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

WRC - Rally Turkey - Pre-event Press Conference Transcript

18.09.20

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

2020 WRC - Rally Turkey - O. Tänak / M. Järveoja (Lenormand/DPPI)

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Sébastien Ogier (FRA), Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
Elfyn Evans (GBR), Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
Ott Tänak (EST), Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team
Teemu Suninen (FIN), M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
Esapekka Lappi (FIN), M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
Sébastien Loeb (FRA), Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team

Q:
Seb, you’re leading the championship as we head into Rally Turkey. The battle is heating out as we head into the end of a strange season this year. How are you feeling about the championship fight right now?
SO:
It is definitely exciting, as you say, and it is close, just like the fans like it - and I have to say, even I like it. It is always more enjoyable when you have some tight competition. That is how you like to have success in a best-case scenario. For sure, it’s a nice season. We would love to make more rallies but we have to deal with the same situation like the whole world is dealing with right now. We are glad to be here to compete again. This rally is going to be challenging and very rough like always. It is hard to make any prediction for the weekend, but the feeling is good and I am happy to be in the lead of the championship coming here. It’s hard to have any clear strategy because you want to come through without trouble and still have some pace to fight at the front. It is never an easy rally to manage.

Q:
You have had success here and the win last year. Is there a secret out there or not really a secret?
SO:
There are some sections that are actually really nice, where you can push and drive as fast as you can. I think that it will be the case tonight. We mentioned many times that this short section tonight is crucial for the rest of the weekend to try and pick up a good start position. It shouldn’t be too rough. First on the road, you always suffer from the grip but you also enjoy the conditions, actually. It is smooth to drive. It is fun driving but annoying to see the times at the end.

Q:
First on the road is always going to be a disadvantage but the further back you go can be even worse with what is pulled out. Is there a fine line?
SO:
It is getting rougher, for sure. It depends on some sections. On the stages for tonight I don’t think there will be so much roughness, especially as we drive them only once. But the second pass over the weekend is going to be very challenging. Still it is best to be as far back as you can on the road, to be clever and not push too hard on the rougher sections. For that, we will have to be strong tonight. I mentioned already that I feel good in the car. We made some positive progress during the test. It is hard to estimate how much. Shakedown cannot give us much of an answer but we’ll find out soon.

Q:
You mention positive progress. In what areas of the car?
SO:
I would say the main areas – chassis, suspension and differential - as that is what you always play with to try and optimize the grip, the traction and the protection as well. When you go on an event like this, you need the performance but you also need a strong car as well.

Q:
Elfyn, you’re second in the championship. You come here for the second time because you missed last year due to an injury.  Do you feel that is a disadvantage for you?
EE:
I think, it is not a big disadvantage, to be honest. The majority of the stages are the same as 2018. Of course, there are a couple of stages there that we haven’t done. We put a bit more emphasis on them before we came to try and learn them as much as possible and to catch up on what we missed. It shouldn’t be a big problem. Hopefully, we can perform well on these stages as well.

Q:
You are right back in the championship battle in second place. Ott Tänak has joined you now and is third in the championship. The battle is really heating up. How are you feeling about that?
EE:
There’s no pressure as such. We are all here to do our best, fighting for the same goal. Ultimately, we all have to perform on each event if we want to rack up the points and come away with the goods at the end of the year. It’s still a case of going rally by rally and giving the best we’ve got.

Q:
Seb said there’s positive progress in terms of the progression of the car. Do you feel that?
EE:
Yes definitely. I think the guys have already been working quite a lot since Turkey last year and we started with a stronger base with the test already. We have been able to find quite a few further developments, which are really positive. My feeling in the car is good and hopefully that will serve us well for the weekend.

Q:
About the long stage on Sunday morning: if you had the lead of the rally, Mister Ogier said that, with any advantage, you would still feel unsafe because it is such a rough stage.  Do you agree?
EE
Yes, I would tend to agree. It is a long and difficult test, but we don’t only do it once. We do it twice. It is not a traditional Sunday with three or four 10km tests which are smooth and you can manage your gaps stage by stage. Sunday is very much a full day’s rallying really in terms of the conditions and the challenges you face. I don’t think of it at all as being a Sunday stroll if you had an advantage on Saturday.

Q:
Ott, a great win for you at home in Estonia has put you right back in the battle. How are you feeling coming here to Turkey? Confidence levels are high after that win?
OT:
Of course, it was nice to start the championship finally. Back in a normal work rhythm. Of course, this weekend is completely different to what we faced a few weeks ago. It is a new challenge but we have been here before. We kind of know what to expect. Let’s see. Normally, the performance of this car is good in the rough conditions. You cannot really enjoy driving in these conditions but if the car is performing, let’s see what is possible.

Q:
Seb said you have to be fully awake for these two stages tonight.
OT:
It’s true, as Seb just explained, Saturday is the longest day and it is quite important to have a good road position.

