Rally Argentina press conference: 'One of the roughest rallies I have seen'

177 views

Drivers say it will be 'tough' to get to the podium

Here's the transcript from the FIA pre-race press conference at the 2014 Rally Argentina, with Mikko Hirvonen, M-Sport World Rally Team; Kris Meeke, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team; Thierry Neuville (in photo), Hyundai Motorsport, and Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Motorsport .

 

Q:

Mikko, this event marks your 10th participation at Rally Argentina. Do you feel fully prepared for this event and has the pre-event testing gone well?

MH:

I like the rally and I have a good feeling with the car. The past two rallies I have felt really happy with the pace, I will go out there and do the best. 

 

Q:

The pace was good in Portugal; after the event you said you hoped for ‘a bit more’ in Argentina. Will we see a little bit more pace here? 

MH:

Hopefully, we always want to do better. I try to do that but obviously it’s going to be tough to get to the podium, Even for the podium you always have to fight hard, let’s start by being in the fight and then we will see what we can do.

 

Q:

With your many years of experience here, what is the best approach to this event?

MH:

You should concentrate when you get here, relax yourself and get ready for the rally.

 

Q: 

Do you have to be clever and massively concentrated?

MH:

For me it’s one of the roughest rallies that I have seen. Lots of stones, after the heavy rains, and it’s going to be tough for the cars. We will have to be clever and I don’t think we can be flat out all the way through. You have to take it steady and bring it [the car] home. 

 

Q:

We know that there are some unique stages like Mina Clavero for the rocks, and also the weather can play a part. Talk to me about fog and how difficult it is to drive in fog?

MH:

That stage is tricky, obviously you really have to trust your pace notes. Some stages here it’s really foggy, but if it’s not so foggy it’s a little bit easier. You can just listen to your notes and hope that the corners come at the right moment. I don’t really enjoy it.

 

Q:

Jari-Matti, what do you find great and what do you find difficult about this event?

J-ML: 

As Mikko mentioned this is one of the roughest rallies and I have to agree with him. It’s quite rough conditions, there are still good sections that you will enjoy, you can push hard but some areas have lots of watersheds and loose rocks at the side of the road. You can’t afford to go into the corner and you can’t afford to go to the outside of the corner or wide on the corner. So that makes it demanding if you want to push, so you really need to count those areas because there are many objects to hit. It is difficult with the tyre choice. As you can see how warm it is, do you want to go with soft or hard tyres, those decisions are not so easy. I think it will be an exciting event.

 

Q:

What are your expectations? We will see a brand new winner - could it be you?

J-ML:

Loeb and Citroën have been very strong here and I think Citroën wants to do a good result this year as well. There are many hungry boys like Mikko said. I hope I see Volkswagen fighting for the top place at the rally. Last year I finished third here. It would be nice to be fighting for the victory but the main thing is to score good points. If you are inside the top three, it is always good for the Championship. 

 

Q:

Mina Clavero is run in reverse this year - tougher downhill than uphill?

J-ML:

Definitely, uphill you can always push harder, you come quicker downhill. All the mass that you have on the car you have to stop it, and stopping takes more energy and that’s why it’s more difficult downhill. 

 

Q:

Kris, this is the first time we see you compete in the WRC here in Argentina; you were here in 2010 with the IRC. What have you been doing to prepare for this event and how do you feel ahead of it?

KM:

Like you said, we did the IRC in 2010 but I think there’s only 20 kilometres that are the same, but the other stages are different. We started with a blank pace note book and for sure the rally is different in the world rally car. And I respect this is a whole new experience but you know, you’ve been here before and you know the nature of the rally and the type of surfaces, high cuts and open stuff. And this year the roads have been affected by some bad weather, it can make some parts quite difficult. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s quite rough.

 

Q:

It was an early finish for you in Rallye de Portugal; will you now change your approach to future rallies in a bid to find consistency? 

KM:

The past two events were not so nice for me, Portugal in particular. For sure you want to fight for the points and as long as I keep trying 100% I can’t do more than that. Sometimes it works, sometime it won’t and that happens when you’re learning. I just have to keep believing and keep trying a 100%. 

