WRC - T. Neuville: "A stressful day until the very last stage". | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - T. Neuville: "A stressful day until the very last stage".

13.11.22

2022 FORUM8 Rally Japan - Transcript of the post-event FIA press conference organised by the FIA on November 13, 2022

2022 WRC - Rally Japan - Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe and the Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT team at the final podium (Nikos Katsikis / DPPI)

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Winners of FORUM8 Rally Japan - Present:
1st - Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Thierry Neuville (BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
2nd - Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Ott Tänak (EST), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
3rd - Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Takamoto Katsuta (JPN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
Rep. of the winning manufacturer – Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Julien Moncet (FRA)

Q:
Thierry, well done for taking the final win of the season. A dramatic day out there. Changeable weather conditions, a real battle with Elfyn Evans first thing in the morning. How satisfying is it to win here in Japan
TN:
Yeah. I think it was awesome. It was one of the worst you can imagine, one of the worst days of rallying when you’re fighting for victory. Such a challenging event, and a new event as well. I was very happy to make a difficult tire choice in the morning, having to face very difficult competitions. Since the opening stages, already, we have a lot of leaves on the road, and it was getting more and more dirty, but somehow, we managed.  Fortunately, at that time, we had a bit more of a lead and were able to manage a little bit more but yes, it was a tough day, a stressful day until the very last stage. But we were happy to take the win here in rally Japan.

Q:
There seemed to be a great deal of relief when you go to the end of the second stage this morning. You saw your time first, then I think you realized what had happened to Elfyn afterwards, because you were kind of punching the air. 
TN:
Yeah. I mean you are pushing hard and doing your best, and I realized that I was faster at this stage, and I wasn’t sure on the last downhill how I should go. I was trying to go as fast as I can because I wanted to make a gap… But it was a bit of a worry, and we knew that from that point on, yes, the gap to the cars behind was quite big, and it was up to us to manage.

Q:
It’s been an interesting year following Hyundai’s progress, because it was a difficult start and then it got better from the midpoint of the season onwards. Do you feel the team is ready to properly challenge next year?  
TN:
It’s hard to say. The way things have happened now, there were a lot of down in the season, 2 more ups from the mid-season on, where we started to put on the sails of victory. For me it’s been mainly on tarmac, although I struggle a bit especially on the faster events, and those are things we need to work on for the future for sure.  I hope that the win here, as well as the second place in Spain will give the team some motivation for the team to work out in winter time because winter is going to be really short. In less than 2 months we will already be on the road to Monte Carlo preparing for the rally, so it’s an additional boost and hopefully we are going to use it as a benefit and be stronger from next year.

Q:
Ott Tänak. Second position on your last rally with the team. How tough a challenge did you find this new event on the calendar? 
OT:
It was a challenge as Thierry has already explained earlier. It was not easy.

Q:
Talk to me about the level of risk you took this weekend. To get a result because you found yourself a little bit adrift of Elfyn and Thierry in terms of time.  how much were you at the limit at points this weekend? 
OT:
Not too much obviously.  I was missing the confidence I needed, you know, to fight for the best times and stages, so the Toyotas and Thierry were obviously faster, so you know we were not able to take the fight with them.  And obviously if confidence is not there you are not going to take the risks. We did everything we could very well, and we couldn't do much more.

Q:
There was always going to be an interesting tyre choice this morning with the threat of rain out there. And Hyundai seemed to come up all bases with hard, soft and wet weather tires. Do you feel you guys went with the right choice of tire today? 
OT:
I would say today there was no right choice today, but we thought that was the safest choice to do and we made good time. So altogether I'd say we made a good choice.

Q:
Obviously at the press conference on Thursday we discussed your plans for next year and you didn't have much to tell us at that point. Do you have any time in the future when you'll be able to tell us when or if you'll be back? 
OT:
I have no targets at the moment. We will see.

Q:
Taka, congratulations on achieving a podium event in your home event. It was your target for this weekend, and you have got that in very difficult circumstances. Out there today as well. how are you feeling right now? 
TK:
Yeah, it's a very special day, as you said, my target was to get onto the podium. At one point I was struggling a bit, but now I’m here so I’d like to say a huge thanks to the team and the supporters.  They gave me a lot of motivation. So, thanks to them.

