WRC

Rally Japan: Pre-event press conference

FIA World Rally Championship 2004 Rally Japan FIA Pre-event Press Conference September 2. 2004 David Lapworth, Subaru Corrado Provera, Peugueot Markko Martin, Ford Petter Solberg, Subaru Marcus Gronholm, Peugeot Carlos Sainz, Citroen Q: The...

FIA World Rally Championship
2004 Rally Japan
FIA Pre-event Press Conference
September 2. 2004

David Lapworth, Subaru
Corrado Provera, Peugueot
Markko Martin, Ford
Petter Solberg, Subaru
Marcus Gronholm, Peugeot
Carlos Sainz, Citroen

Q: The last time we saw the Peugeot 307 on gravel with the 5 speed gearbox, it won in Finland...

CP: It's not true. The last time we saw it winning in Finland was with a 4 speed gearbox (the five speed model retired when leading). Now it's with a five speed gearbox.

Q: What are the chances here in Japan?

CP: Listen, after me Marcus is due to show up here and he can do better than me in telling that we are really hoping to do something good. In fact this famous fifth gear, is giving much more comfortable to the drivers. Both drivers told us this morning at the shakedown that they were feeling absolutely they had again a rally car in the hands This is what Marcus told us this means that he is really keen to do something nice.

Q: The World Rallies Commission recently submitted a series of proposals for next year including the new calendar and new Super Rally regulations and other technical rules. David, from a technical point of view, what do you make of those changes?

DL: The technical side is in some ways the easiest. We have been working on this for some time. There is a very strong consensus between the teams. It is very much a matter for the teams. It does not involve so many people and is a much simpler process. What we have ended up with is something everyone is happy with. We have got some moves to reduce costs by making engines, transmission turbo chargers and lots of other parts last longer. We have got moves to reduce the number of spare parts so this not only reduces costs by having less but the possibility of the calendar taking on board air freight so we don't have to take as many tonnes to each rally. There are some measures to take out some of the exotic materials so that helps to bring down costs. There are the testing reductions. There are even measures with the homologation process to slow down the rate of development. So I think that we have achieved is something all teams are happy with. We've also done what Max has asked which is to bring down the costs for new manufacturers and I think everyone is happy and it will be good for me to see what we can all achieve in the same direction.

Q: Corrado, what do you think from the sporting side of these changes?

CP: I confirm what David said. When Max takes cares of problems they are sorted very quickly. Some ideas which have been discussed for more than 12 months are now resolved, such as flexi service. We find ourselves where we were a couple of years ago. So again I agree with David that by showing a unanimous position by the FIA, things are going much quicker and a better direction.

The only concern I have we should all have is that if we look to the number of cars entered into this beautiful rally in Japan there are only 8 cars. It's a real pity. With what we have done so far - what we have done last week with the Rallies Commission - what we have done should be increased so we Peugeot would like to see the three cars scoring points that is another story. There may be discussions maybe for months or year. We are concerned that the amount of cars is maybe too small and I have to agree.

Q: DL Would you support a three car team formula?

DL: In general terms yes, but we have to be careful about the way we did it. We talked before about the cost of having a 16 round calendar. Whilst on the one hand we would all like to see more cars we have to make sure that all manufacturers can handle it.

I think all the teams would in principle would like to see it, to see more young drivers in the championship more cars.

CP: Perfect

Q: Corrado what are your views on the SupeRally? Do you think it's the correct way forward?

CP: The problem of the SuperRally is that it is a rule that is a result of the lack of cars. If we had three cars I don't think it would be necessary. This SupeRally is a consequence of having the decision of only having two cars in each team.

The idea of having points given away each day no matter the amount of them was in our opinion not a good thing to do. I think for all of you the winner of the rally is the one who starts on Friday and finishes first on Sunday last stage.

So if the issue consists in allowing cars to re enter the rally a solution had to be found in order to allow the cars to score points in fair competition with the other cars who started, not abandoned, the rally in three days.

As a consequence of this we accept the idea of the five minute penalty for not finishing a stage as a best compromise, so we are agreeing on it, but don't forget that the super rally is a consequence of the fact that only two cars are admitted.

Q: This is the first time a World Rally takes place here. It's kind of a home event for Subaru. Are you under any pressure?

