WRC - Ypres Rally - O. Tänak: “To be honest, it was actually quite a challenging one” | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - Ypres Rally - O. Tänak: “To be honest, it was actually quite a challenging one”

21.08.22

2022 Ypres Rally Belgium

Post-event Press Conference

Present:
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Ott Tänak (EST), Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Elfyn Evans (GBR), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Esapekka Lappi (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Julien Moncet (FRA), Deputy Team Principal

Q:
Congratulations to you all on your results. Two wins in a row, Ott Tänak. First in Finland and now here in Belgium. Maybe you didn’t expect to be on the top step of the podium?
OT:
To be honest, it was actually quite a challenging one. I mean, Belgium is always a tricky rally that we already learnt last year. Without really driving here, it is difficult to know what the place is. The characteristic is a bit similar to Germany but all the surface changes and the big cuts, through the villages, there are very many special places. We actually never expected to take the fight to Thierry but then we were able to fend off the Toyotas, and it was a good job.

Q:
Certainly was. How did the car feel out there this weekend?
OT:
In some moments it was not so bad but we had this transmission problem that we had to swap to something else. Basically, our test was not really the best to get a good idea of what we need to do. We knew there is a full shakedown where we could get a good idea. We basically brought some options, but we were not planning to swap it because of reliability trouble. So we had to swap. In the end it was good enough and I got used to it and adapted.

Q:
How much of an issue was that transmission problem. We could see you lose time but not so much. How much of an issue was that on Saturday?
OT:
Yeah, it was in one moment, it started to basically drop off and basically, we didn’t have the full performance anymore. It was actually nothing, that could lose like one minute. It was lacking the edge.

Q:
Two wins in a row is great to see and that momentum is there. It seems the team morale is pretty high right now. You and Thierry were on form this weekend. I asked you in Finland if you thought things had turned a corner and you were not so sure. Has anything changed since that point?
OT:
It has just been a few weeks since Finland and I guess everybody expected to see Thierry perform. It is his home rally and he knows all the stages, the surfaces and everything you need to know to go faster. There is no question that Thierry would be fast here whatever the car situation is. From our side, we were quite surprised, also on the shakedown, we still struggled quite a bit but we managed to regroup. We pulled it together and got the direction to go and you can see the potential is there and some wins are possible but altogether, but on every surface and every rally, it needs much more.

Q:
Finally, lets talk about today because you went into a big battle today with Elfyn Evans just behind. When you headed into the first stage this morning what was the intent? Was it to go absolutely flat out and how much were you on the limit today?
OT:
Let’s say definitely I was pushing. The first loops are quite difficult. We have a lot of cars going in front of us and between us and the gravel crew. There are quite many changes actually, you know with the cuts. So you always need to leave some room for surprises. I know Elfyn is very strong on Tarmac and especially in tricky conditions. I had to push quite a bit.

Q:
Elfyn, second position, not too far away from the man in front. How do you rate your performance this weekend and how are you feeling about second overall?
EE:
Yeah, obviously never fully happy to finish second. That is always the case. It has not been a bad weekend overall. I got off to a pretty okay start. I had the feeling the car was generally okay over the weekend but today we probably managed to make another step and increased the confidence level. When you make a change you have a bit of time to adapt. Let’s say I was happy with the progress of the car and, in the end, it is not a terrible result.

Q:
Can you reveal the changes you made overnight? We are aware that it is something within the transmission, but can you tell us more about it?
EE:
Just some transmission things that is all.

Q:
That is all. You said at the midpoint Media Zone today that it took a bit of a while to get used to the car and it was handling better than yesterday.
EE:
Certainly, it was not transformed but there are certain areas, let’s say that we were struggling with on day one, two and we looked at it last night. We were not going to catch the win on time alone. Let’s see if we can find something that makes you a bit more comfortable. The guys were working together on something last night to try something and at least that was positive.

Q:
When did you realise you couldn’t catch Ott or was it a case of pushing right to the end?
EE:
I knew already it was a bit of a long shot. Of course, to keep the pressure on to force a small spin or an error, which is easy in the conditions we had. I knew that eight seconds in 50 kilometres is not so easy barring any mistakes. I knew that Ott drove well so it was a case of doing the best job we can and be solid and make sure that we were there all the way through the day just to capitalise if he made a small error.

