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

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03.10.19

Transcript of the pre-event press conference organised by the FIA for the 2019 Wales Rally GB

2019 Wales Rally GB - E. Evans / S. Martin

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Sébastien Ogier (FRA), Citroën Total WRT
Kris Meeke (GBR), Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Elfyn Evans (GBR) M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
Craig Breen (IRL), Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT

Q:
Seb, after a fantastic win in Rally Turkey, you propelled yourself into second position in the championship. Now we head into an event which you have won 5 times previously – what, for you, is the strategy here? Does it now have to be a win?
SO:
Definitely, Turkey was a good move for us. It’s nice to be closer and back into the fight. Coming into this rally, I believe the pressure is more on my concurrent than on myself, but still I would prefer to be in his position than mine. I am still 17 points behind and that’s not easy to catch. I have some good record here and I do my best to continue that and keep my championship alive.

Q:
What do you think of the conditions here?
SO:
Starting in the front is definitely better than been further back. If it rains, then it should be more consistent for everybody. But it can turn to fog or to heavy rain and then can be very challenging. Let’s see what’s coming tomorrow. I have only one guy to focus on and that’s Ott. I know, like always, he will start flat-out. I know what I have to do, I have to give our best and fight for maximum points.
 
Q:
How was Shakedown?
SO:
Not bad. You cannot make anything from Shakedown, but it’s nice to see that we are in the pack. It was quite a difficult test, where we had very dry conditions and I was maybe not so passioned to drive on the slippery stuff this morning, but that’s what we’re going to have this week. I have decent tools in my hand and if things are going well then I’m pretty sure I can catch a good result.
 
Q:
Elfyn, welcome back to the championship! After a three-rally break due to injury, you return to your home event. Must feel good to be back? How do you feel, physically?
EE:
I’m fully healed and ready to go.

Q:
Do you feel a bit rusty?
EE:
A little bit in the first run. It was just a good reminder of how fast these cars are. I did a session in the R5 car in Greystoke last week, which was great – but it’s not quite preparation for these cars. I was a little bit on edge this morning, but it’s fine now.

Q:
We have seen you win here in 2017 and this season, prior to the accident - has been one of your best to date in terms of consistency. Can you return to form straight away?
EE:
It was far from ideal, what happened, but there’s nothing you can do except for getting back to work as soon as possible. We’re lucky in rallying, injuries are very, very rare. You never think it can happen to you, so it’s a bit of a wake-up call that it can happen to you. There was nothing I could do, nothing to change – we just had to get on with it. But now, I’m looking forward to the next three rallies to come.

Q:
Can we see you on the top step of podium?
EE:
I don’t know.

Q:
Come on! Let’s have some fighting talk…
EE:
You never know with Rally GB. Everybody here wants to win, of course they do. Let’s see how it plays out.

Q:
In all those months at home, did you find anything out about next year?
EE:
No…

Q:
Craig, second event in the Hyundai for you – how are you feeling?
CB:
It’s great to be back again. It’s not quite as long as Sardinia (that was Evans’ last WRC start), but it’s been a while since I was back behind the wheel of a World Rally car. What I did in Finland was enough to merit us another chance – it feels a bit like another interview here! I need to do a good job for myself and do all I can to help Hyundai for the manufacturers’ championship.

Q:
You talk about this being another interview – how much pressure does that bring?
 
CB:
Every time I get in the car now, it’s a rare opportunity for me to show what I can do. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to get something for next year. When the pressure comes, I try to disconnect; nobody’s putting a gun to my head to get in the car. My whole life is about this sport and it’s about enjoying this incredible opportunity and making the most of this weekend.

Q:
Which is the toughest day?
CB:
Friday is tricky, starting with Elsi, which is reversed from last year and more tricky in that direction. The stage doesn’t have the same flow in comparison to the other direction. Everybody here, we’ve all done this rally for the last five, six or seven times and we know the roads on Saturday, we know how to read the grip come rain, hail or shine. But Friday, the stages are a little bit newer and a little bit trickier – but still as beautiful.

Q:
We saw you back off to let your team-mate through in Finland, would you be looking to do the same again this time?
CB:
That would be the best-case scenario for me. I’m here to do the best job for the team and it’s clear Thierry is the number one driver, he’s the one fighting for the title. I’ll do everything I can to help him and the team and to try to secure a future for myself and Paul [Nagle, co-driver].
 
Q:
This will be your 11th appearance here in GB, Kris, and your first time with Toyota. How do you feel ahead of the event?
KM:
Like Seb said, our test was at a similar time: we had dust and 22 degrees and that’s not normal in Wales. Then we come here this morning and it was a wake-up call on how slippery it can be. This stage, in particular, gets quite polished. We can’t read too much into Shakedown [times], but to know that the car is working in tricky conditions is good. Let’s see what the weather does. If it does rain, it can be more consistent and wash [the mud off] the road – and if the sun comes out, the grip can get worse and it can be the most tricky.

Q:
How much difference is there between the medium and soft tyres here?
KM:
I’ve got no idea how much difference…

SO:
Nobody does!

