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

WRC - Rally Mexico - Pre-event Press Conference Transcript

12.03.20

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

2020 WRC - Rally Mexico - E. Evans / S. Martin

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Elfyn Evans (GBR), Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
Esapekka Lappi (FIN), M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
Dani Sordo (SPA), Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team

Q:
Elfyn, joint championship leader with Thierry Neuville as we head into Rally México. From what you experienced during Shakedown this morning, how difficult do you feel it will be to get a good result? 
EE:
It has been a good start to the year. Obviously we are happy to be in this position rather than where I normally am at this point in the season. It might not be the ideal road position for me here, but I still wouldn’t change it. 

Q:
From what you have seen on the recce for day one, how much do you think you are going to be hampered?
EE:
I really don’t know, to be honest. The three stages have a slightly different surface. But I really don’t know what the effect is going to be. Of course, there will be a cleaning effect. We know this when we drive a gravel rally. We have to see what the times say. 

Q:
Generally, how was the feeling of the Toyota Yaris at altitude? I believe you have been doing a great deal to prepare yourself physically for the altitude?
EE:
I think, to be honest, the altitude side is not so easy to adapt to. From what I am told anyway, you need weeks at altitude to fully acclimatize so you can only take an edge off, really. It’s more just to get used to the heat. We don’t get so much in Wales during December, January and February, so I guess we try and get used to the heat and try and adapt as best as possible.

Q:
You are the championship leader in a joint points’ situation. This is the best position you have been in at this point of a season. Why do you think the change has come about in terms of your driving and confidence level?
 
EE:
I think we had a really bad season in 2018. Since, and towards the end of that year, I started to put in a few better performances to change the way I did things a little bit. It was starting to take effect last year and it has been working for me so far this year. Perhaps, not to be quite as wild and concentrate more on the technique rather than keeping the right foot down everywhere.

Q:
Esappeka, this is your third event in the car after Monte and Sweden. Do you feel now that you are at one with the Fiesta?
EL:
It has been good, to be honest. We had a good one-and-a-half day test and we managed to try all the possible options which were available, including geometries, dampers, diffs as well, so I think the car is as good as it can be.

Q:
It was a difficult event for you last year, and you don’t have a lot of experience of this round in comparison to the two guys sitting next to you, but what do you think you can achieve here?
EL:
I don’t know. There are always these questions where we should know where we will be at the finish. So, we will finish fourth! (joking). I would be quite satisfied after a hard weekend to be in fourth place, to be honest. This weekend always brings a lot of drama. It is very demanding for the cars and the crews and there is a high puncture risk. I hope we can do well and without any drama.

Q:
Lots of drivers do things to prepare ahead of the event. I guess you all do training to some degree. You have been doing some training, which is maybe a little bit different. We have a lot of gravel stages and super special stages here – nine of them to be exact. What training have you been doing for the super specials?
EL:
Ah, you meant that training….I was in sauna last week. It is good training for the heat. For the super special training, we were driving on a go-kart track with the rally car. We are not the only team to do this, to be honest. It’s funny. The track is clearly very narrow for the rally cars, but I think it was really good practice. They have never been my strongest stages. Okay, I won the first one here last year but, normally, they are not my stages. 

Q:
How do you not lose time on the short super special stages?
EL:
That is what I tried to find out…because I am always losing time. So you need to ask these guys because they are always better than me… 

Q:
Let’s ask Dani Sordo about that, because you have lots of experience here over the years. How do you reduce time loss on such short stages? 
DS:
I don’t know. I am not the specialist also at this kind of stages, especially the first stage today is quite a bad one in the tunnels. For the start of the rally, and a long rally like this, it is difficult to have these stages. The stages on the circuit are much more fun but the first stage of the rally is not my preference. I will try not to lose time because the rally is really long tomorrow. 
 
Q:
Dani, welcome back to the championship! This might be your first competitive outing in the WRC this season but you were in action Monte Carlo as a stand in for Thierry’s safety crew - a role you’d do again?
DS:
I think Thierry won because he is fast. Maybe we helped him a little bit. Honestly, if I can do again, it was a different experience. Not because you had to wake up early, but it was difficult to put in all the ice and things. It is difficult to do well. I’ve always known it is difficult (job) but to put the pressure on, it is difficult.

Q:
A great road position for you here, can we see you take advantage of that? 
DS:
It looks like I have the best road position. Now I will try to do the best, especially on the first rally on the first day. I start eight or nine, the last of the World Rally Cars. It will be good for me and I will try to take advantage of this. 

Q:
We have seen you graduate over the years from the FIA Junior Championship to a tarmac specialist and then you were great on gravel. Now that you have a partial season, you seem to produce the best results ever. How does that work? Are you maturing like a fine wine?
DS:
You forget I was here 15 years before…I was quite happy with the car. These cars are very nice to drive and faster. They give you a lot of confidence. Our new car is also so good. I am quite happy.


FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Nicolay Gryazin (RUS), Hyundai Motorsport N
Pontus Tidemand (SWE), Toksport WRT

Q:
Nicolay, your first ever Rally México, what have you thought of the experience so far? 
NG:
It is my first time here. It is a really nice country and so far away from Europe. It will be a nice weekend. I hope to have fun and enjoy the race and gain a lot of experience because there are a lot of different roads. Altitude is quite high so we need to keep the line and keep the speed for the corners. Not easy, but I think we will enjoy it and try to finish. 

Q:
How has the car handled across the Shakedown stage? Are you feeling the effect of the altitude?
NG:
The first feeling was braking into the corner and after thinking I can go much faster because it is not the same like low altitude rallies. It was good at Shakedown. It was quite a tricky one. 

Q:
As part of the Hyundai team, I believe Dani Sordo has been helping you out a little and was in the car with you recently. Did he give you good advice?
 
NG:
Yes, we did one test day with him and he gave me some advices and also I have a good contact now if I have something to ask. That was really nice. We are now trying to feel our place, like in a home team and we will see how it goes in the future.

Q:
Pontus, Rally México offers up some great memories for you because on each occasion you’ve been here, you’ve won the FIA WRC2 category! The aim remains the same this time around?
PT:
For sure, I will try to win. I think this rally has suited me well and also the car. I have a very good feeling. I will try. Like always, it will be very hot and it is a very long rally, especially if it’s midway on the Saturday and you think Sunday will just be easy. Then you have the first long stage on Sunday and that will be very demanding and one of the hardest stages on the rally. It will be interesting, I think. 

Q:
This rally offers such a mixture with the gravel stages and the super special stages as well. On the shorter ones you can lose a lot more time than you expect?
PT:
It’s true. My opinion, I like the super special stages. This is one of the things I like on this rally. For me, it’s just nice. 

Q:
What conditions were the stages in on the recce?
PT:
Very good, I would say. In times before, in 2017 and 2018, they are better than before. They are very well prepared so I am sure tyre choice will be a bit demanding and we will try to find the right choice and a tyre to survive. It’s a very tricky rally. 

Q:
Talk to us about the future? Do you have a clearer idea of the future yet?
PT:
No. This rally and then we will see. I hope I can come to Portugal. It’s good to be here. I hope to be on some more rounds. 


FIA WRC3 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Benito Guerra (MEX)
Marco Bulacia Wilkinson (BOL)

Q:
Benito, you are another driver who has achieved success with FIA WRC2 here in México. You are in the FIA WRC3 category this time around. It must bring back special memories to be here?
BG:
Yes, it is amazing to be back at my home event Rally Guanajuato, and I am really happy to have a lot of contenders this year. You know, sometimes in México we are missing some of the top drivers in WRC2 and WRC3. This year, there are a lot of them here, so it will be a very nice weekend and a very competitive weekend. I am happy to be back. We have the Škoda we used last year. We won here in 2019. This time, I think it is going to be a little bit more difficult. But we are going to try…
 
