?
JB:
We have three races scheduled: Monte Carlo, Germany and Corsica, but we wait for the result from here to know the final programme from Peugeot Sport. We will compete ahead of the Citroens to show what the Peugeot can do.

Q:
Martin, how was shakedown?
MK:
Shakedown was crazy conditions, but it was important to do some kilometres – we have only done some testing on snow. It was nice, we enjoy.

Q:
It’s a new season and a new challenge…
MK:
It’s a big challenge and we would like to do our best. Last year was quite good here, we drove a Fiesta R5 and felt like home fight for first place [in class] in Monte Carlo. Then we had a big opportunity from Peugeot, but this did not work out, the season was full of troubles and we were not able to show the speed. Here we want to show speed, but I am only 23 years old. I hope it’s OK!

Q:
How have you adapted to the car?
MK:
The car is very nice, I would say this is the best car to choose from the two-wheel drive cars. I like it, it’s quite powerful.

Q:
What did you learn from last year’s Monte Carlo?
MK:
You can never count on anything here! I would say it’s very tricky, especially with two-wheel drive, with only one axle braking and turning, it’s important to be clever and not push when it’s not needed.

Q:
Do you target the win on this one?
MK:
I am really focused on Junior WRC, which starts in Portugal. We would like to do a good result here. We do both Junior and WRC 3 and I would like to be competitive.

Q:
What’s the aim of the season?
Of course, we would like to win the title and to move on in the career. We will see. We will do our best, we are already trying and doing our best.