 

Q:

This rally offers a unique landscape and many varying challenges, what are the toughest aspects of this event? What about the fog?

KM:

Some stages are quite okay but I found the southern stages quite difficult and quite difficult to mark the pace because some sections are so fast and you are coming into blind corners and it’s difficult to judge what the speed would be and to get the notes right. It’s going to be difficult for me, especially the first pass. But driving in the fog it’s not something you really enjoy. Sometimes you get into the rhythm and everything works. The important thing is not to surprise yourself in the wrong way.

 

Q: 

What are your expectations?

KM:  

Simply to have a clean run with no mistakes and learn as much as possible like we tried to do in Portugal, but it didn’t work there…but we simply have to try. With the conditions the way they are for sure there is going to be quite a few guys slipping off in places, hopefully I’m not one of them and I will finish with a good result.

 

Q: 

Do you like the stages Thierry? Your thoughts on the weekend ahead?

TN:

We had some good results in the past. I‘ll try to be clever, pass the stages and get through because you have to be careful in the stages but also on the road sections because even a small issue can make you out of the rally. But I’m here and I did a very good recce and I am looking forward to the event now.

 

Q:

So, your expectations are to get through and hopefully get some good pace?

TN:

Of course, Dani [Sordo] and me hope to get more experience in the car and we can learn a lot because it will be help for the mechanics. It will be hard for us as well because the stages are long and really tricky this year. We have to get as much mileage as possible and if possible Dani and me have a nice fight and good stage times and see how we can compare to the other competitors.

 

Q:

In terms of the development of the i20, do you think you are in the right direction? Is the car improving?

TN:

Everybody can see that we have surprised a lot of people already in all the events. We know that the time is running for every team so fast during the year, but for us even more because we have much more work than the others to do. The car will be probably more or less the same as the previous event, but after that we hope to get some more evolution and keep going in the right way.

 

Q:

Some of the drivers said that the roughest stages are tomorrow. Is that your feeling too, or do you think there are more difficult stages?

TN:

It is one of the stages that I really like [SS2]. You have some really twisty sections at the end, some really fast at the beginning, and in between there is a rough part this year with a lot of bumps and holes, so you have to be careful especially for us with a new car coming here. It’s kind of a surprise how the car will be working in these conditions because it will be very tricky out there, but I think it should be okay.

 

Q:

A question for all of you; Argentina seems to be one of the special places to come in terms of the passion that we see from the rally fans on the stages. What is your experience? Let’s start with Mikko who has been here the most.

MK:

It’s really nice. You don’t really see so many rallies like these. Like in the Shakedown, from start to finish you see a lot of spectators on both sides of the road. It’s nice to see how much they love the rally and the sport and they really have a lot of fun as well. That is how it should be in all the countries, it’s really nice. 

J-ML:

I will give an example. I was running on the lake area and from 20 metres I saw a guy coming towards me and I was wondering why he was coming closer “¡Suerte! Suerte” Jari-Matti!” That’s the way the passion is. They recognise you from far away and that’s their passion. 

KM:

I was here in 2010 like I said with the IRC and then there wasn’t maybe the biggest following as I get in the WRC but yes, we spent a couple of days in Buenos Aires before we came here and that was pretty special to see the enthusiasm everybody has. I will be able to tell you better Sunday afternoon.

TN:

It’s really amazing, they love cars and they always come back to see us to shout and to call our names and many times you see the girls like the drivers and the co-drivers! It is exciting to come here, we are really famous here and it’s a nice feeling.

 

 

FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP

 

Present:

Nasser Al-Attiyah

Nicolas Fuchs

 

Q:

Nasser we are going to start with you because in Portugal you claimed the win in WRC 2. It was a great event for you. Are you confident now coming to Argentina?