DL: I think it will be silly to say no because it's very important. The combination of being the first time here and the pressure itself of all the senior players and people we would see once a year being here at the same time

As far as the drivers are concerned we are trying to keep them away from that and treat it as just a rally. The way to win a rally is to treat it as a rally. For most people it seems to be enjoyable experience and another new rally in the championship.

Q: How important is it for Peugeot?

CP: Very. Exceptional. Subaru is an important Japanese manufacturer. Peugeot is an imported manufacture in Japan. Our position is completely different. Peugeot is in the country for more than ten years. Each year we have improved our sales. We now have our own distribution company. We will be selling this year something like 12,000 13,000 units and the Peugeot image here is a good.

As an example of it, last Sunday in Yokohama we had an event to promote the participation of Peugeot to the Japan Rally. We had 4,000 people and the weather conditions were not good at all. The typhoon was getting closer but 4,000 people were watching Harri and Marcus testing, signing a lot of autographs. . Really the passion is there and we feel the event is very important the country deserves it because the audience is passionate. There is a lot of enthusiasm for mechanical sports. So far the organization is really very good. We don't have Peugeot president here but I really would like to call him ad tell him we have done a good job here. We are glad to be in Japan.

Q: Not so long ago you had a very big accident in Germany are you fully recovered or are you still getting better?

PS: We had very good help from the team, from the human performance team with massage of tissue and a nice woman helping me out. Everything is perfect. I'm a little bit stiff in the neck. Phil is much better actually. It's a positive thing.

Q: You also had a very big accident. How are your eyes?

MM: My eyes not back to normal yet, it was pretty severe. I'm just getting used to it more.

Q: How much of this is holding you back?

MM: It definitely cost me a bit of time in Finland but in Germany I don't think it really slowed me down.

Q: Petter, you have been here a few times before. What do you think of the country?

PS: The people are great and so is the country. I love the food. The food is absolutely excellent. It's the best food in the world for sure. The tea ceremony was interesting. It was very, very nice and we did it properly and it was perfect. The country is good and people are very nice - especially when you are driving a Subaru!

Q: How would you describe the stages?

MM: It's difficult to describe a road. From a drivers point of view. Leg one and two are a bit boring they look similar to each other and the corners as well. But they are very fast and narrow so that doesn't mean they are easy to drive. They are quite difficult to drive fast. And if you make a mistake there are steep ditches on both sides all the times. The Third leg is the best one of this rally and these are really challenging stages not easy for sure.

Q: How easy will it be to make a mistake this rally? Do you think there will be a lot of retirements?

PS: I don't hope so. I think it will be a good rally. I think everyone will respect it. Like Markko says it's quite difficult. There are many unseen corners. I hope that everybody stays on the road which is a good thing for spectators and everybody. I just hope for a clean fight

Q: With the current championship standings, are wins or points the most important thing?

MM: A win is always important. It doesn't really matter if you win or get second from the championship point of view. What we really want is Sebastien to help and he is 29 points ahead. So you really can't catch him if he is doing just average. So far he has done a brilliant job. Even average is good.

PS: After Finland you said your plan was to win every rally between now and the end of the year? It didn't work in Germany for sure... First of all I have to build up my confidence it was quite a big accident so we have to respect it. Of course, the main thing for gravel is to win definitely.

Q: Your team mate Francois Duval has a new co-driver for this event. How much do you think that will effect him?

MM: I have not talked to him but if you have a new co-driver it always take some time to get the best but I am sure he will have a difficult weekend to cope with the situation.

Q: Carlos, you have never been here before. How much is good luck and how much is guess work if you have to choose tyres several hours before start stage?

CS: Tyres matter but they are directly related to weather conditions and that can happen anywhere in the world.

Apart from that, obviously it's a new rally with new character of a rally and new character of roads. It's quite different from much of the roads we have been competing on so far.

Q: Marcus some people have said the roads are similar to New Zealand.

MG: Maybe a little bit, it's a mix of RAC [the Rally of Great Britain], New Zealand and some narrow stages of Finland. Yeah it's better than I expected so I am quite positive.

Q: Those three rallies you mentioned are rallies you normally do well at. Will you do well here?

MG: We will see. Everyone will be going quite fast. It's difficult to say. It's a new rally so you have to trust your notes. Normally Carlos is very good in new rallies, so we try and beat him, then we are quite close to the top I think.

