FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Cyprus Rally FIA Pre-event Press Conference 12.05.2005 Present: Guy Frequelin - Citroen Isao Torii - Mitsubishi Toni Gardemeister - Ford Armin Schwarz - Skoda Chris Atkinson - Subaru Markko Martin - Peugeot Q: ...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
FIA Pre-event Press Conference
Guy Frequelin - Citroen
Isao Torii - Mitsubishi
Toni Gardemeister - Ford
Armin Schwarz - Skoda
Chris Atkinson - Subaru
Markko Martin - Peugeot
Q: Citroen comes with Sebastien Loeb leading the championship by one point, but with Citroen second in the Manufacturers' Championship behind Peugeot. How worried are you about that?
GF: I am always worried before a rally. It is a difficult rally. It is hot, rough and twisty. For sure, anything can happen. It is difficult to have any expectation. I am worried.
Q: Does this Manufacturers' situation put pressure on Francois Duval, who has not managed to finish rallies this year?
GF: Francois knows it is important for him to score points. It is no problem for the future.
Q: What did you tell Francois before this rally?
GF: That was a private discussion.
Q: This is a key stage for Mitsubishi in the season, especially after Harri Rovanpera's error in Sardinia. Have you told the drivers to push at all costs?
IT: Yes. We have divided the year into two halves. The first half is where the driver must get confident and the second is where we must challenge for the podium. For the first half we said fast for four rallies and stay in the rallies. Then from second half we need to increase the pace. In Sardinia Harri and Gigi did a good job. I would like to continue this strategy, but these next three rallies are very tough. It is too risky to push. Here Harri and Gilles will be more careful.
Q: Would Mitsubishi prefer a car in the top three or would the team prefer a car to take a points' finish?
IT: It is up to the situation. Of course we want to be in the top three. We need to watch day-by-day and give them some instructions.
Q: There are rumors that Citroen will not be stopping competition at the end of the season? Are these just rumors?
GF: It is sure that the end of the 2005 Citroen stops the WRC and it is sure that in 2006 Citroen will not be in the WRC. But we look for another discipline and it is very difficult to find another one like WRC. I hear that Mitsubishi and Skoda ask about the costs and the coverage. And if the regulations will change in the future then maybe Citroen will come back to the WRC, but not in 2006.
Q: Even without a factory team would Citroen support a private team?
GF: It is too early to say this. We have some cars and we could rent or sell some cars for 2006 and have technical support.
Q: How is the development of the new Lancer proceeding. What about the work with the front and active differentials.
IT: The first plan is to do this, but recent plans are to concentrate on active centre and mechanical front and rear. I say stop and concentrate on what we have now.
Q: So you prefer to fine tune what you have already?
Q: Guy. These rough and hot rallies suit your car well. Does Sebastian's performance in Sardinia give you confidence for this rally?
GF: Yes. We are confident. But the problem is this rally is so different. It is twisty, rougher and the temperature is higher. It is very difficult and not easy to know. We have a strong car but I am more confident with the team than with the car.
Q: Do you think that Harri's performance on gravel can be repeated?
IT: Yes I am sure. Last year Harri did a good job on these three Mediterranean rallies for the Peugeot team. I am confident. Panizzi is also clever.
Q: Gilles has not competed in a rally since Monte Carlo, do you think that will have affected him?
IT: He did Mexico. Every month he joins our test team. He is our primary test driver, so this is no problem.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
Q: What would the ideal number of rallies be in the WRC in the future?
IT: I would like to say 12 or 14. For Mitsubishi 16 is too much.
GF: We say the same.
Q: Toni. This is your sixth rally with Ford in the WRC. How do you think the season has gone for you so far?
TG: Quite well. It was not perfect for me, but in Mexico I was a bit tired and sick. But feelings inside are good.
Q: You were leading the WRC after Sweden. Can you get it back?
TG: We will try to for sure.
Q: Mexico we saw the launch of the 2005 specification Fabia. What do you think of the 2005 car's performance so far?
AS: I think in Sardinia it worked very well. We have not had a chance to show what it is capable of in Mexico. The rally was at high altitude. In New Zealand the car was working fine, but the performance was not there, so the only chance was in Sardinia.
Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the car?
AS: The strong points are good aerodynamics and I am sure that we can do something with the engine. We are always working on stability and handling. I hope we can show here how good it is.
