WRC - ACI Rally Monza - Pre-event Press Conference Transcript | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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WRC - ACI Rally Monza - Pre-event Press Conference Transcript

03.12.20

Transcript of the pre-event press conference organised by the FIA for the 2020 ACI Rally Monza.

2020 WRC - ACI Rally Monza - Atmosphere

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Elfyn Evans (GBR), Toyota Gazoo Racing
Sébastien Ogier (FRA), Toyota Gazoo Racing
Thierry Neuville (BEL), Hyundai Shell Mobis
Ott Tänak (EST), Hyundai Shell Mobis
Richard Millener (GBR), Team Principal M-Sport Ford

Q:
Elfyn, let’s start with you, our championship leader heading into the final round. I know you’ve answered this question probably about a million times right now, but I think it’s maybe the last time you are going to be asked this weekend. How are you feeling, leading the championship going into the final round on the brink potentially of your first championship win? Is the pressure getting to you or not?
EE:
Feeling quite okay at the minute, obviously it’s just about getting my head down to get the operation done and to be ready to start, really. Obviously it is a big job to do, it’s not looking like it’s going to be that easy. Hopefully, we have to just focus on the job in hand and try and get the most of the weekend.

Q:
I think a lot of people thought, given the circuit nature of Friday, that maybe this was going to be an easy final round but it isn't. Certainly the weather conditions are making it quite a difficult headache I would think right now. How was it out there on the recce in the snow today?
EE:
Quite difficult obviously already, you know. When we had the rain and it looked a bit more, at least not dry, around the circuit it was tricky already but obviously with the snow it made the recce quite difficult. Obviously new stages for us so that was tricky today. And then, the gravel sections are looking quite interesting here as well. So plenty to keep us on our toes.

Q:
In terms of the testing you’ve done ahead of the event, or any tarmac experience that you’ve had, is it out the window when you see this kind of conditions?

EE:
I think we have to refer back to the Monte-Carlo notes, to be honest, to get anything close to what we’ve got here. I mean, we had a great test day in the car but it’s virtually useless now looking into this weekend. It was, you know, full dry and nice conditions and obviously we’re not likely to see that. So we’re obviously just leaning on the work we did for Monte and Monza rally.

Q:
I asked you about the pressure. You know, you have a teammate who sat alongside you right now, who is notorious at psyching people out. The psychological demon that is Sébastien Ogier. Has he been trying any of his works on you so far?
EE:
Well, not knowingly. Anyway, he could be that good that I don’t even know it’s going on but, erm..
SO:
You don’t even notice it, that’s, you know...
EE:
No, he’s playing nice so far, I think. So yeah...no, he’s fine. No problem.

Q:
Could you handle it, though, if he turned the pressure on you?
EE:
I don’t know. Maybe we’ll find out later in the weekend.

Q:
It is a huge weekend for lots of different reasons. Obviously the Drivers’ title, but the Manufacturers’ title is up for grabs as well and so important. How much is that in the back of your mind as well?
EE:
I mean, it’s the same for both titles. Essentially they both rely on having good results so it’s quite simple, really. We need to get our head down and try and get the best results possible for ourselves and the team as well. So, yeah, just full focus on getting the most out of the weekend.

Q:
Ok Elfyn, thank you very much. To the psychological demon then (laughs), Sébastien Ogier.
SO:
I don’t know why everyone saying that.

Q:
Oh because, come on…If Jari-Matti was here right now, he would tell us all about it. Ott, I’m sure you’ve had experience of what he can do to you psychologically, yeah?
OT:
I think it’s actually that Jari-Matti you are talking about, maybe.
Q:
Jari-Matti took the effect, I think, more than any driver. Seb, you’re definitely guilty, as charged.
SO:
Then I take it…I take it.

Q:
Talk to me about how you are feeling, because you’ve been in this position many times when it is, you know, coming down to it and you have to put your absolutely best show on. Do you feel that you are capable of doing that this weekend, to take the title?
SO:
For sure I believe in my chance and for sure I’m going to do everything to make it happen. But the truth is I would prefer to be in Elfyn’s position and have the fourteen points lead. Unfortunately, things are not like this so I have to deal with the situation. But, you know, having such a tricky weekend ahead I think it won’t be easy for anyone. But we have not much to lose being second in the championship. Of course, you also mentioned the Manufacturers’ title, which is important and we will do our best to also secure this title if we can. But, like Elfyn said, both are linked. For me, for myself I need a victory this weekend and if I manage to achieve that, it will be great for the team. So, yeah, it’s an important weekend but I think we’re all happy to be here and have a chance to finish this special season.