Q: Testing in Europe is not allowed so what preparations have you made for this rally?

CS: Everyone is relying a little on something. Unfortunately the shakedown road was not good. The shakedown is supposed to be similar to what we were supposed to compete on especially now that testing outside Europe is forbidden. It's good to have representative road but in this case the shakedown was nothing to do with the rally. But I think everyone is just going to try a standatrd set up of the car, try and do their best job.

Q: How important is the weather in a rally like this?

MG: I don't know how it will be tomorrow and Saturday and Sunday. It's very hot inside the car. It's humid that's for sure. I don't know about the tyre wearing when we are doing a lot of kilometers. We will have to see how soft or hard tyres we will have to choose.

Q: How does this rally compare with others that are in the championship?

CS: The stages are very narrow and fast but there is one characteristic on the side of the road there is quite a lot of grass. If you are brave you can start cutting and everything works well but if you are unlucky you can find a big present in the grass and then you go home. I think you need to be a little bit lucky if you decide to cut everywhere. You will put the tyre into a stone or but you never know you can try. For sure it will be tricky.

Q: After you won Neste Rally Finland you said you can take the championship. Do you still think so?

MG: I don't think so. It's very difficult now. We have zero points from Germany, I try to do good now here and the rest of the season, so hopefully that gives us confidence for next year and hopefully we can fight again.

Q: How catchable do you think your team mate is?

CS: I reckon Sebastien is having a very good season. If he continues in the way he has been doing I don't think it will be possible for anybody but rallying is rallying you never know, but everyone agrees with me he has an incredible gap he is driving very well, the car is very reliable. He is in a very strong position to win the championship.

Q: Will anybody other than Sebastien win the Championship?

MG: It's difficult to catch Sebastien, like Carlos said. I don't think so. We cannot do it I think.

Q: What do you think of the idea of introducing SuperRally without points but five minute penalty?

CS: I can't understand the idea and I absolutely imagine why the manufacturers want the SuperRally. I think it's a good point that you keep the cars running through the rally. It's good for the organizers and the public and TV. The five minutes per stage is quite a lot. As soon as you are a little bit unlucky you can forget about scoring drivers points. Maybe you can score a few manufacturers points. Its looking like if next year we do not have many manufacturers we have a good possibility of scoring manufacturers points. Luckily the idea of having three (different) classifications has gone away and I think it is not a bad idea the new idea. This way we will still have one winner and the character of the rally will not change and the character of what has been rallying always will not change. And it's easier to explain what is happening in the rally. So I think it makes much more sense than the previous year. It gives you an opportunity to score points

MG: I don't' want the SuperRally before. Everything was better last year, now we are going backwards. Stop making new rules. Stop. Finish.

Q: This is the first time the rally has been here. Do you think a gravel crew would be useful?

CS: Gravel crews - this is a long debate. Gravel crews -- Where is this useful really? When you are going second time through the stages and the conditions have changed a little bit. You can have the conditions like we have sometimes you have the gravel crews has done through and half an hour later a storm comes and you have to do stage then you can throw away the notes from the gravel crew and the information you have. You have the wrong tyres. And you're going to find big surprises everywhere. In normal conditions, in stable condition- that means no weather changes between gravel crew and you - for sure it can give you a better idea from the second time through or first time through. If the weather has changed in between the recce and the rally start it will give you a better idea of what you can find.

If the conditions are stable it can help you a little bit, but not if the conditions are very changeable like in Germany for example. If you have to choose your tyres at 830 in the morning and maybe the gravel crew passed already and then you do the third and fourth stage three hours later and there is coming a big storm in the middle then gravel crews not really helping much.

It depends on the each rally. It depends on each condition. Except for Monte Carlo -- that's impossible.

Q: Would it be more important to choose tyres in a different time rather than have gravel crews?

CS: Yes it's a good idea especially on tarmac. If you have a group of four stages and you have to decide your tyres three hours before the last one; maybe to have an kind of emergency tyre and a set of intermediates and the clerk of the course decides that in this rain situation you only have these five tyres. I think it will be safer for us and the spectators because (it is difficult) to run a car with slicks in the rain. But you have to choose your tyres four hours beforehands, the cost is high. This is only happening one or two times a year that you put the risk lower.

-fia-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team