NA-A:

I am very happy of course to win WRC 2 in Portugal. We did a really good job with no mistakes. I had a big fight with Jari [Ketomaa]. Here it will be a completely different situation from Portugal. The roads look a little bit rough and we must really be clever for this rally because the speed doesn’t mean anything here. You need really to finish every stage without any problems. That okay, we have good experience for these kind of roads. I think my work will work well in this kind of roads.

 

Q:

You have great experience here in Argentina. Is it the roughest you have ever seen it?

NA-A:

Actually, the stages tomorrow will be very rough, but we cannot do anything. It is the same for everybody. We’ll try to manage to finish without any problem. We’ll see what the conditions will be tomorrow; of course it will not be easy.

 

Q:

How are you finding the RRC car? Will it adapt to Argentina well?

NA-A:

The RRC car is the base of the WRC car. I think it is a stronger car than the other R5. The R5 has a good speed in the engine, we’ll see. If we take maximum points here in the WRC 2, it will be fantastic, if not we’ll try to finish in the top three. 

 

Q:

So many people follow you here in Argentina and at the Dakar event too. How does it feel to come here and see such support?

NA-A:  

I’m so happy to be here in Argentina. I’ve done a lot of races since 2004. I missed only one time. We’ve done also Dakar since 2009. The people really support us here a lot and I’ll try to win this race for our people who support me.

 

Q:

Nicolas, you are also in the RRC car. How are you finding it?

NF:

I think this year is a transition from Group N to RRC and WRC 2. In Portugal I used the R5 and I had problems with the gearbox. This year I’ll try to go slow and be safe in the car and finish the rally. I need more experience inside the car.

 

Q:

Rally Argentina is always a huge challenge for all the drivers and co-drivers. What’s the difficult part about this event? What are the challenges out there?

NF:

Argentina has long stages, a lot of long stages. The second stage of the rally is very rough, a lot of holes, it’s difficult. I don’t know what will happen with this car in this stage. The other stages are nice. 

 

Q: 

Tell me about the testing you’ve done this week, were you happy with the set-up?

NF:

Yes. I was happy with the set-up. I changed little things in the car like the springs, the differential, the clicks and the car goes faster every time. But I need to test the car more. Nasser has a lot of experience in these cars but it is the first year for me. 

 

Q: 

We saw you compete in this area, though not in these stages, in the Rally of Carlos Paz, which you won. Does that give you a little bit of confidence that you can have some success in similar stages? 

NF:

I think it may be the same type of stages, but a different car without turbo and the same as 2000 with a sequential gearbox. The Rally of Carlos Paz one month ago was rougher than this rally. 

 

Q:  

As you said, this is a transition so your approach to this event is simply to get through the stages?

NF:

I don’t know. It is difficult for me. 

 

Q: 

Nasser, Nicolas talked about it being a transition year for him, what about you? You have years of experience, so it does give you a bit of advantage, but I’m sure that doesn't make you complacent on the stages. Is there still a challenge out there?

NA-A: 

Yes, we have experience but sometimes you make mistakes, but we’ll try to go at least leg one without any problems at a good pace. Because also leg two will not be easy. All the rally will not be easy, but we have a good plan for this race and we’ll try to manage. I know it will be a big fight, but we’ll try to do our best as we did in Portugal. 

 

Q:

The final day is a real challenge, Mina Clavero, El Condor with no service in between. That is a tough final day. 

NA-A: 

Yes, it is a tough day, but I like these stages more because they look slow, but you really need experience in these roads and I think we’ll try to do our best. Here in Argentina every kilometre is a difficult road, but we’ll try to manage.

FIA

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series WRC
Article type Interviews
Tags fia, kris meeke, mikko hirvonen, rally argentina, thierry neuville, wrc

User photos

Canali
WRC

Canali

4 photos
Ettori
WRC

Ettori

54 photos
yongama
WRC

yongama

1 photos
Luca1240
WRC

Luca1240

2 photos
Cruise8723
WRC

Cruise8723

1 photos
tagrallysport
WRC

tagrallysport

3 photos
mmartynova
WRC

mmartynova

2 photos
nikos
WRC

nikos

3 photos
Upload photo