Q:
How much of a different kind of event is this, given that we are based on the circuit of the legendary Monza, and then we head up into the hills to some beautiful stages up there? They may not be quite so beautiful in snow, but how much of a contrast is it to what we normally have on a championship?
SO:
It’s big contrast, but I think that the mix of both makes a very decent event and a very interesting challenge. I think, you said at the start of the conference, maybe some people will think going on a track for a rally, it’s a bit like getting out of our roots and not really worth it. But the truth is that with these weather conditions, it’s actually maybe harder than the normal rally. So I think there will be a lot of different weather conditions this weekend. Even here on track, a lot of mud, in the mountain probably some very tricky sections with some fog. We have seen both days are tricky and with the weather expected, it looks like there will be some cloud to cross at some points, so that will make it difficult. And also with the rain expected, the snow maybe expected, tyre choice won’t be easy so we have plenty of surprises ahead that we’ll have to manage.

Q:
Ok, Seb thank you very much. Thierry, let’s turn to you now, third in the championship. With everything Seb has just said about the event, could we be seeing the trickiest WRC event of the year?
TN:
I wouldn’t say the trickiest. I mean, of course it’s going to be a challenging event due to the weather conditions mainly, but I think there are other rallies, which are probably more challenging, especially when we are talking about Monte-Carlo or some other events where the rally is longer and the stages are more challenging as well. But still, I mean, tyre choice can be important this weekend...If there’s some snow falling this weekend as well, it will make it really challenging to keep the car on the road, basically, but in terms of stages themselves, I mean, it’s going to be good fun. If the conditions stay more or less equal, I think the times will be really, really close, especially in the track stages. But it’s an interesting challenge for all of us because it’s a bit a different kind of approach to some of the other WRC events.

Q:
In what sense is it a different approach?
TN:
I mean, obviously also from my experience here I know that the gaps are always very little on the stages during the Monza Rally Show. Even with non-experienced WRC drivers, the gaps are always small so we’re definitely going to see a tough fight starting already tomorrow. And then, some more tricky conditions with the gravel as well, so the evolution of the road as well and generally everybody will have to try to be in the best position Friday night heading to Saturday.

Q:
Talk to me about title hopes, because mathematically obviously all four of you can still take the title. But what is the realistic thought in your mind?
TN:
To be honest, I think the main target for us as a team is to secure the Manufacturers’ title, of course, and I think the battle is on. So it’s going to be a tough fight because we have strong competition with Toyota. On the other hand, for the Drivers’ title, I mean, I line up as third trying to do my best. Obviously with the cancelation of Ypres, our chances have decreased significantly...immediately, let’s say. And so, my main target is to win this event, bring home maximum manufacturers’ points and for the rest, I think it’s not really in my hands.

Q:
Ok, Thierry thank you very much. Let’s turn to Ott Tänak now then, our current World Champion. Ott, as I’ve mentioned and as everyone has said, it is going to be a challenging weekend, but talk to me about the Friday because I’m sure everyone has in their head the possibility of snow on Saturday and it could be quite a bit of snow… You don’t want to be the first on the road Saturday morning. So a flat out attack on Friday is an absolute must here, what do you say?
OT:
It’s an absolute must anyway, I guess. Especially when drivers are fighting for the Drivers’ title and also the Manufacturers’ title as Thierry said as well, so there is quite a lot to fight for. So definitely, let’s say, drive through is not an option.

Q:
Give me your thoughts on the whole route here at Monza. Now that you’ve seen everything on the recce, what do you think of the event?
OT:
I have...let’s say, if it would have been sunny, it would have looked just a bit different but maybe just enjoyable. Looking now I would say everything is more than open. I mean, in this kind of conditions, you can expect anything. Definitely our chance for the Drivers’ title is almost nothing, but, let’s say, you’ve seen in the past that everything can happen and of course, our first priority is the Manufacturers’ title. But still at the same time also, our target is to do our very best and target maximum points and then we see what it gives to us. But for the moment, yes, looking the forecast for the next couple of days I would say we don’t have much to lose, but there is a lot on the table and at the moment it’s difficult to predict what is going to happen or how it’s going to end.

Q:
And similar question that I asked to Elfyn. With all the testing that has been done prior to this event, is that now irrelevant given the conditions out there or does it still mean something?
OT:
Compared to last week, when we did the pre-event test for this event, it was nice and sunny and now it’s completely different. So compared to that one, of course, there is nothing really to take.

Q:
When you look back on the year… I know, it’s been an incredibly difficult year for everyone around the world. But when you look back at your season, how would you evaluate it, Ott?