Q: Toni. These rough events are rallies where the Ford Focus does very well. Why is that?
TG: The suspension is good, the car is strong underneath, but the suspension has worked very well.
Q: Do you think you can fight for a podium finish here?
TG: I will try to. We will try and go fast here. We need points here for Ford.
Q: Do you think these three events -- Greece, Cyprus and Turkey -- are the best chance for Ford to take a win?
TG: I prefer tarmac or fast rallies and I am sure we have better possibilities later in the year.
Q: Tell us a bit about the conditions you have seen after the recce?
AS: Conditions are not much worse than the year before. The first stage -- the first 15 kms- is very rough and the worst we have seen in the World Championship. Going into an event like that we should have a chance to settle in and there is no chance. You have to survive and that will be a big challenge for everyone.
Q: Has the event changes since 1996 when you won before it was a round of the WRC?
AS: It started in Nicosia in 1996. The competition was much less and the roads were more twisty and less rough back in 1996.
Q: What happens if it rains like it has done in the past?
AS: I remember in 2002 there was a big flooding. It quickly turned into Safari conditions and we all were on a very hard tyre compound. It is not easy in these conditions, but it is the same for everybody.
Q: In Sardinia your boss Jost Capito was happy with your performance and there is a good chance of you keeping your seat in 2006. How do you feel about that?
TG: If we can keep a good speed during the year, why not?
Q: You are the oldest driver in a factory seat. Do you see yourself carrying on for many years?
AS: I think until 2020....!
Q: You have set some fastest times and been at the sharp end of the leader board. What next?
CA: I need to get a good overall result. Now we need some points and a good finish. But to be where we are at is nice at this stage.
Q: Are you going to try and continue to demonstrate the speed you have here or have you changed your objective here?
CA: We have been unlucky so far. We will try and keep the pace. It Italy is was a minor problem on the road, so I think we can run at this pace and learn where to take it a bit easier and where to push and judge the speed.
Q: Have you surprised yourself with your rate of progress?
CA: You never know where you are going to be when you come here. There are a lot of good drivers. It was nice to start setting good times early. It gives you a lot more confidence.
Q: Markko. What sort of progress have you seen with the 307. You said in New Zealand that it is working better with more left foot brake?
MM: Yes it worked well at the end of New Zealand, but we cannot use the same method here.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge in getting to grips with this car?
MM: It is a different car. It works in different ways. Trying to unleash a bit more speed. I cannot put my finger on one thing. If I could put my finger on one thing it would be easy.
Q: One thing we have seen is the car being strong and reliable. Is that going to help here in Cyprus?
MM: Sure the car has been very reliable this year. We had no technical problems and that has helped us finish rallies. This is one of the roughest events of the season and you need to have a reliable car here.
Q: This surface of slow, hot, warm abrasive gravel means you have to be precise. How will you cope with this new experience?
CA: We are used to heat in Australia where I come from. We have done rallies in 40-degree heat. Rough stages are totally new. I have done some rough rallies in the Asia-Pacific, but this will be a case of finding the rhythm that you can keep up. It is a fine line. I hope to build up through the weekend.
Q: From the driver's point of view, are the stages here enjoyable to drive?
MM: It has never been my favourite rally in the championship. The stages are not getting any better. The roads are very rough. It is not going to be easy or enjoyable for the drivers and it will be hard on the cars. Hopefully we can benefit from reliability.
Q: Is the roughest you have ever seen this event?
MM: Stage one is very rough. It is worse every year. If no work has been done on the stage next year it will be hell for the Group N cars.
Q: Subaru showed speed here last year, but a few mechanical issues slowed the team. Have these been sorted now?
CA: Yes. Petter was very fast and set some good times. The car and he can go well again. The car can run at a top pace and the team is very confident.
Q: What about driving in these temperatures.
CA: The biggest thing is the air flow in the car and because you are going so slow you need some extra fans in the car. The stages create extra physical demands on your arms, so it not like sitting there just driving. You have to work hard and make sure you keep fluids up and stay hydrated.
Q: Markko. You are third in the series so far. What are your chances of challenging for the overall title this year?
MM: If I can help my team Peugeot to win the Manufacturers' title I will be very happy. This year I need to score as many points as I can for the team. At the moment I am happy. The title for me is not realistic.