Q:
Looking to the next round in Greece and back to gravel. How are you feeling about heading there and when will the first win come this year?
EE:
That is a good question. I am looking forward to Greece. I think the feeling in the car was quite okay when we left Sardinia, even if the event wasn’t successful for us. Like everyone we have areas to improve, and we had work to do after Sardinia. Obviously, the last couple of gravel rallies haven’t been so relatable to Greece let’s say, because of the high-speed nature of Estonia and Finland. But now, we have a test this week and hopefully we can continue to find some small improvements, and we can have a good rally in a few weeks’ time.

Q:
Thanks Elfyn. Esapekka, third place and back on the podium again. But I have to say a much smarter car going over the podium this time, than over the ramp in Finland a few weeks ago. How happy are you with this result?
EP:
Very satisfied but it’s less PR! It is not so extreme, less media time, you know. I don’t know, it’s not so interesting!

Q:
So maybe you think you should roll on the final stages in the future?
EP:
Oh, you know I am joking!

Q:
We never know with you to be honest!
EP:
Why, why? But anyway, to be serious, for sure, this is more than I expected. It’s like everybody saw our pace was not really great. Maybe we could hold on with Craig in that fight like yesterday. With all the other cars in front we had no chance. Maybe we deserve fifth place, but we didn’t do mistakes and two other guys did. Then we claim our position. I take it as it is, but it is a big surprise. Patience paid off this weekend.

Q:
It certainly did pay off. But what is the future for the rest of the year? We are seeing you in Greece but we don’t know after that?
EP:
We don’t know.

Q:
We must wait for Mr Ogier to make a decision?
EP:
More or less.

Q:
Okay, what are you wanting as a driver moving onto next season? Would you want a fuller season are you happy with just a partial season?
EP:
Well there are two sides. For sure as a driver, you would like to get a chance to fight for the big prize. Then on the other hand, the most important thing of your life is your family and then the partial season is a very good balance. With professional life in rallying and then family life. I am ready for both to be fair. I acknowledge that I have no chance to beat Kalle at the moment or anything like this but to keep that in mind, this partial programme is actually pretty good.

Q:
Okay, thank you very much. Julien, two wins in a row now for the team. A brilliant weekend for Ott Tänak. Heartbreak yesterday for Thierry Neuville and Oliver Solberg gets the best result of his career. How do you assess the weekend?
JM:
No definitely, it was a good overall result. First the win for Ott is definitely the highlight. Two wins in a row in Finland, fast gravel, and now in Ypres on Tarmac is every encouraging for the rest of the season. And yes, good result as well for Oliver – fourth place is his best result so far. After the disaster in Finland, he manged to bounce back and set up some proper pace here in Ypres. We worked differently with him as well to give him confidence and consistency and it looks as if that has paid off. Of course, on the downside, Thierry went off yesterday, although he was clearly fighting for the lead of the rally but that is motorsport.

Q:
That is motorsport. How difficult was it to watch what was going on out there today. Ott always looked in control, but it was always such a small amount of time and as we have seen out there this weekend, mistakes are very easy to make here. Was it a tough watch back at base?
JM:
I think Ott likes to play with our nerves. He did it already in Finland and then today. It is now, I have always said all weekend that you need to be careful to the last moment. We saw it this morning with Adrien Fourmaux, a single mistake can take you into the ditch. Then it is over. The stress was until the last moment. We know that Ott had this target in mind. On the other hand, we were quite confident, but you never know.

Q:
Question to you all. This is the second time that the WRC has been in Ypres. What do you think of the event, starting with you Ott?
OT:
I mean there is no question that WRC needs these kinds of events where the people have this kind of passion with the rally. I mean, coming here, doing the stages, seeing these huge crowds it means it is the place that rally needs to be and where the rallying is loved. It is best for all of us, also the manufacturers love that people are here and it is great to be here.

EE:
I agree with what Ott said. Okay, it is not the most exciting prospect to come to the stages on one hand because they are quite specialist. But obviously now, with a couple years of experience, they start to be a bit less new and a bit more familiar. But the service in the town square, the atmosphere all weekend and a proper itinerary as well, where the is a chance to get sleep on a night is not so bad!

