BP ULTIMATE ACROPOLIS RALLY OF GREECE 2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Pre-event FIA Press Conference 05.29.2008 Present: Petter Solberg, Subaru World Rally Team Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total...
BP ULTIMATE ACROPOLIS RALLY OF GREECE
2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Pre-event FIA Press Conference
Petter Solberg, Subaru World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Armodios Vovos, Munchi's Ford World Rally Team
Naren Kumar, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Bernardo Sousa, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.
Q: Petter, the brand new Subaru Impreza WRC is launched here in Greece. How are you feeling about its debut?
PS: Well, it's definitely a completely different car from what I'm used to. It worked very well at shakedown this morning, better than I had expected. As everybody knows it came earlier than expected. It's a good start, with good balance. We do have to improve things, but it's a good start.
Q: This is one of the toughest events to debut the new car at; are you and the team confident it can deliver this weekend?
PS: I think if you have a new car or the old one it would be tough anyway. Anything can happen in these conditions. The car has numbers on the doors, so we have to start now. But it's very important to finish the rally; we have to look after the car to do that.
Q: What is the expectation?
PS: We will know more early tomorrow morning. For now it's good, but we will know more and I can talk more tomorrow afternoon.
Q: How much more time would you have liked in the car? Were there any changes or improvements made after the familiarisation test you and Chris (Atkinson) had a few weeks ago?
PS: We have started now. We can start developing and making adjustments through the rally. We will find the speed quickly. The decision is taken and I'm positive in it. There are still some things I would have had on the car, but they were not ready. We will make some changes, normal basic things. After this rally we will see about getting more on the car for the next round in Turkey.
Q: Mikko, you lead the Championship but only by three points over Loeb. How important is it for you to win here?
MH: It's more important to beat Sebastien (Loeb), but that hasn't happened so often. If he finishes he tends to win the rallies. I need to speed up a bit.
Q: To be first on the road at the roughest event will be tough. How can you avoid losing too much time on the first day?
MH: I wasn't expecting it to be so bad last time in Sardinia. At the same time, in Sardinia I was driving quite badly and we didn't have the right set-up. Definitely, I will try harder tomorrow. The best way to avoid losing too much time is just to go faster.
Q: It will also be one of the toughest events for the tyres. How much is avoiding punctures on your mind?
MH: I'm sure it's going to be definitely one of the hardest. It's very hot and abrasive, on long sections uphill in the mountains with the rocks and the bedrock, it's going to be the ultimate test for Pirelli.
Q: Ford has had strong results at this event over the years. Do you feel any extra pressure in that sense to perform well here?
MH: Maybe. It's pressure for everybody else, we have done well here.
Q: We saw tactics come into play in Jordan, with regard to road position. Do you think we may see the same here?
MH: I don't know. We have to see how the rally goes and how Friday goes. Hopefully I can stay closer than I did in Sardinia. Over there it was a big issue, but we have to wait and see.
Q: How confident are you for this event?
MH: At shakedown the car was good. We have done some improvements. The car is quick enough.
Q: From what you have seen on the recce of this event, will it be the toughest Acropolis of recent years Sebastien?
SL: For sure, it's really rough this year; more than the previous years. For sure it will be difficult for the car and the suspension. For the tyres, for sure, we have more experience. At the start of the year we saw there were not many punctures, I hope it's the same here. It would be difficult if there are punctures.
Q: You have won this event on one occasion in 2005 -- what does it take to win?
SL: You need a clean rally. You can't have a puncture. The most important thing is to finish. You need to take a bit of care in some rough places and then you will see.
Q: You picked up your 40th WRC win at the last event in Italy. Do you think about how many wins you could possibly achieve in your career?
SL: I don't know. At the moment I don't think of this. At the moment I just try to make the best set-up on my car and tomorrow do the best rally I can. I don't think about the results.
Q: Subaru launched their brand new Impreza WRC here in Greece. How closely will you be watching its performance this weekend?
SL: For sure, we will be very interested in Subaru's result this weekend. In the last rallies they were coming back a bit. With the new car they will, maybe, be really in the fight for the Championship. For the Championship, it would be good to have six cars fighting for the victory.
Q: Your team-mate Dani Sordo has impressed with his pace on gravel on recent events, are you advising him at all in terms of technique?
