Gronholm, Eriksson, Allison - Ford teleconference 2009-07-16

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This Week in Ford Racing teleconference July 16, 2009 The new Ford Fiesta may not be hitting the streets of America until next year, but the high-performance motorsports examples of the Fiesta have made their U.S. racing debut this week. The ...

This Week in Ford Racing teleconference
July 16, 2009

The new Ford Fiesta may not be hitting the streets of America until next year, but the high-performance motorsports examples of the Fiesta have made their U.S. racing debut this week. The Olsbergs Motor Sport Evolution team from Sweden has brought two new Fiesta Rallycross cars to compete in the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The two Fiestas are being driven by Olsbergs MSE co-owner and four- time Swedish Rally Champion Andreas Eriksson, and two-time WRC Champion and Rally legend Marcus Gronholm.

Joining the media teleconference today are the drivers Andreas Eriksson and Marcus Gronholm along with Jamie Allison, Manager, Ford Performance Group.

THE FORD FIESTA, ONE OF FORD EUROPE'S TOP SELLING CARS, IS BEING INTRODUCED TO THE U.S. MARKET IN A NUMBER OF UNIQUE WAYS.

JAMIE ALLISON - Manager, Ford Performance Group: "Our approach to introduce the Fiesta is to use non- traditional ways. Obviously, earlier on, we introduced our Fiesta Movement by placing 100 Fiestas in the hands of passionate individuals who are going to showcase all of its elements, using social media as a means to get the word out, putting it in the hands of people who love to talk about it. Also, as an example of non-traditional means of introducing the car, we are showcasing it in the iconic Pikes Peak International Hill Climb."

YOU HAD AN DAY?

ANDREAS ERIKSSON - driver/manager Olsbergs Motor Sport Evolution: "The mountain is a very strange place. It's a high altitude so it's hard to get everything working. Marcus' car seems to work quite well, we're having a little problem with the boost at the bottom that we're trying to solve, but I had a little misfire in mine. It was a little problematic today. I ran off of the right side, not the outside of the mountain, so that was quite good. For the moment my car is being worked on, they are making the uprights to fit back into place in the rear, left rear back, but we will be going tomorrow hopefully again. Hopefully we will get a hold of the problem. Anyway, we have two cars, one car is still a little treacherous so we're waiting for more parts. I need to upgrade here and there. I will when they get here, but now I have a little experience about this mountain. I have learned a little bit from the last couple of days that I have been here and I ordered more parts. We're getting there little by little, taking it one step at a time, but the preparations have been done and I hope everything is in place so we can have a good result."

AND YOU'RE DOING OKAY PHYSICALLY?

ANDREAS ERIKSSON: "Yeah, I have a little headache and side ache. It was a big hit in the rock on the back left rear, so I'm not really feeling exactly right, right now."

YOU HAVE RUN RALLY COURSES ALL OVER THE WORLD. HAVE YOU EVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS MOUNTAIN?

MARCUS GRONHOLM - double World Rally Champion driver, Olsbergs Motor Sport: "Yes, partly with the roads, but not with the altitude and going so high up. That's a new thing for me."

YOU HAVE EXPRESSED SOME HAPPINESS WITH THE PROGRESS OF YOUR CAR AND YOU HAVE A CLEAR COURSE IN MIND WITH HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR FIESTA FOR SUNDAY. HOW HAVE THE PRACTICES GONE?

MARCUS GRONHOLM: "Yeah, we did much better today with the new engine. For tomorrow we have to get new parts to get shorter first and second gears, that's the only problem. Drivability is really good on the course, really nice and fast flowing at parts, so it's really good."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT FORD RACING'S INVOLVEMENT WITH THE OLSBERGS MSE TEAM?

JAMIE ALLISON: "This is really something Andreas approached us with. It's something he and Marcus wanted to do, so it was really a delight for us to field the call, field the interest from Andreas and Marcus, and obviously appreciate the role of Olsbergs in all of this. Our role at Ford Racing is to support the team, facilitate what they needed when they came to the U.S., basically offer any support whether it's technical, logistics or in any other fashion. Our role was to support and make sure they went up the mountain and showcase the great product we have with the Fiesta."

QUESTION FOR BOTH DRIVERS, CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE EXPERIENCE OF DRIVING UP THE MOUNTAIN FOR FANS WHO HAVE NEVER DRIVEN UP SUCH A HIGH ALTITUDE?

ANDREAS ERIKSSON: "The height effects you in a way, at first with your head, but now it's ok. I had a tough road experience today, I felt when I got out I was stressed and I found that I got exhausted fast, so you have to not work so much on the drive. Most of all, the altitude takes it right out of the turbochargers and your ears and that is most problematic on the driver."

MARCUS GRONHOLM: "From the driver's side, it's no problem any more. It's just now getting the car adjusted and trying to progress with that side of things so the drive is quite fine for me."

THAT'S REALLY A NEW ELEMENT OF DANGER FOR YOU AS DRIVERS. DOES THAT PUT YOU A FOOT ABOVE THE REST OF THE DRIVERS WHO HAVEN'T EXPERIENCED THAT BEFORE?

MARCUS GRONHOLM: "No, of course in motorsports there's danger, it's always like that, but it's an interesting thing, and an exciting thing. Of course, you are taking all those things into account and keeping them in mind. When you are driving and the car is perfect you just think about making a good run."