KM:
My test was in dry conditions and I can’t imagine there’s anything better than soft tyre – but then I heard Elfyn was on the medium tyre and he done the same time as me… you can waste a lot of energy asking a lot and making decisions and not make any difference.

Q:
What tyres did you use Seb?
SO:
Medium. I like them actually and I have been very clear since last year I don’t feel any gain to use soft tyres. I won the rally last year using only medium tyres. I might be wrong, let’s see.
 
Q:
Any news about next year, Kris?
KM:
Not for the moment. As far as I’m aware Toyota don’t have any drivers for next year. Obviously Ott holds the cards and once things fall into place [for him] everything else will happen quite quickly. But there’s a lot to fight for this year, not only for Ott, there’s the manufacturers’ [championship] for Toyota as well.

Q:
But you want to be driving next year?
KM:
I’d like to be still driving in 10 years’ time! I really enjoy driving and, for sure, I want to be here.


FIA WRC 2 PRO CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Mads Østberg (NOR), Citroën Total
Hayden Paddon (NZL), M-Sport Ford

Q:
Mads, this is your 14th start in Wales, can you use that experience this week?
MO:
I definitely hope I’m used to the grip. You can’t learn this event, it changes so much every year. You can learn what the different colours of gravel are like and what to expect. From the first corner, it always surprises you when you come to that first corner and there’s not so much grip. It was the same this morning. But there are big smiles through the stages and I love that, you can never expect anything here all you can do is tighten your belts and go as fast as can.

Q:
There’s an incredible entry of R5 cars here – it’s going to be very competitive?
MO:
Definitely. I think this is the biggest challenge and the best we’ve had in a very, very long time. It’s really nice to have Petter [Solberg] and Oliver [Solberg] here – it’s been a long time since I competed with Petter. Probably the last time was here 15 years ago or something like that!

Q:
You said you were star-struck seeing Petter again this morning…
MO:
Yes! It’s always amazing to follow PS in his RX career and watch him on TV. You know, when I am seeing famous people from the television then I do get a bit star-struck. It’s lovely to have him here, he didn’t change at all, he’s still talking all the time about diffs and spring rates!

Q:
What are your hopes for this weekend?
MO:
It will be tough for sure. I’m quite happy we have the done maximum we can do with the car. We have prepared well on some really, really slippery conditions. We have a chance to win, but the easier it gets (with more grip), then the more difficult it is for us compared to the other guys.

Q:
Hayden, good to be back?
HP:
It doesn’t really feel like it’s nearly 12 months since I was here in the FIA WRC. It all feels pretty natural, there’s a process and we’ve gone through it with the recce and all that stuff. It’s good to get back in the rhythm again.

Q:
How’s the car?
HP:
It’s very different to what I’ve been doing and driving this year. I’ve been driving some very high-powered cars, so coming to the R5 car means some adjustment. The main thing here is about helping M-Sport to develop the Fiesta and preparing ourselves for moving forward.

Q:
This is going to be one of the most competitive rallies of the season for R5 – what are your chances?t
HP:
It’s going to be pretty tough for us this weekend. The driving style and the notes very different [in an R5 car]. It could be more difficult to drive than the World Rally Car. It’s about what you’re used to? I’ve only done three rallies, so I need time in the car and to get ready for Australia.

Q:
What are the chances of a full-time return to FIA WRC next year?
HP:
I’ve got to be realistic though now. With New-Zealand back on the 2020 WRC calendar, I’m working on a limited programme building up to that, that’s the aim. There are limited seats in the WRC now with these young guys coming through.


FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Petter Solberg (NOR)
Oliver Solberg (NOR)

Q:
Petter, welcome back! Now, tell us, why did you include Wales in your Farewell Tour?
PS:
There are a lot of reasons. The history here is incredible and having Phil [Mills] in the seat always makes it special. And I met Pernilla [Solberg’s wife] in Rally GB as well. This rally is always very special – not just because of the victories, but it’s all the fans and the people who have appreciation for this muddy, wet event. It’s been really good fun with the Farewell Tour, with a lot of different things this year, but this is my first rally since Spain [last year]. I’m really looking forward to it.

Q:
And good to share this moment with Oliver?
 
PS:
It was looking a bit dark when he failed his written [driving] test last week. I stayed in the workshop until 01:00, I didn’t want to go home! He was very upset. He went to the sauna, then for a shower and has been reading his driving book a lot. The driving test went OK and then he did the written test in the afternoon. I was waiting for a phone call, but there was nothing. Then Pernilla called and she said: “Oh Petter, he failed again!”. She was joking, but honestly, I was on the floor in the factory! He got the licence, but this was a big pressure for him to have this rally in the plan. To drive the last one together, it means a lot.

Q:
Can you go out with a win?
PS:
For sure, everything is possible. I haven’t driven Rally GB since 2012 and I had a 45km test on Monday and that’s it. It’s not so easy to come back, Phil has a fantastic voice and that side is all perfect, but you need confidence to attack. If I can be top six, I will be very happy. I’m more nervous for Oliver. You come to this age and you want your kids to do well. All I want is a clean race – I’m here for different reasons, not mainly the result. I want to enjoy it. I have the sponsors, family and a lot of people and Oliver has to learn. We see what happens, people can do mistake – even I can do mistakes!