Q:
What about you EP, what are your thoughts on the rally?
EL:
I agree with what Elfyn said. It feels like a historic rally. I did one las year, actually. It was part of the Finnish championship, European Historic Rally Championship. The time schedule was very similar. You have late mornings, long road sections in terms of times, not in terms of distance. It was really nice to wake up in the morning and you realised you recovered from the previous day. You are not shaking like I was in Finland. It is a very unique event in terms of the roads. I would not say I am a fan of it but maybe I should be now! It is about junctions and a lot cuts. It is a very unique event so let’s keep it in the calendar if I can do results like this!

Q:
Julien, do you have anything to add from what the drivers have said?
JM:
It is the same really – to be downtown with all the people. They are really passionate. It is not so far from our factory, so we have visits from colleagues, friends and families. So it was something very special for us. Definitely for the team, to have a different format in terms of time schedule is very welcome. We could sleep as well!

Questions from the floor:

Olivier de Wilde, La Dernière Heure (BEL)
Question for Ott. In the Power Stage, Theirry said that he has some issues with the transmission. Do you believe him?
OT:
I don’t go this way.

Did you talk with him about what happened yesterday, about what he said?
OT:
Yeah we spoke about it, it was probably some kind of game. It was what it was, you know. Everybody as you know, are under a lot of pressure and Thierry had the most, fighting in front of his home crowd, trying to bring the win home. It is important and I have no problem with that.

Did you see where he went off. He said to us that he was surprised by the dust. You were three minutes in front of him and there was no dust. He said it was impossible to avoid. Did you put the dust there for him?
OT:
Are you from Belgium?

Yes

OT:
You sound very critical of Thierry at the moment! In one way, for sure if you are leading you should be able to bring the car home. But from the actual side, if you put yourself in our position, I think Elfyn and myself and Esapekka most recently, the things can happen so easily. The field we are playing and the edge we are living on, it is so thin. It is difficult to explain but sometimes it is difficult to explain to yourself why these things happen. It is part of this job and it is sport and it makes the sport special.

Can we know if you are at the end of contract this year?
OT:
No, I have a contract for next year.

Elfyn, you finished five seconds from the win but had a 10-second penalty. You said it was a mistake but a mistake from your co-driver?
EE:
Yeah, basically yes but you know at the end of the day, it’s one of the things that happens. I am not here to point the finger, if you want to do that, he could say that you lost my world championship when you went off the road at Monza. So at the end of the day, we win together, we finish second together. That is it. There is nothing more to discuss.

 

FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Stéphane Lefebvre (BEL), Citroën C3 Rally2, WRC2 Open winner
Chris Ingram (GBR), Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, WRC2 Junior winner
Armin Kremer (DEU), Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, WRC2 Masters winner

Q:
What an incredible weekend you have had here. You are leading the Belgian Rally Championship after a brilliant performance. You were really targeting the WRC2 win in Ypres. It means a lot to you. How do you feel now?
SL:
I feel proud and happy. It was very important for me to win this weekend. This rally for me, is a big dream to achieve this victory. I am very happy with what we have done this weekend.

Q:
Andreas Mikkelsen certainly didn’t make it easy though. Did you feel the pressure he had on you?
SL:
He tried! But we were all the time in control except for two stages each morning. Yesterday morning and this morning we lose a few seconds but then after that we were in a rhythm and we had a strong weekend with no mistakes and we are happy.

Q:
No mistakes indeed. You seemed to be pretty tough on yourself at stage ends. You wanted a bit more speed in places. Were you happy with the pace you had?
SL:
Yes I was happy but I am a competitor so I want to all the time fight with the best and sometimes I fight with myself to be better.

Q:
Stéphane, what does this mean. The win in WRC2 is fantastic and you will continue with the Belgian championship. But what is the future in WRC2 for you?
SL:
No proper idea. I have seen now for WRC2 it is over. But I am focused on the Belgian championship to continue the victories and I hope to win the championship.

Q:
Okay good luck with all you have done and your results. Chris Ingram, a fantastic result for you in the Junior category within WRC2. It is a second win for you in the Junior category. How are you feeling about the result because it does push you to the top now on the leaderboard?
CI:
Very proud. It's been an amazing rally. We were coming here hoping to be close to the WRC2 frontrunners. We definitely showed speed early on. We showed throughout. We were taking some time off Stéphane and Andreas, so I'm very proud of that. I lost some time on day one, when we had hard tyres, and it started raining. You will see you the 10 cars behind these guys. So that was a bit unlucky. But yeah, we've set some great pace and to get the Junior win is mega. I can now go to Greece.