ANDREAS ERIKSSON: "It's the same for me. When you drive up the mountain, of course you see the danger more. Motorsports are dangerous when you're doing it. That's just the way it is."

YOU USE TO LIVE OUT IN COLORADO AND HIKE UP PIKES PEAK. WHAT TYPE OF THINGS DID YOU FACE WHEN HIKING UP THE MOUNTAIN?

JAMIE ALLISON: "Well once wasn't crazy enough, I had to hike it twice. I spent a couple of years in Colorado, living in Colorado Springs, and I noticed that a lot of my friends when they'd come by to visit would kind of be out of breath when they first came in, but you quickly adjust. When you're going up Pikes Peak, the first portion of it is fairly paved, but as you get around 10,000 feet -12,000 feet and you see that's there is no vegetation around you, you realize there's just not enough oxygen to feed anything. You, yourself become very lethargic, very weak, you're just unable to sustain any energy at that point. As Andreas said earlier when you're in the midst of racing, you're just focused on that moment. You don't look around at the danger or distractions, so I can relate to what they're going through. When you're about 10-12,000 feet above it's a different climate, so hats off to those guys and anybody who can beat this thing."

WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE LITTLE MISFIRE? DID YOU SLIDE INTO A ROCK ON THE BACK LEFT REAR SIDE?

ANDREAS ERIKSSON: "Yes, the car wasn't working well, but we sort of solved the problem. It still misfires a little and the part that we're looking for, they are pretty hard to find sometimes. But anyway, I thought it was quite okay in practice, maybe missing a little concentration and so on, but it was quite good enough for what it is worth. In the middle of moving around on the corners there was a little misfire and no power at all and the speed wouldn't get up quite as high, so I slid out on the corners, and I got out and it was quite bad on the wheel in the rear back. Then I flipped over onto its side."

DID YOU ROLL IT?

ANDREAS ERIKSSON: "No, not rolled it but I put it on its side, mostly on the roof, the roof is not damaged, but a little on the side. But you've got to remember, the speed is higher than you think when you go because it doesn't feel like the car, the power runs quite well, the handling and everything, but when the power disappears it gets a little problematic."

IS THE BODY IN DECENT ENOUGH SHAPE THAT YOU CAN GET BACK OUT THERE?

ANDREAS ERIKSSON: "Yes, it's in the body shop now. It's having its repairs done now on the rear, everything is on its way.

I'M GLAD YOU'RE NOT HURT AND EVERYTHING WENT OKAY.

ANDREAS ERIKSSON: "Yeah, it's a good thing it happened on the inside of the mountain and not the outside."

THERE'S ONE MORE PRACTICE TOMORROW, YOU'RE DOING PRACTICES IN SEGMENTS. WILL IT BE THE TOP SEGMENT YOU'RE DOING TOMORROW?

ANDREAS ERIKSSON: "Nope that was today. Tomorrow is the lower section and it's quite important that we get a good time because you qualify on your time. It decides where you are going to start."

WHEN DOES THE GRAVEL PART TAKE OVER?

ANDREAS ERIKSSON: "The first section is the tarmac and the gravel, the second section is a lot of tarmac and hairpins, and the third stage, the highest level, is only gravel."

IS FORD SEEING A FUTURE FOR HIGH-PERFROMANCE AND FORD RACING BEING PART OF THE THEME FOR THE NEW FIESTA. DO YOU SEE A FORD RACING MARKET FOR PARTS. IS THERE AN SVT MODEL DOWN THE ROAD?

JAMIE ALLISON: "Yes, for Ford Racing we are very fortunate to have this car and the Focus that are both coming from Europe. There are already parts out there for enthusiasts in Europe so there is a bit of a cottage industry out there of servicing the needs of enthusiasts with performance modifications. We have a little bit of a head start on actually bringing some of that spirit in the European modifications and making them available through Ford Racing and the Ford Racing catalog. Short answer is, we believe there is. When you get on the fiestamovement.com and check some of the pictures and some of the postings, there's videos, you can see that that audience, people who are driving, the younger generation really welcomes those modifications. We think there's a market and fortunately because the car was introduced in Europe, we will have a head start on developing performance parts for it and eventually the Focus. In terms of performance derivatives, I can only point to what there is today. At one point there was a Fiesta ST in Europe, and that showed that there was an interest in the performance derivative and the Focus comes in forms of the performance derivative with the ST and the RS. We hope that someday at Ford we can have performance derivatives with these smaller cars. We will have to wait and see on the vehicle end, but on the parts, actually in Europe a lot of it is rally-inspired."

YOU'RE USE TO DRIVING THE FOCUS WRC CAR. THE FIESTA IS A NEW CAR FOR YOU. CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE DIFFERENCE OR SIMILARITIES YOU ARE EXPREIENCING WITH THE CARS?

MARCUS GRONHOLM: "First you have much more horsepower in this car compared to the WRC cars and it's a bit of a different drive. On the sea level it was really fantastic, to have that power. Now we are just working once again to get it working with the altitude. The differences, there aren't so many, the Fiesta is more of a Rallycross car with the different suspension. The differentials and things like that are really quite the same. Shifting is a little bit different, smoother in the WRC cars, but it's still good in this one. So not many differences, it's really quite the same to drive."

-credit: ford racing

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Series HILLCLIMB , RALLY , WRC