FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Rally RACC Catalunya -- Costa Daurada FIA Pre-event Press Conference 27.10.2005 DRIVERS/TEAM MEMBERS: Guy FrÃ©quelin -- CitroÃ«n Luis Moya -- Subaru Juan Sureda -- Skoda Nicolas Bernardi -- Peugeot Sport Gigi Galli...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Rally RACC Catalunya -- Costa Daurada
FIA Pre-event Press Conference
Guy Fréquelin -- Citroën
Luis Moya -- Subaru
Juan Sureda -- Skoda
Nicolas Bernardi -- Peugeot Sport
Gigi Galli -- Mitsubishi Motor Sport
Toni Gardemeister -- Ford World Rally Team
Q: Guy -- let us start with you. Citroën has announced yesterday that they will be back in 2007. What persuaded Monsieur Satinet to continue?
GF: The reason is a straightforward one. The World Council accepted the proposal that was put forward. This allowed the season to fall within the budget that had been fixed and because of this, Monsieur Folz and Monsieur Satinet agreed to commit to come back in 2007.
Q: Do you think that you personally will continue to lead the team when they are back?
GF: Normally I'd retire at the end of this year, because I'm reaching that age, but Monsieur Satinet has asked me to stay for 2006 and at least the start of 2007. I haven't completely decided but it's likely that I'll be here until at least the start of 2007.
Q; Can you tell us a bit about the Xsara team next year? How many cars? Who will be driving?
GF: There are four teams under consideration -- Piedrafita, PH Sport, Oreca and Kronos. The two which have the technological capacity at the moment are Kronos and Oreca. Obviously we were waiting for the definitive decision on 2007 before making a decision on the team. The decision will be made not later than the end of next week.
Q: How long does Sébastien Loeb have a contract for?
GF: The contract with Sébastien so far is a gentleman's agreement. There's been no formal decision yet on how long it is for. This will be sorted out over the next few weeks.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the future of Francois Duval with Citroën? Both in Australia in three weeks' time and also in the longer term?
GF: I'd rather wait until the end of this rally before taking a decision on Francois' future. On a different matter, I'd like to thank some people too. I'd like to thank the other teams who responded so positively to the cost-cutting ideas. This is something that has benefits for all the teams in the World Rally Championship. And I would also like to thank Jacques Berger, the FIA Technical Commission President and Jacques Regis, the President of the World Rally Championship Commission, for their assistance.
Q: Turning to Luis, the calendar next year has a big gap in the middle. Do you think that will help all the teams?
LM: I think the idea of a break in the middle of the season is good. The only thing I'd say is that I'd like to see it in August. I have kids, like most of you, and they have holiday in August, not June or July. It's the same for all the teams and team members. It's not easy to find a calendar, to make it right and keep everyone happy. There are some things we don't like and some things other people don't like. It's nearly impossible to keep everyone happy, in fact.
Q: What do you think about having the short season in 2007 before the championship moves to cover a two-year period?
LM: I think it's a good idea. If we're trying for a winter series then we're moving away from Formula 1, which is a good idea. The only problem that I see is that the situation of rallies now is very healthy -- we have 16 rallies and at least eight interested in getting into the championship. We have 24 countries interested in rallies, which I don't think has ever happened before. We need to find a way of getting those rallies into the championship, and maybe some rallies out. But those that do go out must not disappear, like what happened with Portugal in 2001. I think there should be a first and second division, like in football, so if you do not deliver in terms of safety or something else, you go down to the second division. And if you're in the second division you can come up. It might not be the best way but we should try to find a way so those countries who are showing interest have the possibility to get into the championship.
Q: We spoke with Guy about his plans for next year; will there be any changes at Subaru?
LM: No, there are no plans for changes. Subaru is very happy with the three drivers it has at the moment -- Petter Solberg, Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Sarrazin. We have seen how Chris has matured and developed as the year has gone on, and the same for Stéphane. We've seen what a strong driver Stéphane is on tarmac. And of course we will continue to look at other drivers. One thing that I'm trying to put forward, just an idea, is to make a new Spanish team, with two cars run by Prodrive, with help from Japan and the Royal Automobile Club de Catalunya. We've already started to put some of this in place and the target is maybe next year or the year after. It will all depend if we can find the money. But I'd like a two-car team, an all-Spanish team with 100 per cent Spanish engineers, Spanish drivers. We can try to help Dani Sola, for example.
Q: How much support do you think you can get from Spain for this idea?
LM: I hope to get support because at the moment sport -- not just motorsport, but all sport -- is growing fast. For the sponsors sport is a growing market -- things like football, athletics, basketball, whatever -- because people have realised that it's better to stay healthy. Spain also has Fernando Alonso. Some people say that Fernando Alonso is not good for rallying because he's Formula 1, but I think he is brilliant. He has been an incredible help for motorsport in Spain. He gets a lot of pages in magazines and in the newspapers. It's the only sport that can beat football on television, at the moment. So we'll try to use that and move forward.
Q: Juan, what do you think of these new measures? Has enough been done to ensure that manufacturers with smaller budgets, like Skoda, have a good chance of being competitive?
JS: You never know. We're not sure. But in my opinion it's a good step forward to have in the championship some manufacturers like us, who don't necessarily have the budget to do all 16 events. It costs a lot to do 16 events, which resulted in Citroën and Peugeot announcing that they would stop. But it's good to hear now from Guy that Citroën will continue. I think these proposals that the FIA have approved are a good idea. Many of the ideas will help new manufacturers and teams to enter the championship.