OT:
I would say it’s difficult to know in which season you need to look back. I mean, we did three rallies at the beginning of the year, then we had a half a year break, then we did another three and now one more. Obviously, we’ve done or we’ve tried to do all our best in every event, but still in the end, of course, it’s been a very different and a very special year.

Q:
Ok, Ott thank you very much. Now to Rich Millener from M-Sport. Before we talk about M-Sport itself, Rich...Ott left the team, won the championship. Elfyn left the team, is on the brink potentially, along with four others, to winning the championship. Are you feeling a bit burnt by this?
RM:
As it got pointed out to me earlier, I said join the team at one-two...I think what counts is the hour..so, no. Good luck to everybody in the title fight this weekend. Unfortunately we’re not involved in this as much as we’d like to. But, you know, from our perspective, it will be a fantastic event to watch and unfold and sure there will be plenty of drama and, you know, it’s going to be what is probably a great end to a really difficult season. Everyone in our place is looking forward to watching what happens over the next few days.

Q:
With a bit of pressure off and with that pressure off what can the boys do out there, you feel?
RM:
We didn't test here. It sounds like we didn’t miss much either...with the test, it didn’t work so well. But we’ve got to be realistic, the guys have been in the car for a while, the conditions are going to be tricky but there’s sometimes an opportunity to level up the plan for a little bit where we have these tricky conditions and we’re not pushing for anything in terms of Manufacturers’ or Drivers’ championship. So we’ll just put everything we can into it. I think tyre choice is going to be quite difficult here, you know, that would be interesting to see how the choices are made and what’s decided. We’ll just have to try our best to get everything in the right decisions. But, yeah, we’re looking forward to it. Being an interesting concept of an event I think it will be a good weekend.

Q:
Obviously this year you’ve seen Esapekka Lappi join the team, Teemu Suninen as usual, Gus Greensmith. When you look back across the season competitively with those drivers, Rich, how do you sum it up?
RM:
I think the first three events were good and we were making good progress, good podium in Mexico. Unfortunately, we had the disaster of losing the car, the car caught fire and since then our year has been pretty much heavily affected with the whole COVID scenario. M-Sport’s had a pretty though time to get through so we’ve not been able to test as we wished but, you know, we just had to come to each event with what we can do and try our best and we haven’t been on a pace we necessarily wanted. I think we hoped we could have done well in Ypres, we were planning to test there but unfortunately, it was cancelled. So, you know, we’ve run up the year as best as we can and try to refocus and hopefully have a bit more stability so that we can focus again on next year.

Q:
And that is my next question. Next year we will see M-Sport back, yes?
RM:
I hope so. Otherwise we’re going to have much to do.

Q:
What do we need to see work in some way, shape or form?
RM:
A lot of people would agree.

Q:
Let’s say M-Sport is back next year. Do you hold to the drivers line-up at all?
RM:
I think we’re in a, you know, lucky position, where we don’t have to push so much. The other two teams have pretty much got their line-ups finalised as far we can see. There’s a few options we’ve got. I think there’s no rush to do it this week, so we’ll see what happens here and then go for that.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Giulio Masperi, La Gazzetta Dello Sport (ITA), to Elfyn Evans.
Q:
In ACI Rally Monza, there are track and gravel sections, which are the most difficult stages in your opinion?
EE:
They’ve all got their own characters. I think we recced the Power Stage now this afternoon and obviously that was the, let’s say, the worst conditions we saw then. But obviously, there’s some of those sections that we do in opposite direction. So I think it’s just generally...there’ll be a few surprises, let’s say, around these stages that we have around Monza.

Reiner Kuhn, Motorsport Aktuell (GER) to all drivers.
Q:
What is your thinking and feeling to be at Rally Monza in these difficult Covid times in the Lombardy Region?
EE:
I mean, it’s hard to know what the right or wrong thing to do is. Ultimately, you know, we all have to get on with our lives and, you know, business and everything has to move on at some point. I’m sure the FIA have done all the sort of checking of the requirements to make sure that we can carry it out in the safest possible way. Ultimately we have to trust them, once we get the green light, then obviously we’re just concentrating on having the job done. So, in a way we put our trust in them that we’re here on safe grounds.
SO:
I think the safety have been put in place, like we are running without spectators, we are most of the time staying between us here in the team area. So I think that’s an important thing. Next point is, as I understand, that the situation was pretty bad recently, but seems to be a bit stabilised now and not critical in the hospitals, so that’s for me the most important. And of course, we all try our best to keep the sport alive and I think on a sport’s point of view, it’s nice to be here this weekend and give this championship a chance to have an end this season.
TN:
I mean, the world didn't stop turning. It has to go on. So that's what we do and as, both guys mentioned, if we are here it’s because all the rules are followed and everybody is in a safe situation. We need to show the example as well to the outside of the world that the life can continue if you respect the rules, so that’s our main target as well this weekend to show that nothing’s is impossible if you follow the rules and respect what has been mentioned.
OT:
There was a lot of information, so I agree.
RM:
I think the guys summed up very well. You know, it’s important to remember a lot of people ask this kind of questions. But, like the guys have said, we’re running only because it’s been deemed safe by a number of organisations. There's hundreds of people here making their live here at this event and if we can do that safely and continue looking at all the other places where people are not able to do so. You know, it’s important that we compete and do what we can when we’re allowed. So, you know to have safety and all organised to have a good weekend.

