WRC - 2016 Rally Mexico - Press Conference | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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WRC - 2016 Rally Mexico - Press Conference

03.03.16
Transcript of the pre-event FIA Press Conference organised by the FIA for the 2016 Rally Mexico.

Present:
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Motorsport
Martin Prokop, Jipocar Czech National Team
Thierry Neuville, Hyundai Motorsport
Benito Guerra
Eric Camilli, M-Sport World Rally Team

Q:
Jari-Matti, the 2016 season has got off to a difficult start for you. What are you going to do to make changes here in Mexico?
J-ML:
I think the first thing at this stage is the fact that I am at a press conference! The last one was in Spain and that was after the rally. Now I am here before the rally and I hope it all ends well and I will be here again on Sunday. Yes, the season started in a difficult way for me. Two zero point rallies but we have to keep fighting. I have a good starting position and this rally is very demanding. I need to find a good rhythm, a bit of stage management and make sure I get to the finish.

Q:
You have a great road position here as you say. Can you capitalise on that? How much do you feel the 80 kilometre stage will be a deciding factor in the rally?
J-ML:
The strategy for us is to find a good rhythm and enjoy the rally and see where we are. If we have a chance, then we will go for it. You have to remember this rally is about endurance. It’s the longest of the season and we also have the longest stage of the season. All the stages here are long. You have to see about the driving and tackle the event in a different way. It’s not like Finland, where the roads are wide and you drive flat out. It’s a lot different here. I don’t think the long stage is the most difficult. It is a long stage and is, for sure, a challenge. But, on Friday, we have the El Chocolate stage and that is a demanding and twisty stage with rocks on the side of the road. The 80 kilometre stage is more flowing and the surfaces are clear. During the first two days you will start to see the differences. I don’t believe that the long one will be the deciding stage.

Q:
Martin, welcome back to the WRC. Dakar kept you from Monte-Carlo. How was the experience?
MP:
I enjoyed it. For me, it was something special. I had spent too long in the WRC. I found it a new experience and it gave me great motivation. It was something new. An amazing event – more like an endurance race and it gave me a lot of different experiences. It’s on open roads. Everybody should try it.

Q:
The endurance element could help you here in the long stages?
MP:
The speed of the Dakar guys is different. The cars do not have as much power and not as much braking and grip. There is not so much pressure on the body. Driving the rally car is difficult physically but, on the Dakar, trying to keep the concentration and drive for five or six hours is very demanding. After one or two hours I began thinking about something else. Then I started to improve and, by the end of the event, I was concentrating for six hours at a time.

Q:
What are your plans for this year in WRC?
MP:
That’s a good question, I’m not sure. Maybe four races. I have to decide what to do for the future. I am thinking of the Dakar again, as well circuit races in the next few weeks. I need to choose the right future.

Q:
What is your strategy for this weekend? What are you hoping to achieve?
MP:
I am enjoying it all again. It was difficult after many years to enjoy always the same thing. Rallying should be enjoyable. I need to get into a rhythm as soon as possible. It was my favourite rally here and I hope for a good result.

Q:
Thierry, we have seen Mexico be a strong event for you in the past. What is the aim this time around?
TN:
It’s one of my favourite events. I remember fondly when I got my first podium here in 2013. There is a great history to talk about. I am mainly always motivated when I come here and I have a good speed here. I also have a good road position after Jari-Matti and I can fight for victory.

Q:
What are your thoughts on the 80 kilometre stage, Thierry?
TN:
We should have enough of an advantage over Jari-Matti going into that stage!
JM-L:
Comments like that give me motivation!

Q:
You had a good run at shakedown. Are you happy with the set-up you have?
TN:
Actually I have to mention the roads are very good and in great condition again. But the roads are wider now. The stones and the dirt on the sides of the roads change the characteristic of the stages. I am a bit disappointed for that but I still hope to do well. It’s still a great event.

Q:
What is your goal for the weekend, Thierry?
TN:
Yes, I feel a win is possible. On the last two events we have shown some speed. In Sweden, we should have been on the podium before the technical issues. To fight the for win is the main goal. Jari-Matti will be fast, Ogier as always and there are some guys in front of me to watch out for.

Q:
Benito, it’s always great to see you here at the WRC. What is your aim at Rally Mexico?
BG:
It’s great to be back. It’s been one year since I was in a World Rally Car. The shakedown went well for me. The long Mexican stages are going to be a big challenge for all of us. The 80 kilometre stage is the big challenge this weekend. I am ready to do my best. The first stage in Guanajuato is always for the fans, but gravel tyres on cobbled stones is not easy. The super special has a big jump as well, so that is different. Before, I will watch the other guys to see what they do. The first stage tomorrow is sure to be slippery. With my starting position, it may be a bit clean and we will push if we can.