Q: Do you have any news about whether Skoda will be there next year?
JS: The situation of Skoda now, with these proposals from the FIA, is that next Monday we will study things very closely. The situation looks like we will not do the full championship next season. But we will study the proposals and try to find any solution that will allow us to stay involved.
Q: When do you think the decision will be taken?
JS: Our idea is to announce as soon as possible, before Australia. We have to start planning the team for next year.
Q: Finally, do we know who will be driving the car in Australia?
JS: We have almost reached an agreement with Colin McRae for Australia. It's almost sure that he will drive for us there. He helped our engineers with the car and we improved quite a lot with him when he did Rally GB with us.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
Q: Guy, how can you be sure that 2007 will be within the budget of Citroën when we don't know how many rallies in 2007? Plus what will happen with the many people in your company in 2006? Will they stay with the company or will the number of people be reduced?
GF: I don't know exactly what the budget will be in 2007 but the cost reduction is enough for it to fall within the budget that was set by PSA. That's more a question for Monsieur Folz. As for the staff, this year Citroën Sport lost 26 people and in 2006 we will lose 51 people. So by 2007 we will have 175, compared to 215 in 2004.
Q: Juan, who will be Skoda's second driver in Australia? I didn't understand your answer. And will Armin [Schwarz] still drive for the team?
JS: I said that we have almost reached an agreement with Colin McRae for Australia. And of course, Armin will be our other driver. He is our first driver so under the regulations he will be there for us.
Q: Juan, what do you mean when you say you've almost reached an agreement? What is the time frame?
JS: It means today.
Moderator: And now joining us we have Nicolas Bernardi, Toni Gardemeister and Gigi Galli.
Q: Nicolas, welcome. In Corsica you learnt all about the 307 WRC: you started off cautiously but by the end you were setting top-three times. Do you think you can start off here in Spain at full speed?
NB: Corsica was a voyage of discovery for me. It was my first time nominated as a factory driver. I had to learn the car and build up to a rhythm but I hope to use that rhythm here at the start in Spain. I hope that will help me to achieve a good result.
Q: What is the 307 like to drive on asphalt?
NB: It's a very competitive car. The engine feels very powerful. You have to drive it assertively, though, and the advantage the other drivers have is that they know their cars very well, whereas I still have to learn. I drove the 307 for the first time in competition in Corsica.
Q: During the Rally of Corsica, did you change the set-up of the car much?
NB: We didn't change an awful lot. We fine-tuned the car for my driving style but tried not to make radical changes. The engineers worked hard, though, and I think we have a good set-up now.
Q: Toni, Corsica was one of the best performances of your career: you finished an excellent second place. Do you think that you can be Sébastien Loeb's closest challenger again here? Or do you think that you could even beat him?
TG: I hope we'll also get a good result here. I was happy with the Focus in Corsica, even though we didn't make a test before the shakedown. I think we can be closer to Sébastien here. I don't know if we can beat him but we will try!
Q: Which do you prefer -- Corsica or Catalunya?
TG: I prefer Catalunya. It's been better to us over the years. The stages are a bit more flowing than in Corsica, too.
Q: Ciao Gigi. In Corsica Mitsubishi had a few problems: what work have you done to try and solve them? Do you think the problem has been solved?
GG: It was a very small time to try to resolve our problem. But our team has worked night and day to find some solutions. We had something already tried and tested -- okay, it was small, because we didn't have much time -- but we used that race [Corsica] to try to understand that problem. I think that problem -- mainly centre differential -- has disappeared. I hope so. I'm confident and we will see.
Q: Will Mitsubishi be back to full speed here, then?
GG: I'd like to think so, yes. My attitude is like that. I'm really confident that Harri Rovanpera and myself can improve our car. But our car is very sophisticated and if something doesn't work well you can lose a lot. We'll see.
Q: Nicolas, you're currently leading the French Championship -- are you hoping to compete on the World Championship more regularly next year?
NB: Yes, of course. Like any sportsman I want to get to the top of my sport, the World Championship. I'm grateful to Peugeot and the FFSA for giving me this opportunity to compete in a couple of world championship rallies. I'd like to do more next year but it's difficult to find a car and opportunities.
Q: There have been a number of decisions made by the World Council recently: could more be done to help young drivers get their chance?
NB: I've had this opportunity thanks to Peugeot and thanks to the French federation. It's difficult, though. There are opportunities in the Junior WRC, which I've done. But it's a question of developing these opportunities to give young drivers a better chance of getting to the top of the sport.
Q: Toni, the Catalunya Rally has changed a lot this year. How does it compare with the roads used last year, when the rally was based at Lloret de Mar?
TG: For myself I prefer these stages to those in the Vic area. The roads are more flowing, some stages are wide and fast, and the roads are smoother in places. I don't think there'll be such a problem with cutting corners here either. I don't think we'll see as much mud pulled onto the road, so I don't think the roads will be as dirty as they used to be in Vic. Also moving down here has given the event more hotels, more choice for the teams and the spectators.
Q: How well the new stages suit the Focus?
TG: The Focus is very stable and fast, and these roads are faster than in Vic, so yes, I think it will suit our car.
Q: Gigi, what objective have you set yourself for this event?
GG: Our goal, like all the season, is to improve our car. We are not ready, yet, to fight with the other cars for technical reasons. We are already in the 2006 configuration. But one of the reasons we've done that is so we can use the rallies to improve our car. For myself I think of experience and every time I jump in the car I feel more confident.