Bo Christer Bofeldt, Worldrally.se (SWE)
Q:
How do you see next year playout with the Coronavirus.
RM:
I think we’ve seen it change weekly, daily...maybe even hourly, so we all hope, we’d say, we would hope it wouldn’t get any worse. We’ve got some rules, regulations in place which have allowed us to have events this year. So, let’s hope we can run events. There’s a lot of questions regarding funding and how all companies will not break next year. But, you know, we’ve gotta stay positive and hope we can do as many events as we can next year.
SO:
Quickly my feeling was that the beginning of the year will probably be difficult, still, and tricky. But I really hope now we heard a lot about this vaccine maybe, which can for sure help a lot. And I really hope that by spring we are starting to have a kind of normality again and hopefully run a much better and longer championship than this year.


FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Pontus Tidemand (SWE), Toksport WRT
Mads Østberg (NOR), PH Sport
Guest driver (non priority): Franco Morbidelli (ITA)

Q:
Pontus, let’s start with you. Huge weekend ahead in the fight for the FIA WRC2 title. You’ve done a number of rallies so you have to drop your score of course. But this weekend, it all hinges on who is going to be the best out of you and Mads. How are you feeling about going into this one?
PT:
No, I mean… The feeling is good. For sure it will be difficult, it looks like so I will just try to stay calm as always and try to finish the rally.

Q:
What a tough rally we finish the season with, in a legendary circuit here in Monza. Then up into the hills where we’ve seen snow today and there’s a possibility of even more snow this weekend. Trickiest event do you feel it could be this weekend?
PT:
Yes, I think. Even on the track, the grip is changing a lot so if we get for example a lot of rain, like it looks like it will, I think… I’m sure it will happen quite a lot of things. And then, you say there can be snow on Saturday so for sure, I think this probably is the trickiest event for me this year.

Q:
And it’s not a case of being able to measure your pace out there this weekend, because you are against Mr. Østberg. You have to be flat out from the start Pontus…
PT:
Yes, for sure I will. We will try but as always, I think all the guys will push. But I will just do it in my pace and see where we are and not take too many risks.

Q:
Are you feeling any pressure at all?
PT:
To be honest, I’m glad to be here. I just try to focus on this and have fun.

Q:
Now it is the first time for everybody at this brand new event. Many drivers have been at the Rally Show in the past but this is something completely different. Give me a little bit of a flavour of what it’s like up in the mountains, what the stages are like there: they’re comparable to anywhere else?
PT:
For me in the character, it’s a bit like some stages on Rallye Monte-Carlo, i.e. the south stages. So, that’s the closest I know. It’s typical North-italian roads, so I think some local guys will for sure be quicker. It’s interesting and really nice roads.

Q:
Mads, this weekend the rally fans around the world will see a head-to-head battle for the championship title in WRC2. How are you feeling coming into it, are you a confident man?
MO:
Yeah, for sure the feeling is good. We have prepared well for the event and yeah, we know that we have to be at the end of this one, so that, for sure, will be our goal. I’m sure it will not be the easiest event to finish but we will try.

Q:
It does look as if it’s gonna be pretty tough out there: what was your experience like on the recce having a look at the stages? Did they kind of shock you a little suddenly today with the conditions?
MO:
No, not really. I’ve seen the weather forecast for the last two weeks and I knew it was going to be snow. So I was not surprised to see that. For sure the stages are narrow and twisty and there’s a lot of ups and downs. And we know from Monte-Carlo that it can be challenging when we have snow like that. But we have snow tyres so we will fit them and close our eyes and hope for the best.

Q:
Well, I hope you are not going to close your eyes! Are you a part-time weather forecaster then, you’ve been tracking the weather for two weeks before the event?
MO:
Of course I do. When you have an event at this time of the year, you need to follow closely and I noticed very early that we didn’t have any snow tyres for the event. So I wanted to see if we could have snow or not. When I saw the forecast, I knew it’s going to be challenging, especially without the snow tyres… But at least, now we have them and it will make it a lot easier.

