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WTCR - Race of Russia post-race and WTCR title winners' virtual press conference


FIA WTCR - 2021 WTCR Race of Russia - Post-race and WTCR title winners' virtual press conference transcript 

The top 3 in Race 2, the winner of Race 1 and the four WTCR title winners** took part in a virtual press conference following Race 2 at WTCR VTB Race of RussiaIn attendance:Rob Huff (Zengő Motorsport), first position, Race 2Frédéric Vervisch (Comtoyou Team Audi Sport), second position, Race 2Nathanaël Berthon (Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, third position Race 3Mikel Azcona (Zengő Motorsport), first position, Race 1Fredrik Wahlén (Team Principal, Cyan Racing Lynk & Co)Yann Ehrlacher (Cyan Racing Lynk & Co), King of WTCR**Luca Engstler (Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team), FIA WTCR Junior Title winner**Gilles Magnus (Comtoyou Team Audi Sport), WTCR Trophy winnerQ:Rob, congratulations. Normally this time of the year you would be winning in Macau. So why not do it in Russia, right?RH:Yeah, exactly, it’s quite fitting I think. We’ve had a horrific season, absolutely horrific. There’s no other way to put it. We’ve had seven DNFs and we had two opportunities where we should have won races. One in Budapest and one here. Obviously in Budpest I made a hash of it, but here we managed to make the absolute most of it. The car was really fast straight from the first wet conditions in Free Practice 2. The car was brilliant in Qualifying, and then in race one I think Mikel and I did a fantastic job to work together as team-mates to get Mikel on to P1 and unfortunately Fred and I had a coming together and my car came off worse, otherwise I think we would have had a 1-2. The car is amazing, the team have done a fantastic job just to repair my car and get it out. I think we made it by one minute, so huge thanks to Zengő Motorsport. And with race two I just got a fantastic start, jumped two places, got Yann and I think I was even battling for the lead into T1, was on the outside so I knew I would have to cut back in and did. And then something I haven’t seen for a long while happened behind the safety car with Yvan and Mikel. I’m not sure exactly what happened but it resulted in them both going off and then on the restart I found myself in P2 from P4, made a really good move on Néstor, we had a really good fight for a few corners and then just managed to get my head down and get away. But that lap I got a warning on the dashboard that we had a low fuel pressure alarm, then we got a misfire, and I had to do six laps in the lead with the dashboard not really working and the gear change not really working that well.Q:But you were spanking out fastest laps at the same time…RH:Yeah, I was making up for it somewhere else I think! But I’m just so pleased the car finished the race. With my luck this year I wasn’t sure. I genuinely thought with four laps to go the car was going to die and that would just seal the fate of the season. But to get on the podium and win the race was just brilliant.Q:Just how tricky were the conditions out there?RH:Really tough. Every lap it wasn’t consistent, the track was drier in some places. Under the safety car it really started to rain on the back straight but not on the front straight. So it was really difficult and as the conditions changed the lines changed. So as the first one to arrive I was trying to explore as much as possible, but not go too far away from what I knew was working. I just had to make sure after the safety car that I knew Audi and Fred would be really strong on the brakes into T1 and if anything that was probably my weakest part of the track, so I just needed to make sure I could cover him there and I knew I could get a few tenths for the rest of the lap. Just really, really tough and thankful we are sitting here and quite amazed to be honest with you.Q:Fred, what a year this has turned out to be for you. After round two you thought that was it for the season, then your title battle has gone all over the place and you finish just 21 points behind Yann after another tricky weekend for you.FV:Yeah, extremely tricky. But first of all I would like to congratulate Yann for the title. At the end today he deserved it, they were the strongest the whole year and they did a great job. I want to congratulate Mr Rob Huff for his victory. And last but not least I’m very happy that my team-mate got his first podium as well. I think that shows as a team with a new car we developed extremely well. I never expected to be here, so François Verbist, our team manager, he always pushed as hard, we had a big fight blaming each other for different things, but in the end we pulled all on the same car and we are here in P2. I think we are best of the rest and that’s amazing, for this car but there are many things still we keep on improving and I have to thank everyone on the team. I’ve never been part of one that is so good at working together, and with all the drivers, Gilles, Tom and Nathanael. This was a great experience and I’m happy that we could finish in P2 in the championship. They deserve it.Q:You must feel very confident ahead of next season.FV:Do you know already that I will drive? For sure, we want to go for champion and the car is still not done, we can still improve and for sure I would love to be a part of it, to keep on working from where we are now. But let’s see. I really hope.Q:Nathanaël, finally you’ve got your podium! For you, again, it’s been such an up and down season, hasn’t it?NB:Yeah. For me it was not a very easy season, I would say. Up and down, a lot of work to do. Finally I’m here, so happy. I’m a bit speechless. I’m happy for the team, for Fred of course, for Gilles who did an amazing job. We worked a lot this year. To develop the car was not easy and there was a lot of effort from everybody. I