Q:
Talk to me a little bit about next year though because team principal Jari-Matti Latvala said he wanted you to get a podium outside of Kenya because Kenya seems to be favorite place to get a podium and he wanted to see it somewhere else, and it's come home to Japan so what's the target for you next year? Your own personal target. 
TK:
Yeah, my personal target I’m trying to get more confidence. Portugal was a bit close, and I couldn’t get a podium, so I need to improve especially in tricky conditions and, I’m still struggling a bit and in these conditions, you really need to push.

Q:
Julian, you walk away with a 1-2 here in Toyota city that must be satisfying. A great result to end the season for the team as well.
JM:
Yeah, definitely it was great motivation to win here in Japan. We had a difficult start to the season. Monte Carlo was quite tricky a disaster …some moments as well in Kenya. But we kept working, we kept pushing. And we never gave up. And there is a lot to do but I think we can work well together these are the things which no one was expecting after Monte Carlo. So yes, definitely our target is to win championships and not a bad result to put down until next year.

Q:
And preparation for next year begins instantly there is no off season for WRC teams because Monte Carlo is just around the corner, but from a personal perspective Julian you have steered the team through some difficult times. This year you have come into as what you described as a deputy team principal all year and it's been a hard year as you described. How has it felt for you? Do you feel like a changed man? I can't see any more grey hairs than normal, so maybe not too stressed.
JM:
Well.  In the end we have to think about things as a team not just the work of 1 its everybody in the same direction, which is not always easy. But hopefully this positive momentum will help us move one step forward next year when we start the season again. I mean we'll have a bit of rest next week, but we are working on developments for next and one day soon Monte Carlo will come so we will not have too much time to rest.

Q:
Final question for you. Ott makes his departure, who replaces Ott? And are there any other driver move arounds we should know? If so, when are we going to hear about these? 
JM:
I think everybody wants to know the same answer to this question no amount announcement today.  We are getting close to a final this and in the next couple of days you'll get the answer to your question. But first we have to enjoy this moment here in Japan.

FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Winners of FORUM8 Rally Japan and 2022 Champions - Present:
2022 WRC2 Open/Junior driver champion – Toksport WRT – Emil Lindholm (FIN)
2022 WRC2 Open/Junior co-driver champion – Toksport WRT – Reeta Hämäläinn (FIN)
2022 WRC2 Teams champion – Toksport WRT Manager - Jacek Wyrzykowski (POL)
2022 WRC2 Masters Cup driver champion – Toksport WRT2 - Mauro Miele (ITA)
1st driver FORUM8 Rally Japan WRC2 Open/Junior – Grégoire Munster (LUX)

Q:
Emil, what weekend here in Japan. You were very cool and calm on Thursday's press conference. I'm not sure how you nervous you were during weekend. You were leaded 1 point in WRC2 and taking the title what all you want at end of the day which was the target this weekend. How is the feeling right now? 
EL:
It's mix of joy and relief. I realised that we really have to fight and we can relax, and it's not easy to manage with really stay in focus at the situation what I was bit worried about that but finally we are here. Wow it's much more than I could believe. To achieve at this point - it’s incredible. I really want to thank the team - everyone, and supporters sponsors for making this possible. it's been long and it's not always easy, but here we are. It was worth it.

Q:
Certainly was. Yesterday was quite incredible because we saw some brilliant
Times from you set and you were leading in WRC2. But you were very casual, not really push now harder than where times coming from I think.  Team Suninen confidence dented after that those comment. But just coming naturally. This event is suit you obviously.
EL:
Yeah pretty it was.I was enjoying myself. Once I knew I did not have to go for the result, ,may be that's all strategy need to take those things which were quite treacherous to put in words so yeah obviously, I guess pace was good, but we try to keep some which I needed. But that's true, I was bit surprised myself also. 

Q:
We now would like to welcome Mauro Miele who won WRC2 masters cup. For 2022 season, what this means moving forward, it's fantastic achievement. It would be the dream come true one day junior category within WRC2 and WRC2 Open as well. It's double bubble. What does this mean for next year, that's all crucial thing to get in point of season. We want to know what are you doing next?
MM:
Let's see. I mean, obviously I want to stay in the WRC. And do these rallies. Honestly many rallies I have not been done in the championship. To learn those ones to get experience from that. We have some learnt and it's still bit open, so I hope to get back again to that topic soon.

Q:
Reeta, What an achievement this year. What's the partnership between you and Emil? And such a success throughout the season, what's the feel like to sit here, knowing you are champion in WRC2.
RH:
I think it's still pretty unbelievable, to be honest. Somehow, I just don't know...it's amazing.