Q:
Give me a bit of an insight into the preparation heading into a brand new event, giving that the surface here at the circuit is a bit different than anything you would have experienced I guess? And then you head out onto more traditional stages. How do you prepare for those differences?

MO:
Well, that’s not so easy, to be honest. We have been on a track to test with the car anyway to learn a bit more about the grip on the tracks, but it could vary from track to track of course. So I’m not completely sure how it is here. Obviously, the stages in the mountains look quite nice: they’re not as difficult as Monte-Carlo when they are just wet. But with the snow and ice, I think it will be as difficult of course because it’s very narrow and twisty. But I think we will have to learn as we go. We have tried to prepare, but for sure we didn’t test on snow and ice, we tested on normal conditions so we will just have to make a good strategy for the event and correct tyre choices. I’m sure you can play a bit with your tyres through the whole weekend because it will not only be difficult conditions in the mountains, it will be difficult here on the track as well. It will be a game I’m sure.

Q:
We’re looking forward to see how it play out Mads, best of luck this weekend and thank you very much.

Q:
Franco, welcome to the WRC! You are swapping two wheels from MotoGP to four this weekend. What an opportunity to make your rally debut on an international event and probably the hardest seen this year! How are you feeling?
FM:
Yeah, I’m very excited. I have no experience at all with these kind of machines, I just did 40 km on Monday and I had a lot of fun. I got this opportunity and I caught it. And actually, it is going pretty well so far. Ok, we have just done the recce, now I’m really looking forward to jump back again on the car and try to be smooth, don’t make any mistakes and just bring the car to the end but enjoy at the same time, try to push my limits here and there and try to see how it feels. It’s really nice, just to be here with these guys is really nice.

Q:
Normally it’s you and the bike, just the two of you together. But now it’s you, the car and the co-driver and you have a very experienced co-driver at your sight in Simone Scattolin. But what is it like having someone next to you and trying to compute all the information he’s telling you… How is that going so far?
FM:
Yeah, we worked a lot on that because before Monday, I didn’t know anything about pace notes and I was just thinking that notes were something optional, that drivers didn’t really need. But actually I saw that they are crucial and they’re really important so I started to focus a lot on that and started to focus a lot on learning how to process the notes and put them into the steering wheel and on the road. It’s a process that I’m still doing but it’s going pretty well so far. I think I’ve learned a lot since Monday and I’m trying to learn, I’m trying to watch videos, I’m trying to work with Simone and just hear his voice and try to make it again on four wheels. So it’ll be nice also to learn how to translate the pace notes into movements.

Q:
Now the objective I’m sure this weekend for you is to have fun out there, right? Or have you got another objective in mind?
FM:
Not at all! The main aim is to enjoy, have fun, as I said, try to push my limits but not too much. I’m not going to go out there and just try to bring the car to the end - for sure, I’m going to try and push but according to my limit and not too much. I will try to learn more from Simone and I will try to learn some more just from driving the car and… yeah, I will try to have fun.

Q:
There’s so many rally drivers around you, they’re a friendly bunch, I’m sure they will be happy to give you advice. But we’ve had Valentino Rossi compete on quite a few WRC events, and he seemed to love it: any advice from Valentino?
FM:
I tried to speak with Vale before this event but I didn’t manage to. So I sent him a message half an hour ago just before the real deal started. So for tomorrow, I hope he will give me some important advices to be a little bit more prepared tomorrow.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Bo Christer Bofeldt, Worldrally.se (SWE) to all the drivers:
Q:
What do you think about Monza Rally & what do you think about next year with COVID?
PT:
About next year, it is difficult to say. I don’t know anything, no comment. But about this Monza show, for me it’s very cool. Let’s say it’s not like a proper World Rally event but I think for sure it will be a lot of action going on here. I think things can happen on mistake, so I think it will be interesting to follow for sure and also you can have some different drivers that can be doing very well on this type of stages. I think this week will be very interesting, to be honest. Probably, the most of the entire year.
MO:
Well, about the Coronavirus I don’t really know, to be honest. I hope someone who knows can tell me but I don’t think so. I think we’ll just have to go along and hope that we are able to compete in our rallies if it’s safe and if it’s possible to do it in the different countries. For the Rally Show, I think it’s a nice event, I’m glad that the Promoter and the FIA and the Rally Monza organisers did such a good job to make this event part of the WRC. I think it’s nice also that we have different drivers here: I don’t think necessarily it’s a big benefit to be rally driver when we are on a circuit, but of course on Saturday on the mountain stages, guest drivers will probably struggle a bit more than they will on the race track, where they probably will feel a bit more comfortable.