Q:
What’s been the best moment Petter?
PS:
It’s so many things. I think when Oliver was born and I was in New Zealand on the plane back home. Oliver was born three months too early, but he came and I was celebrating with Tommi Makinen on the plane and Juha Kankkunen was on the floor in the plane! I was nervous like mad to see how it would go with him. Over the years this story is maybe the strongest feeling for me – a few years ago, it would be all motorsport, but now I have changed a bit and family is important for me.

Q:
Oliver, welcome to the WRC. You’ve had a great season already, become the youngest ever FIA ERC winner. How’s the feeling, are you nervous?
OS:
Of course there are some nerves. I have done some races this year, winning in Estonia (R5 in Rally Estonia) and always the ERC race win was special.

Q:
Were you worried about the driving test?
OS:
No, not really… actually yes! I never practiced for a test so much in my life, two weeks, day-in-day-out and I failed with one single question.

Q:
What was the question?
OS:
I don’t want to remember. I got another go and passed!

Q:
And what about this challenge?
OS:
It’s big. To learn the mud and everything, it’s big. I have never driven this surface, but some of these stage characteristics are similar to America – the surface, the mud and gravel will be a big, big challenge.

Q:
How inspired are you to compete here with the family history?
OS:
My grandfather raced here and Dad won the WRC World Championship here and this is one of my favourite rallies. This is one rally I really wanted to start. It’s a dream come true to be here with Hayden Paddon and Mads, I have always looked up to them. It’s very emotional and a cool feeling.

Q:
What can you do this week?
OS:
This race is just to learn, to get experience of a very different rally to any other. I want to have fun, take it easy, take the experience, not take any risks and see how it goes.


FIA JUNIOR WRC CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Tom Kristensson (SWE)
Jan Solans (SPA)
Dennis Rådström (SWE)
Tom Williams (GBR)

Q:
Tom, you won the first round in Sweden. How do you feel on this huge weekend. Are you nervous?
TK:
This is my first time in Junior WRC for me. I said it was a learning year for me, and it’s been a great success so far. It’s been over what I expected. For sure I want to do my own best, the feeling is great – I have some great memories from the season. I want to enjoy the stages and the rally, and it can be awesome at the end. I will do all I can to win, but it’s been a great year.

Q:
What do you think of the stages will they suit you?
TK:
Everybody said Sweden is my home rally, but this is my second home rally and I feel more at home on this rally! We need to avoid the punctures and then I enjoy the flowing stages that I like.

Q:
Did you take any advice?
TK:
Yeah for sure. I speak to a lot of people to be as well-prepared as possible. There have been some good tips I didn’t think about before, but I keep these to myself!

Q:
Jan, how are you feeling as a title contender?
JS:
A little bit nervous, as you can imagine. Everything will be decided on Sunday. We need to do our best and try to achieve this title.

Q:
Anything can happen here…
 
JS:
Yeah, there are 72 points to win. Denis has a really good chance to fight for the title, but we focus on ourselves to concentrate in these muddy stages.

Q:
Have you been surprised at the challenge?
JS:
Not in the recce, I saw the stages on the video at home. But on the Shakedown, I was surprised how slippery and how fast you can go – you can get good grip from here.

Q:
Has your brother Nil given you any advice?
JS:
He knows how to do it. He was the FIA Junior World Champion two years ago. I want to say thanks to him. I told him what I feel and think in the car and we are both making a good team. We have done a really good job and let’s try to be in the best possible way.

Q:
Denis, we’ve seen lots of consistency from you this year, how much of a chance of the title do you have?
DR:
Quite big! It’s nice in this championship, we have been quite fast through the rallies. The mindset is to be fast early in the rally and then keep going.

Q:
How have you prepared for the rally?
DR:
We need money to drive the rally, but we got a free opportunity to do a rally in Slovenia and we have some kilometres from testing in Wales. We do a lot of onboard work as well. We drove a lot before this rally.

Q:
Denis, you’re all friends in FIA Junior WRC but now talk to each other?
DR:
I think I’m more quiet now…

Q:
Tom, this is your home event, how do you predict this one?
TW:
Of course it will be really tricky, it’s all come down to this rally – it’s so unpredictable, there are so many points. It’ll be a really big battle on a very big event.

Q:
What’s your mindset?
TW:
It’s been a tricky season, on this one I just want to keep the pressure up with these guys – we want to do the best we can and see what we can do against these guys.

Q:
Any news on the future?
TW:
It’s a tricky decision. It will revolve around budget, but we need to go to four-wheel drive soon. But we also need to drive the doors off a two-wheel drive car. We see these younger guys getting into four-wheel drove – we need to do soon.

Q:
Has it been enjoyable?
TW:
Hugely enjoyable. The FIA Junior WRC is the steepest learning curve and you are up against the best young drivers around. It’s good to get the second per kilometres down.