Q:
With some confidence. You like the mornings though. They were very good. The pace seemed to peter off in the afternoons. Maybe we need to address that?
CI:
I had a donut in the mornings.

Q:
So it is a sugar rush right? Keep the doughnuts coming. But in terms that we were all expecting to see good performance from you on Tarmac because historically you have done well on this surface. But this event is such a tough and tricky one. But you seem to master it?
CI:
Yeah, the last time I did this rally was the last crash I ever had six years ago, in an Opel Adam. So that scared me and I have not crashed a car since on a rally. So that was a bit daunting but I am just proud of the drive and to get through to the end today was tough. I am happy and bring on Greece.

Q:
The results this season have been good and when we compare it to last year where you seem to struggle and you're a bit down in your boots at the midpoint of the season. What's changed?
CI:
The team, my new co-driver Craig [Drew]. Personally, I have been doing a lot of work on myself and to get my confidence back because I had a tough time through COVID and didn't drive a rally car for almost two years. So, I'm just getting better and better now.

Q:
Congratulations on your results. Armin, tell us about your weekend out there. It's been fantastic to watch you perform on the stages. Are you happy with the result of the end of the day?
AK:
Yes, absolutely. It is really nice for us that we won the Master Cup. For us we start [here] in 1999 in a Ford Escort and it was okay and after three stages I crashed the car, so I said that I would never go to Ypres [again]. Then we come back and this time, for a long time, this situation I find it really fantastic for our team and everybody that we won the race.

Q:
How much of a challenge did you find the roads out there this weekend?
AK:
The challenge is crazy. You have so much high performance and narrow corners. You have the vineyards in Germany, it’s so typical for the area here and so, I think we should put in a good performance for Greece and put in a good performance for the Master Cup.

Q:
The Masters’ Cup is getting quite interesting now in terms of the leaderboard, and you've certainly propelled yourself up with this result. How many more events are you doing this year?
AK:
We go to Greece, and then do normally to New Zealand and Spain. So we lost two rallies with the engine problem. That was our own disaster. For the moment, it is a good run.

Q:
Well, we had Freddy Loix here at the pre-event press conference. And he was hoping to be exactly where you are right now. Celebrating the Masters’ Cup win wasn't to be for him!
AK:
I don’t know how many times he won this race [11 times]? We pushed on Friday really hard. That was our plan and so we are happy that the plan is coming and is good for us.

 

FIA WRC3 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Jan Černý (CZE), Ford Fiesta Rally3

Q:
Jan, you were here on Thursday hoping to get the victory in WRC3, you've done that. But the main factor for you this weekend is that you had an English co-driver, Tom Woodburn alongside you – English pacenotes for the first time and it was obviously a success. Tell us how it went.
JC:
Honestly, it was quite difficult. I met Tom for the first time on Monday. We didn’t have too much time to prepare. He did an incredibly good job. The timing and everything was perfect. A big thanks to him. He's a really good co-driver and yeah, it works very good. You know, before the rally we knew that we just need to finish, just do our business and that was the plan and we did it. We won, it’s incredible and honestly it is so hard to do the race like this because if you push all the time, you’re 100 per cent concentrated on the driving but if you go through the stages, it is so difficult to stay concentrated and drive without mistakes. It is more difficult than when you need to drive flat out. I hope that the next race will be in Spain, and we will be there fighting and we do everything to be prepared for this event and push like never before.

Q:
You've moved up now to joint second position within the WRC3 category. So it's very tight at the top of the leaderboard and it's all to play for now.
JC:
We have to win. We have to bet [Lauri Joona] there and we can win the championship. So as I said before, we do everything we can to be ready. We prepare ourselves and the car and I look forward to go faster.

Q:
Even though you had a different strategy this weekend, which was, as you said, just to finish, which is hard enough on a rally like this, were there any hot moments out there at all, any big moments or was everything all calm?
JC:
Everything was quite okay. I have to say a big thanks to my team because we have three events in three weeks, We started in Finland then went to Norway for European Rallycross Championship. And now we are here with the same guys with one truck, so it was a bit complicated to manage everything, but we did it and I am excited.

Q:
A bit like Armin Kremer although the gap is smaller. You've had a while since you competed at the rally and I know it didn't end well previously for you. You glad you came back this time?
JC:
Yeah, definitely. The last time I was here, we fight with Chris [Ingram] and I crashed. I think it was in 2014. I fight with these three guys, so it is good memories to sit here and speak with them.