Reiner Kuhn, Motorsport Aktuell (GER) to Franco Morbidelli.
Q:
What’s the special adviser or driver that helped you during your preparation and what did they tell you?
FM:
Yes, I spoke a lot with Umberto Scandola, who is my team mate… Well, I am his team mate this weekend, and he gave me a lot of confidence and a lot of good advice. I’ve been asking him a lot of things: how to control the car, how to spot the slippery points on the road because I don’t have anything of that on track, so it’s quite tricky. I’ve been asking him lots of questions about conditions and about how to control the car and what was he thinking about the road and all the special stages. Yes, I’ve been asking lots of questions lately.

Reiner Kuhn, Motorsport Aktuell (GER) to Pontus Tidemand.
Q:
How was your preparation for Monza and what kind of help could you expect from your team mate, Jan Kopecky, this weekend?
PT:
Regarding Jan, we know he’s really quick on tarmac. He’s always been and he’s one of the strongest drivers there. We had a test on Monday and the last tarmac rally I did in an R5 car was in Germany 2017, so it’s a while ago. But with mixed condition like this, it’s not like a proper tarmac rally, so hopefully I can get around it a bit. We just need to start and see.

Reiner Kuhn, Motorsport Aktuell (GER) to Mads Ostberg.
Q:
What do you think about the fact that Toksport have got Jan Kopecky on board this weekend? 
MO:
It is great to see Jan back at the event, of course. He’s a great driver and I haven’t competed against him for a year I think so it will be interesting to see his level now. For sure, it will be strong competition from him this weekend and I know why they brought him there. So I’ll try to make sure that the trick doesn’t work.


FIA WRC 3 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Marco Bulacia (BOL)
Jari Huttunen (FIN)
Umberto Scandola (ITA)
Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)
 
Q:
I'm going to kick start with the championship contenders. Marco, we will start with you. It’s a big weekend for every single championship here at Rally Monza – the final round - and every championship is decided here including yours. How do you feel coming into this, knowing that the championship title is a possibility this weekend for you?
MB:
For sure, it gives me a little bit of pressure but I think I can manage it and also I know that I have very few kilometres of experience on tarmac. Today, I have driven on snow for the first time in my life so it will be difficult for me this weekend. But I’ll try to do my best and try to enjoy.

Q:
This is going to be a massive learning experience this weekend and on such an important weekend as well.
MB:
Yeah, for sure but anyway, I will focus on my driving, enjoy the weekend and enjoy the experience because it will be I think almost like Monte-Carlo. So I will try to enjoy and not focus too much on the championship.

Q:
Just to reiterate what you have just said, Marco, in case they didn’t hear what we’re talking about. You have never rallied on snow. Your first experience was on the recce.
MB:
Yes, today was my first experience on snow and, like I said, I will focus on enjoying the experience, enjoying the ride and not focus too much on the result.

Q:
You talked about feeling a little bit pressured. Did you feel you’re able to manage that through the weekend?
MB:
Yeah, I will manage it because I have been working a lot. It’s my first time. I am competing for a World itle so it puts me a little bit of pressure but I think I will manage because I have worked a lot in these things.

Q:
What would it mean for you Marco to walk away with the title this weekend?
MB:
A dream.

Q:
Plans for next year at the moment?
MB:
I will try to finish this year and then we will think about it.

Q:
Jari Huttunen, a man who has a lot of experience on snow. Just driving at home, it seems. What a brilliant weekend you got ahead. It will be a fantastic battle between you and Marco. You are absolutely ready for it?
JH:
Yes, I’m ready. I think it’s a really difficult weekend because the conditions are like in Monte-Carlo, maybe. I won’t be pushing too much but I’ll try to be clever and then we’ll see what happens.

Q:
What is going to be the biggest challenge out there this weekend, do you feel?
JH:
It’s difficult to say. I will try not to make mistakes. Big challenge for me. I think so and I think the same for everybody.

Q:
Absolutely, in these conditions. Marco talked about feeling the pressure. Are you feeling the pressure, Jari, or are you too cool to feel the pressure?
JH:
Not really, no. But everybody started asking me so maybe after that I feel something. But not yet.

Q:
Well done. So the job of a journalist is to always ask that kind of question. We have such a contrast here: you have the circuit stages here in Monza itself and then the mountain stages. How much contrast is it?
JH:
The mountain stages, I think I like them and the weather is typical for me. But the track is also quite interesting. In some places it will be so muddy… Let’s see what happens there.