Q:
You also had a fantastic battle with the man next to you (Marco Bulacia) last year. Is that battle going to resume again?
BG:
I hope so. Last year the battle with Marquito (Marco) was amazing. We were fighting every single stage. I hope we have the same kind of battle this weekend and I will try and beat him. Every single year, you learn something new. The stages are quite similar to last year, but the heat in the car and the atmosphere in the rally always makes it so different. Every single year is a different challenge and a different kind of drivers. We have been here in Production, in WRC and now in WRC3 – but it was WRC2 last year- and every single year we have a different challenge to beat the different drivers. It is going to be tough but I say welcome to all of my fellows to México and I hope you enjoy our rally. 

Q:
What programme do you have lined up for this year?
BG:
Last year was fantastic and we finished very well in the WRC2 Championship. This year, we are going to try again in WRC3. I don’t know what is going on with this Coronavirus for the next events. I want to be in Argentina but I don’t know what is going on. We will see what we have in the news after Rally México. 

Q:
Last year it was the Guerra-Bulacia battle, which was incredible to watch. How confident are you that you can beat the man next to you this year?  
MB:
More than last year, because this is my third time here. I think this is the rally where I have the most experience, so we will try to beat him and also the other drivers. We have 10 WRC3 drivers and it will be very hard. The rally is also very similar to last year. We are confident.

Q:
You have to battle against the altitude and the loss of power. How do you deal with that? Does your driving style change to adapt to it? 
MB:
It’s just the car. I am very used to the altitude. In the other part of Bolivia where we race, it is 4,000 metres sometimes. But the car, for sure, gets very slow and, as Nicolay said, it is very slow to arrive at the corners. This is the only change.  

Q:
What is the plan for you this year and what is the goal?
MB:
For sure, this year we will want to improve. My next event will be Argentina – but we don’t know. Portugal and Sardinia - we don’t know. We want to race because Argentina is the closest rally to my home and there are a lot of Bolivian spectators.


Guest driver (non-priority)

Present:
Ken Block (USA)

Q:
Ken Block, welcome back to Rally México. The Cossie World Tour continues in 2020 after its debut season last year. A fanatic array of events are lined up. What made you select México?
 
KB:
This event not only delivers great roads but one of the best atmospheres that I have ever seen in a rally. I really enjoy everything from the night stages tonight in Guanajuato to the stages out in the Wild West. They can get quite rough. It is one of the craziest atmospheres of any rally in the world and that is why I am back. 

Q:
You have a huge amount of Mexican fans. Is it crazy coming here? Are you mobbed?
KB:
The Mexican fans are quite amazing. In this part of the world, rally is so popular and it is very cool to see. In America we don’t have a tenth of the fans we have here in Guanajuato. It’s very cool to come back here and to see how the town has grown and progressed since I started coming here in 2007. I am very happy to be back and it’s great to bring the Cossie here. But it’s also disappointing because we didn’t know how this altitude would affect the car. This is a nineties engine and it’s definitely not working that great at this altitude. It is what it is and I will enjoy myself no matter what. It’s great to be on the stages with all these very talented drivers and great to see our friends and industry people and all the WRC folks. My team and I are delighted to be here. 

Q:
The Escort Cosworth is a 90s icon. Where did the whole idea come from?
KB:
I am just a rally tourist nowadays. I still love to be out on the stages but racing at the top level is just not realistic any more. I have a family at home that requires a lot more time, so I am trying to get out and enjoy it because I love being on the stages. If I can do seven or eight events around the world on some of the best rallies in the world from here to New Zealand. That is just very cool. I consider myself one of the luckiest race car drivers in the world. I will keep doing it as long as I can 

Q:
You will also be competing in New Zealand later on this year, another classic FIA WRC event but this time in different machinery, in an R5 car, against these guys?
KB:
I want to go back and enjoy those roads. This time I will take it a little bit more serious that I would in Barbados and those type of rallies. But, for me, it’s that I want to experience that top level car again on some of the best roads on the planet. I am really looking forward to that.