Q:
It is amazing. Such as successful season. The Finns is part of success because in WRC3, Lauri Joona taking the title and obviously Enni MALKONEN as well, female co-driver. Females have been represented this year within in this sport in category which is really important.

RH:
Yes, it's actually Isabel winning with Loeb in Monte Carlo this year, it was pretty amazing. And Sara Fernandez last year and this year, somehow, and now Emil and me… It is really nice to see that female competitors are coming up in this sport.

Q:
You are a beacon of hope others see you doing and realise that they can do it. You are as I say someone people can look up to now which is good thing. Tell me about nervous out there today because you has some pretty treacherous stages to call in difficult conditions. This always  a fist bump at the end of every stage that you complete but things to be bit more energy in that fist bump today?
RH:
Yeah of course, today we had pressure of course, because we knew that we need finish, we need finish in some kind of result to get the championship. So of course it was intense. But also, I just rely on Emil, I know he will deliver it, so just amazing to do the work with him.

Q:
Grégoire, what amazing performance we have seen today. Such some great times throughout weekend within WRC2, but today, you took over a minute out of everyone else on very tricky second pass of Ena City. How do you feel right now taking your first winning  WRC2? 
GM:
Yeah I mean taking the win is of course amazing feeling. The day was quite tricky with some risk there. I think also have help in the fact we took good tyre choice in the morning, but still we had to make differences for guys like Teem Suninen who took same set of tyres, so we pushed quite a lot at the penultimate stage, and then we just control in last one, and job done.

Q:
You said you took some risks there, but end of the stage, you said you took every risk. It looked like a very scary run through let's say, but you think you were under control?
GM:
Yeah, there were some moments. We knew we had good tyre choice, and 100% honest, we were more fighting for podium, may be second place, then knowing that we had the advantage with tyres, we really try to take some time back, and at end of the stage was  surprised me, we knew we were first!

Q:
And that must have been such a big thrill. Were there some big nerves? ahead of the final power stage or not?
GM:
yeah you always feel a bit of pressure but you just take it like any other stage. And everything goes well.

Q:
Mauro, what a season we have seen in the master’s cup which is new for the. You took the win in Monte Carlo. Estonia, I believe there was a good amount of second places,  it's been a very consistent season for you and to take the title of the end of that you must be very pleased with the result
MM:
Yes, for sure. I enjoy the title here in Japan. Because of the people who are fantastic not in the stage but around the transfer.  

Q:
It was a tough rally though have you ever seen stages like this before.
MM:
Yes, in Italy we had stages like this or even worse than this, so I’m used to it the only thing is I had three days looking everywhere, looking at every corner. to look for stones or cuts or ditches so at the end when it started raining i just said i have to go.

Q:
Well, you did go on the power stage. That was a pretty amazing time out there. Are you going to frame it and put it on the wall?
MM:
This is the way to satisfy me for the championship if I go slow in the last stage to win the championship it's not nice

Q:
You did it in style. So, you'll be back next year?
MM:
For sure in Monte Carlo.

Q:
Good. I look forward to seeing you there, Mauro. Congratulations. Let's talk about top sport because you won the team trophy for this year, an incredible year for the team. How would you sum it all up?
JW:
Yes, congratulations here for the winners sitting here next to me the drivers and Mauro for the power stage. Yes, of course. In the WRC2, it was tough for everybody. For journalists, photographers it was a long season for everybody and the top events with ERC with Renault Clio. It was a lot of events, but we are trying hard to prepare for the best together with Skoda Motorsport and just to let. our really talented drivers we have a few and we are happy with the drivers lined up this year, so the title is a title. It tastes very good. and I’m happy that me and Andretta scored. I think from Estonia rally. there was a very strong performance solid and Finland and Greece also and the driver's fought to be the champion in WRC 2 to do this result. Many people helped us to do this result. drivers like Marco but latch and of course the code drivers as well thank you thank you

Q:
The top sports stable seems to grow every year. It's almost taking over the service park. What's the plan for next year?
JW:
Yes, this year our record was seven cars. In Sardinia, 7 Skodas. So, it was quite a lot and it's not easy, but we are trying our best and growing up step by step. And the next season, we will compete with the new Skoda Fabia RS Rally 2, so we want to score good results from Monte Carlo and continue throughout the season.