Q:
Good luck for this weekend. Umberto Scandola, we turn to you now. It’s going to be a fascinating end of the year here at Rally Monza. A massive challenge. How much are you looking forward to it?
US:
It’s the first time here at Rally Monza. I never drove in the Rally Monza show and some parts are the same as the Rally Monza show. I spoke with my friends, Italian drivers, to have information about the conditions, the line and for me it’s a very interesting competition, very interesting stages. It’s beautiful if you look at the type of stages, the mud, the gravel, the tarmac… So I think it’s a good trial, a good test for the future.

Q:
Can you give us a little bit of insight into what weather we’re going to see on Saturday? Is it going to be snow or is it going to be rain?

US:
So, for me and for the drivers, it’s better with the snow because maybe if it rains at the start of the stage, we’ll have snow in the middle of the stage. It’s better if we have always the same conditions in all parts of the stage.

Q:
What’s the objective for you this weekend?
US:
A good rally. I need to try and push for my sponsor, for WithU.

Q:
And you have been giving advice to Franco Morbidelli then who is making his rally debut here?
US:
Yeah, Morbidelli is a very good man and a good driver. He’s a very perfect driver because he drove the car immediately very well and I think it’s a good experience for him.

Q:
Thank you very much Umberto and let’s turn to Andreas Mikkelsen now. It’s great to see you back behind the wheel in a rally car! So we saw you in Sardegna in the right seat as you were calling pace-notes for Petter Solberg. I bet you’re glad to be back in command this time behind the steering wheel!
AM
Yes it’s better to drive for sure.

Q:
What’s the plan for you this weekend in Monza?
AM:
Well, it’s good to be back here. I’ve done Monza the last three years. Obviously this edition is very different but I’m looking forward. From what we’ve seen in the recce, it looks very, very difficult - very tricky stages. We saw snow today on the Saturday stages and a lot of gravel and mud inside the stages around Monza, no stage will be easy here. But I’m looking forward. It’s nice to come here. I don’t really have any championship to drive for. On the circuit, I’ll drive as fast as I can. I’ll try to do very well. Let’s see.

Q:
You said you’ve been here before three times. Do you feel the drivers that drove into the rally show before will have an advantage this weekend?
AM:
Yeah, parts of the stages are quite similar to Rally Monza Show, the original one. I said probably like 10% of the rally is so maybe I can have a small advantage. But the rest is all new and Saturday is a long day in the mountains and we have no experience there. So it looks fun. I’m looking forward to this rally and I like the format. It’s quite cool.

Q:
Talk to me about next year. Because we want to see you back on a full-time basis, Andreas. Is it an effort?
AM:
I want to see myself back. I’m working hard at the moment to try to be back. I want to be back in the WRC as fast as possible. So, let’s see where we are at the start of the next season. I have many balloons in the air if you call it like that. Let’s see where we are at the start of next season. Of course I hope to be back in the WRC.

Q:
Final question. Your WRC buddies are battling out for the championship glory, who is your money on?
AM:
It’s definitely not easy to choose when the conditions are like this. Luckily the Saturday stages are not on Friday. Because to be first on the road in these conditions would make you lose a lot of time. I think to have a good road position going into Day Two will be really, really important.


FIA JUNIOR WRC CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Martin Sesks (LVA)
Tom Kristensson (SWE)
Sami Pajari (FIN)

Q:
Martin, what a weekend we have ahead of us here. It’s been a fantastic season for you. How are you feeling heading to the final round?
MS:
I am feeling quite comfortable and relaxed because, basically, the main goal is to prove myself that I can be fast in these conditions. Mathematically I don’t lead the championship right now, so I’m the guy who will be catching Tom. That’s all I need to do.

Q:
Catching Tom is quite a hard thing that you need to do in those really difficult conditions. Lots of people think maybe that coming to Monza, to a circuit, was going to be an easy end of season. Could it be the toughest event of this season?
MS:
It’s unpredictable now. For sure, there is snow, gravel and tarmac and definitely I think that it will be the hardest end of the season.  

Q:
What have you been doing to get prepared?
MS:
I did quite a lot of testing in Latvia, using all the tarmac places and I’m feeling quite ok in the car. Hopefully we will see that tomorrow as well as well as in the following days. And for sure, I’m trying to get myself prepared but I didn’t change anything since Estonia.

Q: For what you have seen in the snowy recce, have you competed in similar conditions as we see here?
MS:
As I said, the roads could be unpredictable in some places, for sure it was a big change from yesterday pass on the stages. We have just to find the rhythm and the pace there.