Q:
How was the car feeling for you this morning on Shakedown? Are you happy with your set-up for this event?
OT:
Generally happy and all is working. It was definitely the roughest stage of the event, hopefully. Let’s see what the weekend brings. I have never done this event in this car so I am looking forward to see how it plays out. Sunday is tough, Saturday is just long but normally, it should not be that rough. I guess, on Sunday we will have many surprises and I will need to drive with the eyes open.

Q:
We are seeing with the new format of rallies now that Sundays have become a proper day. Would you prefer it to be that way in future?
OT
Actually I would say that, currently, the format is pretty nice. We can come to the event one day later and still we have a proper competition. It shouldn’t’ just be for this year, it should be generally like this.

Q:
Teemu, you have done well here in the past. You have been competitive here and scored good results. How confident are you that there can be a better result here than in Estonia?
TS:
I have to say, I am not sure if any one of us can be confident because of the risk of punctures, and the risk of breaking the suspension is pretty high here as well. We just have to do our best and hope luck is with us to get through all the stages without facing problems.

Q:
You talk about risk. We have a short amount of stages this evening. Would there be any caution in taking an extra tyre tonight? Or would that disrupt the balance of the car?
TS:
I believe that, on the first two stages, we are going to take only one spare. Still the risk is high, as we saw on Shakedown already. We need to try and avoid all the stones and still go flat out. It’s a tough compromise.

Q:
How was the car feeling on Shakedown this morning? Were you happy with everything?
TS:
We did only three runs and the car felt pretty good. It would have been great to drive more but we have to keep in mind that Shakedown was really rough and we did not want to break the car too much. We just need to have a good feeling on the first stage and do our best.

Q:
The M-Sport cars have come straight from Estonia and been re-prepped here in Turkey. The team have done a good job, but you still might have a dent in your roof?
TS:
Yes I still have roof aerodynamic damage in the roof, which allows more air to the rear wings. This has big effect, especially here as the rally is really slow!

Q:
Esapekka, talk to us about this event. We have seen success for you in the past. Last year, you were second with the Citroën. You seem to have found the key to making it work. Is this an event that suits you?
EL:
At least last year, it worked out. To be fair, you need to have luck on your side. You cannot avoid all the rocks that are there. The risk of puncture is really high every year. It’s a matter of luck as well. And you need to be clever. You cannot push every stage 100%, you need to take care on some sections and on some other ones you can be much faster.

Q:
Rich Millener, team boss of M-Sport, said that he feels the event is going to suit the car better in comparison to Estonia. Do you feel that this is going to be the case?
EL:
I’m really sure. If you check the results from last year, Teemu finished fourth but he did competitive stage times so I don’t see any reason why we should not be in the fight with the others.

Q:
We start this evening with two stages that decide the road order for tomorrow. How much can you maximize your start position on those two stages?
EL:
That’s a tricky one. You would like to be on the safe side and not to break anything. But at the same time, you should also be really fast to give you a good road position for tomorrow. It is not an easy situation to balance that.

Q:
Sébastien Loeb, welcome back. Monte-Carlo was where we saw you last. Now you come to a rally where you have never competed at before, and even though you have wins in Turkey, it was not in this region of the country. What was your impression when you saw the stages?
SL:
I think the stages are interesting - a lot of different stages with a lot of twisty and narrow parts and some fast and flowing ones, some rough and some clean. So it is a bit of everything. I think it will be important to find the right rhythm and adapt to all the conditions. It can also be tricky for the punctures with the big stones. It is important to be quite clever.

Q:
Let’s talk about road positions. How critical will they be tomorrow? 
SL:
It is always complicated to come back into the rhythm, especially as I have not competed on a rally since Monte-Carlo. I did just one day of testing. Tonight, we don’t have any time to lose. It will be crucial for the rest of the rally to have a good result tonight. Everybody knows that. I don’t have two stages to wake up. I will have to push from the start and hope the feeling will be good.

Q:
Tell us what the Seb Loeb plan is for the rest of this year and next year?
SL:
I don’t know. We are speaking about some other rallies with the team. This will depend on many things. On which rally will be done until the end of the season and what the championship situation is. For next year, I don’t know. I had the plan to go back to Dakar but for the WRC, it is not clear at the moment. Yes, it could be the last one. Without driving in the World Championship, maybe I have to think about it. I did it in the past and then I came back. We never know.

Q:
You are on 79 wins. Eighty would be a lovely number. Is there potential to win here?
SL:
There is potential to win. This is a rally that is really open. A lot of things happen always here. It is not only a question of speed but also a question of being clever and being a bit lucky. I will do my best and hope to be competitive this weekend. It is not easy to fight with the guys at the front but I will do my best.

Questions from the floor

Mehmet Ali Kantarci (TUR), Posta Newspapers
Q:
With the rough conditions, how happy are you with your tyres at the moment?
SL:
I am happy with the tyres. I was impressed in the morning with the grip in these conditions. The grip we have with this car and tyres in these conditions is incredible. We have the risk to have punctures but most of the people don’t imagine what we are doing with these tyres.
 
FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Adrien Fourmaux (FRA), M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
Pontus Tidemand (SWE), Toksport World Rally Team

Q:
Adrien, it’s your first time here. What are your impressions?
AF:
For us, it will be a big challenge because it is the first time here. Two big challenges – pace-notes and no knowledge of the stages. It will be very rough, a big risk of punctures and we will have to manage this. Even for mechanics, it will be a big challenge. The rally will not be finished until the end of the last stage. I think we can lose one minute in the first stage and still win the rally. Probably I will have to play more with the lottery in my life. Because I think this rally is like a lottery. It will be a very interesting event. The goal is to be able to fight with Pontus, who is seven points in front of us. It is a big challenge. Let’s see.

Q:
What was the feeling this morning at Shakedown?
AF:
It was crazy. I thought “what’s going on”, I thought “maybe a Panzer (tank) in front”. It was very rough. I know I have to be sure to know every stage where it is rough to see where we can push and where we cannot.

Q:
New notes for you. How did you find the note-making process?
AF:
Completely different to Estonia. Now it is very tricky and very slow corners are closing and opening, closing and opening, uphill and downhill.

Q:
Pontus, you have a lot of experience here in a World Rally Car and a WRC2 car. Does that give you confidence?
PT:
For sure, it will be tricky especially with the tyres. I hope we can find the stages where it is a little bit more clean. We can push a little and then be careful on the rough parts This will be a key point this weekend to finish the rally. Not to have too many punctures.

Q:
You had some tyre damage on the first Shakedown run. Was there any more after that?
PT:
We only did one run and we got a reminder of how tricky it is. For sure it is very different to Estonia two weeks ago. We just need to start the first stage and see how it goes.

Q:
You have the experience here. It’s not about going flat out. What does it take here?
PT:
You have to find out the rough parts, which is especially hard for an R5 (Rally2) car and for the tyres we use in the R5 (Rally2) category. Then you have the last stage on Saturday, which is really clean and nice and you cannot drop so much time so you need to push. You need to find on which parts on the stages you need to be careful. Tonight, on the first stage, we need to be a bit careful while the second one is quite nice and everyone will push. That will be a strategy for me.

FIA WRC 3 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Marco Bulacia (BOL)
Yağiz Avci (TUR)

Q:
Marco, smooth Estonian gravel two weeks ago and what a difference on this one… How do you approach this weekend?
MB:
Yes, it will be a complete opposite event to Estonia. There we were flat out from the first kilometre. In Turkey, now we need to manage the race and take care of the tyres. These factors cost us the win last year. Now I think I have more experience with my second time here. I think I will manage better than last year
Q:
What is your impression of the stages compared to last year?
MB:
They are rougher, for sure. That will increase the difficulty of the rally. We are ready and the car is very good in these conditions. We will try to push where we can and take care of the car and tyres.

Q:
There is a fascinating battle going on for the FIA WRC3 title. How much is that in your mind?
MB:
This rally will be very important in the championship. This is the time that I need to take advantage. It will be a very important event for us.

Q:
Yağiz, it’s your home event and it is fantastic to see you competing in WRC3. How are you feeling?
YA:
First, it is very good to be here after a long break, as our season was starting in April. But, because of the pandemic, we had a long break. As a driver, I did not drive since two years. It is very important for me to be here. I am very happy and excited as well. There are many difficulties with the organization but, so far, it is going well. I hope it continues like this. The stages, already in the recce, are a bit rough and I think it will be extra rough in the rally.

Q:
With your experience, what would you say is the secret on these stages?
YA:
I drove one time before in the WRC. Before it was a national rally and it is was not that rough. It was rough but not that bad. I have the experience from this one year but it was half an experience because we retired very early. I don’t know the stages by heart but, of course, I know the geography and the general characteristics. I hope it helps.

Q:
How did the car feel this morning out on the shakedown?
YA:
After the test, first I tried to remember how to drive a rally car after two years. It came back
quite quickly. In the test, I was very happy with the R5 (Rally2 car). In Shakedown, we just checked the car to see that everything worked well. I did not push a lot. We are happy and have a good feeling. I hope I can be a bit more on it in the first stage.
 
Q:
What are you hoping to achieve?
YA:
To be honest, in the WRC3 class, drivers are really fast and they are doing more rallies than us. I think they will be very fast from the start. Our priority is the National Championship. We are driving for this as well. In FIA WRC3, we are also representing Turkey. If we finish in a good position in WRC3, it will be a good result. But we will check the Turkish drivers as well.

Questions from the floor

Reiner Kuhn, Motorsport Aktuell (GER)
Q:
What do you think of the roads and the intervals between the cars?
YA:
Three minutes. It won’t be a problem. I don’t think.
MB:
We will not have trouble with the distance but the last cars may have some dust and some little darkness and there may be some dust with little wind. I think that, on the other days, it will be perfect.
PT:
If someone ahead of us stops with a puncture, then we may have a little problem.
AF:
Three (minutes) is the minimum for me.