Q:
Is it good to be back in the car, much testing? How did it feel at the shakedown?
BG:
I didn’t do a real test. It was really a co-driving day for the sponsors. I was not really working in the car. The shakedown was okay for me. I set my best time ever and I think I was the best privateer, so that’s a good way to start the rally. The real thing is in the stages from tomorrow. It is not the real thing tonight.

Q:
Do you have any more events planned this season?
BG:
I am struggling with sponsors, but I miss being in the WRC. In 2012, when we won the Production title, it was my best year ever. I was hoping to move up to the big class but it was difficult to get the sponsors and get there. I went back to basics and some WRC 2 rallies and maybe all the European events is the plan. Next year, maybe, I can do all the season.

Q:
What would your advice be to someone coming here for the first time, like Eric?
BG:
First of all welcome here Eric (Camilli). He has to be calm in the long stages and keep to a pace and stay focused. I say to stay calm and on a good pace and not make any big mistakes. One little mistake here gets you out of the road and that’s the end of a good result

Q:
Eric, it’s your first time here in Mexico and at the rally. How much are you looking forward to this event?
EC:
I am really happy to be here. It’s a nice country and the recce and the shakedown went well. I am back on gravel and that is my favourite surface. I know it will be different, like Benito (Guerra) said, one mistake and it’s finished. I’m looking forward to starting the race this evening.

Q:
Two events with two accidents in Monte and Sweden. How are you feeling about what happened and can you change that here?
EC:
I have forgotten this now. In Monte-Carlo I was unlucky and Sweden was my mistake. I had a wrong pace note and we went off but I forgot this now and I try to concentrate on the race tomorrow. I am not too much worried over this.

Q:
It’s only your eighth gravel rally, isn’t it?
EC:
Yes, it’s not too much. In Sweden, it was my first time on snow. I am here and my job is to finish the race.

Q:
What do you think about the long stage of 80 kilometres?
EC:
You have some fast parts but it is not going to be the most difficult of the race. El Chocolate has some very tight corners and stones. It will be interesting to see. The long stage is a challenge, of course. It took so long to check the pace notes.

Q:
You have changed your co-driver and reverted back to Benjamin Veillas who you used last year. Why is this?
EC:
I want say thank you to Nicolas (Klinger) for his efforts but, for me, Benjamin (Veillas) is my famous co-driver and I am happy to come back with him. Don’t worry about that.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Osvaldo Anaya, Estadio (MEX)

Q:
Jari-Matti, do you have to change your driving style here?
J-ML:
On this event, when you have the long stages you have to divide the stage into sections. In some sections you can attack, this is the element in this rally when you are always challenging. For myself, I take it a bit easier there and then, where it’s wider and faster, I push more. To push everywhere on the long stages is very hard.


FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Teemu Suninen
Nicolas Fuchs

Q:
Teemu, it’s your first time at Rally Mexico. You have never experienced the roads or the atmosphere. How are you finding it so far?
TS:
Yes, I am really enjoying it. The stages are really nice.

Q:
You had a test at the start of the week. When you got in the car were you surprised by the lack of power (due to the altitude)?
TS:
We got used to it and I managed to settle into this and find a way to overcome this with my driving. We found a good set-up and I am really confident with the car.

Q:
We’ve seen you in WRC 2 before but, at the start of the season, you were not registered. Are you confident now that you are registered for WRC 2 that you can have a good result.
TS:
You cannot be too confident because the stages are really difficult. I stay focused on my driving and keeping the car on the road. I need to keep the car away from the stones. The rally is really hard for the tyres and the brakes. The first goal is to finish the rally.

Q:
Welcome back to the WRC Nicolas. How much are you looking forward to this event?
NF:
This event I like a lot. It is the best of the season for me. The roads and the people are great. Now we change the car and the team. The shakedown was different for the set-up. The car is very different to last year. I changed the tyres and the team. It is a so hard rally and not easy on the cars.

Q:
Historically you have done well here before. Does that give you confidence?
NF:
I like the stages. I know where to push and where to save the car. This is good for me and the team.

Q:
We have that long stage of 80 kilometres on Sunday. What do you think the stage will be like?
NF:
It will be very difficult and very long. You need to push in parts you know and in the other parts you need to save the car. Some parts are narrow and there are stones.

Q:
What about the season ahead for you now? Is it a full WRC 2 programme for you?
NF:
I start my season here and then Argentina, Portugal, Sardinia, Poland, Finland and GB. I try to go to the podium at the end of the season. For me, it is very competitive and there are a lot of very good drivers.