Q:
Tom, Martin calls you the hunted, it’s going to be a fantastic and exciting weekend. I know you have a very positive character but there are so many possibilities with regards to the FIA Junior Championship of who could take the title this weekend. It is such a tensed weekend, I’m sure for everyone, but how are you feeling going in to it?

TK:
Like you said there are a lot of opportunities and we have to work with them of course. It feels very good. I’ve done my best, we have tested before the rally, which actually is the first one in front of every single WRC event I’ve done. It’s the first time I do a pre-event test and it was very good, we tried to prepare ourselves as well as we could for those conditions. For sure, there is a lot of questions still about how the conditions will be on the stages when we go there with the rally car and there is still a lot of important work to do. We will keep fighting for the best strategy for the rally. I’ve got quite a lot of experience of this kind of rallies, from Germany and so on. I’m feeling really good actually and it will be extremely fun to jump into the car and see what we can do.    

Q: This is the voice of a confident man! As you said, you have quite a bit of experience on this kind of rally characteristics. Talk to me about the opening day around the circuit here in Monza because as we can see, there are parts of the circuit but also some kind of gravely paths as well. It’s going to be a tough challenge on Friday? 
TK:
There is a lot of change, not only gravel, but grass, muddy places also… For sure there will be a very different kind of grip level. One of my strengths is to see how the surfaces can be so I hope I can work with that as much as possible. Just get the right tyre on and get to finish as soon as possible.    

Q: What would it mean to walk away with the title this weekend?
TK:
I’ve goose bumps in my back when you say it and for sure, it is the biggest thing that ever happened in my life. This is the last opportunity I have to get the Junior WRC title and I will do what needs to be done to get it.

Q:
Sami, talk to me about your weekend. You are a fresh face - 19 years old - and in your first year, you have the potential to take the title this weekend. How are you feeling about that? 
SP:
Of course it is nice to see that I can be competitive in the first year. But of course, the competition is so high in our class and fighting for the championship is a chance. Like we’ve already heard from the other guys, they will do their best and I’ll do the same.

Q: You have the most stage win points of all drivers in the Junior Championship this year. That’s an impressive statistic on its own; What are you thinking about it?
SP:
It’s really nice to see. Of course, even if I have the most stage wins, that doesn’t mean I’m leading the championship. We are doing a series with many rounds so you need to be clever at some point and it’s a bit a combination of different things. But of course, I think that Tom and Martin have more to lose and I feel I have nothing to lose at the moment, as I’m a bit behind them. So I’ll do my best and we will see what happens.

Q: He could be the “danger-man”. He’s not feeling the pressure right now. Are you feeling the pressure, Martin?  
MS:
A little bit more than Sami, but I think not as much as Tom feels the pressure now.

Q: Tom, do you have the most pressure on your shoulders?
TK:
Explain pressure. I don’t understand well (he laughs).

Q: Sami, not only you’re up to that potential victory but if you don’t make that, you can get the “Rookie of the Year” award, which is a great prize as well. So it’s a win-win for you, really, isn’t it?   
SP:
That’s true also. I’m a bit younger than Tom for example so I may have time. But I could be also competitive in the higher class and it would be a nice challenge to have - that’s also a dream to be there one day. Even if there are different starting points, for us the goal is the same.   

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Bo Christer Bofeldt, Worldrally.se (SWE) to Tom Kristensson.
Q: What does it mean for you that there are only four rallies in the FIA Junior WRC Championship?
TK: I don’t think about the situation itself because I can’t change it. I just work with the conditions I have, I do my best,. For sure, it is always good that, with full championships, we can drive all the rounds. I wasn’t lucky in Estonia so for sure, it would be better but, as I said, I can’t do anything different. So I think it is good to have four rallies. It’s fine.   

Reiner Kuhn, Motorsport Aktuell (GER) to all Junior drivers.
Q:What do you think and feel to be at this difficult time here in the Lombardy region for this weekend?
TK:
It feels amazing. I mean, a lot is changing everyday with the COVID-19 situation and it’s amazing that the organizers can do something like this. I’m very happy to be here and I also think that the championship would look very different if we were not able to be here, so I’m very happy that this rally can run and congratulation to the organizers.  
MS: For sure, until the last minute when we took off from Latvia, just from the news it didn’t look like something can happen here. But congratulations to the organizers they did an absolute amazing job to make it happen. There are still four days to go and we need to do our best to make this safe as well. 
SP: To be honest, first of all, it felt maybe a bit wrong to make big events at these difficult times, but on the other side, for the rally the organization is doing a great job. It shows that we can do even big events safely and that is really nice to see. I think it’s not so wrong at the moment.