WTCC - Post Race Press Conference


WTCC - 2017 Race of Argentina - Post Race Press Conference

WTCC, Touring Car, Race of Argentina, FIA, Motorsport

Find here all the pictures from the 2017 WTCC Race of Argentina

FIA WTCC Race of Argentina, 14-16 July 2017
FIA World Touring Car Championship 2017, Rounds 11 and 12 of 20

Briefing Room, Circuito Termas de Río Hondo, 17h00, 16 July

Yann Ehrlacher, RC Motorsport, Opening Race winner and WTCC Trophy winner
Norbert Michelisz, Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, Main Race winner
Mehdi Bennani, Sébastien Loeb Racing, Opening Race second position
Tiago Monteiro, Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, Main Race second position
Esteban Guerrieri, Campos Racing, Opening Race third position, Main Race WTCC Trophy winner
Thed Björk, Polestar Cyan Racing, Main Race third position
Néstor Girolami, Polestar Cyan Racing

Turning first to the winner of the Opening Race, his first victory in the FIA World Touring Car Championship, aged 21, an amazing drive by Yann Ehrlacher. Now you said at the finish of that race you couldn’t quite believe you’d won so talk us through your emotions right now?

It’s an amazing feeling to share this press conference with a driver like Tiago and all the other drivers. I watched their race since I’m born so to share a press conference with them is just an amazing feeling.

After a very good start that first lap was rather dramatic for you. Talk us through what happened with you and Tom Chilton and also your reaction when you heard he’d got a five-second penalty?

I was at the front for the first couple of corners but in the braking he just hit me a little bit on the back. I think a five-second penalty is a bit hard for him but it’s like that. It’s good for me but this is touring cars, there is always touching a little bit, but in the end for sure I was happy when my engineer told me about this five-second penalty. Next time I would prefer to win a race by crossing the finishing line first.

Turning next to Norbert Michelisz, winner of the Main Race here in Argentina. Up until a few weeks ago you hadn’t won a single race all season but now it’s two wins in a row for you.

Obviously I’m really happy because it’s important points for the championship. I was a bit down after the Opening Race collecting zero points and I knew I had to push. I really wanted to overtake Nicky at the start but he did just the perfect getaway from the line and I wasn’t able to catch him. Then I tried to push but up until his puncture I was never really in a position to overtake. I’m a bit sorry for him but happy for us, because it’s important points again for the championship, second Main Race win in a row so really happy with that to be honest. The team did an amazing job from the first moment in Free Practice 1 yesterday morning. I always had the confidence in the car to attack and I think in the end this helped me to win.

And the lead of the World Touring Car Championship for Manufacturers now belongs to Honda, which is obviously a very good achievement. What do you think has made this possible?

I’m very happy, I didn’t know that. Throughout the year we did a great team job. Ryo [Michigami] was a bit unlucky with issues with his engine, I think he can be proud of himself arriving in his first year and to score points. I am happy to be part of this family because I said many times I am really grateful for the opportunity to become a works driver and in the end to have success is the most amazing feeling so I am really happy for the team. Thanks to them for having me and I hope that arriving in first place in the teams’ championship we will not let Volvo go ahead again.

Turning next to Mehdi Benanni, second position in the Opening Race. Now Mehdi you said when you won in Portugal you were here to “disturb” the championship and here it’s more points for you so what does that say about your title prospects?

I think it’s still on the same goal. To score points by finishing P2 behind Yann is a very good race. P5 in the Main Race for us is good to have a result like this when we carry maximum ballast with 80 kilos. From the beginning of the weekend we knew we would have a tough weekend but in the end it’s good because we score good points and very good fights, very close with Yann but congrats because he did a very good race so congratulations to him for his victory, which I think will not be the first, he will have more.

Turning to Tiago Monteiro next, second place in the Main Race. Now there was some rough and tumble for you in the Opening Race and then on your out lap before the Main Race you ended up in the gravel. What happened and a comment on your 12-point advantage in the championship?

First of all, congratulations to Norbi, a very good job this weekend and fantastic for the team. And it was good for Ryo to be in the points. The guys are doing a good job and that’s why we have recovered the points lead [in the Manufacturers’ championship]. It’s very important and we want to keep it that way. Also well done to Yann. We saw him with his uncle when he was just a young boy and now a few years later he’s here winning races so well done to him as well and also to everyone else here for doing a good job. The first lap of the Opening Race was definitely rough. I was hit from behind, locked my wheels trying to avoid some cars and unfortunately I hit my team-mate. Actually he saved me because if he wasn’t there I would have gone straight. I’m sorry for that obviously but it was really a racing incident. That time I had some luck on my side for sure. And then during the race it was a matter of trying to push as hard as possible. I had the steering wheel completely offset and it was a tricky one but we needed to score some points and we just needed to survive. We changed a few things on the car going to the grid and there was an issue with the braking system. As you can see as soon as I touched the brakes there was nothing and I just went straight. I was lucky it was a long run off in that place. If it was in Vila Real my race was over. Again this is racing. We only have 15 minutes to change whatever we can and sometimes these things can happen. In the end I was quite lucky. The Main Race, the two of us did very similar starts so it was very difficult to gain advantage. But we pushed really hard with Nicky leading obviously. I tried my best to be close in case an opportunity arose. In the end we did a one-two, good points for the championship. Twelve points is nothing but it’s better to be in front race-by-race. We still have eight races and four weekend so there are still a lot of things that can go wrong. I had a really awful weekend in Nordschleife, Nicky had a bad one this weekend so you really need to take advantage of everything that comes to you. This championship is so tight and six or seven drivers can still win the championship so every point will be important. Whether it’s MAC3 or Q3 or the races.

Turning next to Esteban Guerrieri, third place in the Opening Race and the WTCC Trophy winner in the Main Race. Does that make up for last year when you said it was a case of being “close but no cigar”?

First of all, congrats to the guys, to Norbert, of course you Yann and everybody here. It’s been two very tough races. For me I am really happy be honest how the Sunday turned around to be a very good Sunday. Two very aggressive races. I was in the good side in every manoeuvre I did. In the end I was a bit lucky sometimes because when you push things can go wrong as well. But I tried to take advantage of the first laps even though I didn’t have very good starts, which is definitely something we have to work on. The system we have is the best we have but we are far away from what the others are doing and we keep losing positions in the start, which is a bit frustrating. But the races were good, good overtaking, good manoeuvres, good fights with everybody, this is what the people wanted to see. In the end achieving a podium in one race, I thought the Main Race I would be closer, but in the end it came up to be in the Opening Race. I was very happy with this. In the Main Race I had the best car and with this car I could have done more in qualifying because I really feel the car was there and I could more or less follow the pace of the official guys. In the end it was a good fourth place, very solid for us so I am very thankful to all the team Campos and everybody who came to support us here.

Turning to Thed Björk, third position in the Main Race so congratulations on another podium which keeps you firmly in the title fight. Talk us through your two races?

The first race was really eventful and I did not have the car to come into the fight directly so I lost a couple of positions in the beginning of the race. I think Esteban helped me a little to lose some positons and I think he knows that. But it’s touring car racing, it’s fighting and we all must learn new things. It was very eventful and for me the bad thing I lost some points. Also in the second race losing some points as well but I feel I am still in the fight for the championship. I am most sad because of Nicky’s puncture and for losing the first place in the second race. This makes me a little bit sad. I know it gave me third but I would prefer to be fourth and he won the race. But for me it’s good, I keep fighting and the next time we will be in China and I want to be in front both times. But also congratulations to Yann for his first race in the WTCC to win. I remember my feeling from China when I won the Opening Race, it was fantastic. A win is a win and you deserve it. I am also very happy for my team-mate Bebu [Girolami] who keeps me pushing all the time. He’s the local hero and I feel very proud to have him part of my team.

Finally turning to Bebu Girolami. Not quite the home race weekend you were hoping for. What happened in the Opening Race and what are your feelings right now?

Congratulations for Yann, he did a fantastic job, also Norbi in the second race and also Esteban for doing a fantastic job in scoring a lot of points. From my side it’s been a really, really tough weekend again. It’s a really bad feeling but you have to be fighting and never giving up. We might have some issues in the first race with the clutch and gearbox. I have to use the clutch in every gear for the upshift. The powershift didn’t work so it was really, really tough. Then I had to reset the powershift but it didn’t work again. The Main Race still the same problem. I tried to keep the pace as much as I can. Then I the vibration went away so something is wrong in the gearbox so we know that now. This is important for the coming races. I am sorry for the fans, I did my best but it was not enough to be on the podium so I will keep fighting to be on the podium in the coming races. Sorry for my team-mate Nicky. He deserved to win the Main Race but unfortunately he had a puncture as I had in Nordschleife. It was a really unlucky weekend of the team. We had the speed to be in the top because we showed the pace in the qually with Nicky and Thed being in the top five. Again an unlucky weekend for us but we keep fighting. We win together and we lose together and we will be stronger in China.