SL: No. If Dani has something to ask, I will answer. Okay, after that he is learning alone. For sure it's a bit of time to be really on the top on gravel, but he seems to be better all of the time on each [gravel] rally. He's a good team-mate for me, good in the testing. I am happy. For the manufacturer as well, it's good that he's fighting for the podium.
Q: Aris, you have more experience at this event than anyone on the panel today, competing here on 13 occasions. You're a legend on this event. You are in a Ford Focus WRC 07 with the Munchi's team for this event and nominated for points, what can you achieve?
AV: First of all, I'm not sure about the legend...! The Acropolis is my only WRC round this year, so it's a very important event for me. I will try and make the best result, for now it's eighth position, so it would be nice to be better than that. It's a very rough rally and there will be a lot of punctures for the cars. If we can stay out of trouble without exaggerating we can have a good result.
Q: The Acropolis Rally is described by many as an iconic event; what makes it so special?
AV: It's been on the calendar for many years. It's a very tough rally, a very big test for all of the teams -- this is why it's one of the most famous in the world.
Q: You tested the car in Sardinia before the event; what did you think?
AV: We did 150 kilometres in the car, which was good. It's quite difficult for me to adjust my style for this car, these new cars are supposed to be driven more straight. I think my pace will get better as the stages progress.
Q: The rally has moved around to different regions over the course of its history - where would you say is the best place to host the rally?
AV: When this rally moved to Athens, for the last three years, it was not a very successful decision. That's to do with the quality of stages. Around here the stages are rough, the mountain roads are very rocky and not in good condition. I believe it's a decision which has been taken to move the rally back to Lamia next year. Lamia has hosted the rally many times and it's a place which has better stages and more spectators. The spectators around Athens has been a little bit of the problem. Take away the super specials and you don't have so many. It's very important for the rally with the famous name of Acropolis to have the people. I think the move back to Lamia will be shown to be a clever decision.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Q: It's the first time we have seen you in the PWRC Naren. What made you decide to become a part of it?
NK: It all happened after the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship which we did last year. The team was quite convinced we can go to the PWRC the following year. That's why we're here.
Q: You have plenty of rallying experience under your belt as a six-time winner on the Indian National Championship. What do you hope to get out of this season?
NK: Well, as I can say, it's very different from the rallies in our country. It's a different game altogether. We're here to see how things go, this is a two-year programme. We want to look at all of the events and learn.
Q: You have picked a tough rally to start your campaign. What did you think of the stages on the recce?
NK: All I can think is that they can never get worse than this. The roads and stages are extremely rough. It's very important to make sure you are on the road all of the time, make a lot of kilometres and get to the finish.
Q: The PWRC drivers had a test session on Monday and I hear you had a few problems; what happened?
NK: When you come to roads like this, it can happen: you get a bit too enthusiastic. We had a small off over a crest; I didn't know where the road was going. We continued after that, though, and the team and I were very pleased with the way the test went.
Q: What will be your approach to this weekend?
NK: As I mentioned before, the idea is to get as many kilometres as possible. That's the first priority.
Q: You are the youngest Portuguese driver to compete within the PWRC. We have seen you in Sweden and Argentina; what have you thought of your performance so far this season?
BS: I think my season is going very well. In two events we have two scores. It's going well. Let's see if we can continue with the good results.
Q: This is a tough event for a driver and for the car; what have you being doing to prepare for the event?
BS: We prepare for the rally by going to the gym very often. But, I got ill last week, it wasn't very lucky for me, but let's see how it goes. I feel better now, but all I can say is that I hope this doesn't affect me. Let's see.
Q: Since we saw you last you have changed co-driver; why was this?
BS: We change the co-driver because it was good... but, we weren't very well with the challenge. I was not happy or very confident. When it's like this you have to change and make yourself as happy as possible.
Q: How did the test go for you on Monday?
BS: We did the Rally of Portugal for our test and this went well. The car was fantastic. The stages were a bit similar to the Rally of Greece, we have a good car for this event. We hope it goes well.
Q: Realistically, what are your hopes for this weekend?
BS: For this event I will try to finish, like I have the other rallies. This season is about finishing the rallies, I'll do that in Greece and hope on Sunday we arrive at the last podium.