feel very happy actually to have this strong result. I thin everybody deserves it and that’s why I’m very happy. I would like to congratulate Yann, for sure, as a French guy second time in a row. We know one time it is not easy, but two times it’s actually an achievement. So congrats to him and to Lynk & Co as well. I think we have to work a little bit to reach his level, but we are on it. From my side I’ve had quite a lot of trouble this year. I’ve always felt great in the car in terms of performance. But every time in qualifying something happened so I was not able to be with my mates. Finally it’s a good end to the season and will give a lot of motivation to all the team to have the aim to fight against the Lynk & Cos next year.Q:Mikel, what an up and down day. First of all talk us though race one and what a start.MA:Thank you very much. First of all, congratulations to Yann for the championship. Really appreciate a very good job for the year. Also to Rob for this race, he deserved it and obviously to Nathanaël for the podium. It’s been a really difficult day for me, but I’m really happy because I won the first race starting from P8. The feeling is really good. I think this season I was waiting for a victory the whole year, so really happy. Second race, it was a very frustrating moment for me because I didn’t expect that crash from Yvan. I really appreciate that he came to me to apologise, so I understand his point of view and I’m sure he did a mistake, so no problem about that. But I was trying to win the second race because I felt really good in those conditions in the wet. I felt really fast and I wanted to finish the season with a double victory which for me would have been amazing and for Cupra Racing. It would have been really impressive to finish the year like this. It’s been a really up and down season for us. Anyway, I’m really happy because the team is really happy with Rob winning the second race. In the end the weekend went amazingly, so I really hope next year to have as many races as possible in these conditions. Anyway we are going to fight in any conditions.Q:How does 2022 look for you?MA:We will see. At the moment I want to enjoy this moment, tonight to be with my team, with CUPRA. It is the best moment to be together and to relax and enjoy the season. Obvioulsy once I arrive at home I will prepare myself for the next year as much as possible because I want to be world champion, and this is my goal. We will see.Q:Fredrik, here you are yet again and what a season it has been. It is such a deserved title.FW:Thank you. It has been a really difficult season. I think we started in tough conditions and when we finally got the golden band on the car we never let go. I’m really happy for the team and it was a real team win, I must say.Q:This season felt like the hardest win. Was that the case from your perspective?FW:Yeah, absolutely. The competition was super-hard with a lot of new cars coming and great teams. It was really tough from the start and we had to fight enormously for it. Yeah, really tough.Q:Last season you set a precedent and said this is how the team works, because you work so well as a team and everyone else seemed to follow suit a bit more and put the pressure on.FW:I don’t know about that, but we work in a certain way and we constantly try to improve. The better work we do the better we can perform on track, so it’s just coming prepared. That’s what we’ve done this season as well, and we came away with this.Q:How proud are you of your boys?FW:Super-proud. I think I have an amazing team and to have Yann as one of the drivers and to see him here for the second time is an amazing feeling. I’m super-happy for all the team and super-happy for Yann.Q:At what stage of the year did you feel the title hope was in Yann’s hands?FW:Ten minutes ago! You can never count on anything. We were lucky in race one securing it but it could easily have gone into the second race. Coming here we were not certain. We had a good run in Adria, so for sure coming here in the lead is always nicer than chasing it, but I must say the competition this year has been super-hard. I didn’t take it for granted until the chequered flag was dropped.Q:Through those races it showed that an element of luck comes into it, doesn’t it?FW:Yeah, absolutely. You need to be a little bit lucky, for sure. But looking at Yann he hasn’t had a single DNF this year. I think that stands out and that’s why we’re here with the trophy again.Q:Yann, here we are again for a second time. How old are you?YE:Twenty-five.Q:My goodness. Do you know of any others who have got an FIA title at the age of 25?YE:To be honest, no, I don’t know any actually, but maybe I need to look a little bit deeper.Q:I know you are always cool, calm and collected and that you say you are never thinking of the title. But that can’t actually be a true story…YE:It’s half way to a true story. First of all I want to congratulate the two gents next to me and Frederic as well. Behind us, there are plenty of guys and girls to make us perform and to be honest when you see the amount of energy they spend to provide us with the best package they can when we arrive at the race weekend it just gives us wings, we are thinking about racing every single day. Maybe we will have fun tonight and tomorrow we will have a rest. Then on Tuesday we will start thinking about 2022 and that is why this team is so good. We are all in and they live for this. That as a driver is the most amazing feeling you can have when you feel pushed by your team like this. A big thanks and all down to the workshop in Sweden as well and in China as well that give us a big support. Now I forget your initial question, but I would be pleased if you can tell me again. No, I remember! It’s half way the truth that I don’t think about the championship because for sure when you start to go further into the season you have the yellow banner on the car and you say ah, I want to keep that until the end. It’s nice to have it from rounds five and six but you want to have it at the end. I don’t have a lot of experience. OK, I started racing at eight years, so it’s a lot, but compared to other drivers in the field it’s not. You realise it is better to take it race by race and optimise your chances so you don’t get the pressure from that.Q:Do you feel like you have a different head on your shoulders, even from last year? Can you see the development in yourself over the last few years?YE:Yes, because to be honest when I joined the championship I was, OK, a bit younger and had less experience. And getting experience helps to be a bit more straight mentally. But maybe this year was even another step compared to last year because OK, last year was the first time. When you go after being champion to restart from zero again at the beginning it was a bit difficult for me, to be honest. And then we catch that back to be here. But in the end where I made the biggest improvement was mentally I think because driving at a certain level we can all drive quick, but it’s just the way the manage the pressure through the season. I felt it was more challenging than last year, so it was a tough one and I’m sure I will get out from this a bit stronger.Q:Luca, when we spoke at Pau-Arnos you said it’s been such a difficult year. Yet here you are. Congratulations.LE:Thanks a lot. First of all, congrats to Yann. I have to say guys like Gabriele and Yvan have been a big ideal to watch, but now seeing what he has done in the past two years is massive. I don’t think because there are not many people speaking about BoP and everything, but he was doing the best job in the past two years and for that honestly I want to take my hat off. It was a massive season and obviously I want to follow in his footsteps. That sounds a bit bad because I’m only four years younger but there is definitely a lot to learn from him. Also congrats to Gilles. Like you were saying we kicked off amazingly at the Nordschleife with a great start, but I had to understand early where to be and obviously it has been a tough season. I made some mistakes, the team made some mistakes, but at the end of the day at a level like this there is no room for a small mistake. It’s been a tough one, but to at least secure this title next to TCR Germany I think is a good end to the year.Q:What have you learnt about yourself this season?LE:Well I think I learnt that racing is not only about doing some fast laps. There’s a big package you need to take care of and probably 80% of the performance is done in the winter or decided then. That’s very important to learn and understand, and then obviously to bring it together like, for example, Yann was doing perfectly this year.Q:Consistency from every area?LE:For sure, yeah. To know when to take risk and when to be careful. For example now in the second race they came on the radio to say if we finish like this you win the title, so obviously I was not feeling very comfortable to attack. But I was very close to the guys ahead. I saw Yann, I saw the podium ahead and I felt we had great pace in the car, but it was the time to take care and secure the title to at least have one back in the factory for Hyundai.Q:Gilles, you are mister consistent. Last year you won rookie of the year and here you are having won the WTCR Trophy. But today has not been easy. Talk us through your season and today.GM:Let me start, I know it’s starting to be a cliché and I think Yann has had enough compliments these past two years, but still – it’s deserved. These guys are on another level and we need to accep that and we need to learn from them. But also Yann personally has done a great job and it’s great to see three of the youngest guys in the championship sitting here. Winning two titles at 25 years old is impressive, so big congrats, it’s well deserved. About my season, I think we’ve had a lot of ups and downs, we’ve had quite a few DNFs or last-row starts due to technical issues or problems in qualifying. I think this costs us the possibility to even fight for the championship because at a certain point we were in the fight. Ending the season like this, I think I was leading all the year the junior title and to end like this I think I had 24 points advantage before the race and I just had to finish. Bad luck and contact with some other driver, which was not my mistake obviously… and missing out on this title with one point is painful but I think we should not focus too much on that. My performance has been good this year, the team and Audi Sport has seen that. I’ve helped my team-mate as much as I could the last few races, so I think it’s positive. I think I can be happy and I will sleep very well tonight. And obviously congrats to Luca. Consistency paid off so I can only congratulate you.Q:What can you do to be in Fred’s shoes?GM:I think a big part of that is experience. If you just look at the pace most of the time I’m there. OK, I’ve had a little bit of bad luck, but it’s not only bad luck. I have to be honest about that, it’s experience and making the right decisions at the right moment. This is something Fred is doing very well due to his experience and age, and I think I have improved a lot on that during this season. For sure I can learn a lot from Fred and this is good for the future. I will be as good as him one day.Q:Yann, what will you do to celebrate now?YE:To be honest, I don’t know. We will have a good night. But I’m starting my second season next weekend, the ice racing. So no rest! Tomorrow my mind will turn to that and fully focused, so not too much partying for me tonight. But tonight we will enjoy with the team because it is a lot of pressure we will release. But from tomorrow on I will really be focused on the next goal.**Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA