FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Corona Rally Mexico FIA Pre-event Press Conference 08.03.2007 Present: Travis Pastrana -- FIA PWRC Andreas Aigner -- FIA PWRC Daniel Sordo -- Citroen Total World Rally Team Richard Taylor -- Subaru World Rally ...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Corona Rally Mexico
FIA Pre-event Press Conference
Travis Pastrana -- FIA PWRC
Andreas Aigner -- FIA PWRC
Daniel Sordo -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
Richard Taylor -- Subaru World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala -- Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen -- BP-Ford World Rally Team
Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.
Q: You did the recce here last year Travis and now you are competing. What do you hope to achieve in Mexico?
TP: This is my first PWRC event and I will try and get some experience. I am looking forward to it a lot. I am just here to have some fun. I am not doing all the series this time, but Subaru are keen on backing me, so I am here to learn.
Q: What made you decide to participate in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship this year?
TP: This is definitely the next step. I won the US Championship with Subaru Rally Team America last year and that was a good start. Mexico is the closest round to us and is the next step up for us. We came last year to do the recce, because we don't have the facility to make your own pace notes in the US. It's all new, but I will definitely be trying to get up there with the leaders.
Q: You are the reigning Rally America Champion, the youngest-ever title winner. Do you think what you have learnt there will help you here this weekend?
TP: It will help. I have a long way to go. I will see what happens. It is a dream come true for me. I watched it on television and to actually be out here and have such great support from Red Bull and Subaru is great.
Q: The question on everyone's lips Travis is whether you are pursuing a full programme in the WRC; is that a possibility in the near future?
TP: I am really fortunate with Subaru to be committed for three years. I hope that we will do the entire PWRC next year and then, maybe, the WRC. For me this is the start. I have a lot to learn and will do whatever it takes to get there.
Q: Andreas, last year we saw you with the Red Bull Skoda Team in a world rally car, but this year you have switched to the Production Car World Rally Championship. Why did you choose this particular Championship for 2007?
AA: Because we want to fight for a title in a Championship and there are many drivers fighting for this Championship. There are a lot of drivers able to win the title. We will try our best to fight for some points and maybe fight for the title.
Q: With the change of programme this year, what have you seen as the main differences?
AA: In Group N, you have much more weight and less power. You have to change your driving style a lot because I am always too fast into the corner. I need to slow down and make a clean line, otherwise you are not fast in a Group N car.
Q: What do you think of the stages?
AA: The stages are in good condition, not too many rocks and stones on the line, but after 20 or 30 cars, we will see. It could be like Greece and we will need to be careful not to damage the car and get a puncture.
Q: Travis, same question to you?
TP: I don't have a lot to compare to. It's way cooler than it is on television, so we will just go out there and give it a shot.
Q: It seems to have been a frustrating start to the season for you. What can you do in Mexico to turn it round?
AA: We went off in Sweden and got no points. It was not a good start. Maybe we will see after the first stage how it works and maybe we can fight and push. Third place is better than nothing for sure.
Q: After taking the second win of your WRC career, how confident are you feeling right now Mikko?
MH:: Not really. In Norway it was a big thing to take a second win. But now we are on gravel and I do not know what to expect. Friday is going to be tricky. We will be sweeping the roads. If we don't lose too much time, who knows where we can be. We will try and win. We will see.
Q: You beat both your team-mate Marcus Gronholm and Citroen's Sebastien Loeb outright in Norway. Do you think you are a strong contender to take the Championship title this year?
MH:: Okay, everybody says that now. I just want to go rally by rally and see how it goes. There are a few things I need to improve. I will need to drive the same on gravel as I did in Norway. It might take a few rallies, but it is a long season. If I am consistent, then who knows? I am not thinking about it.
Q: You're currently second in the Drivers' Championship, just four points behind Marcus. Could you get ahead of him this weekend?
MH:: Yes, maybe if he breaks his shoulder just before the rally, I might be able to get ahead of him! Of course I need a good result here to get some points.
Q: The last time you competed on gravel was in Wales Rally GB, and you weren't around for much of that event. Do you think it will play a factor in how quickly you get tuned into this event?
MH:: We had a good test before the rally. It should not take a long time. I need the good speed we had in Norway. I have to find the same speed and courage on gravel and in the corners. We will see. Maybe not in this rally, but there are many rallies to come.
Q: This is the first time we will see the Citroen C4 on gravel; how do you think the car will perform Dani?
DS: The performance should be very good. The car is easy to drive and that is important.
Q: After a great result in Monte Carlo, where you came second, Sweden and Norway were disappointing. Last year you came fourth in this event; can you better that this year?
DS: I will try. Monte Carlo was really a rally on Tarmac and not snow and the other two were on snow and difficult for me. They were a speciality for other drivers. This year I will try and finish in a good position, but it is difficult.
Q: This event is run at high altitude, what effect does that have on the cars?
DS: The car is not nice to drive, because the engine does not have a lot of power. It is the same for everybody though.
Q: Citroen now trails Ford in the manufacturers' standings; how much pressure do you feel to get a top result for the team?
DS: Now a little more, but the Championship is different because there are more rallies on gravel than Tarmac. There are some very good drivers. It is difficult.
Q: How much testing has the Citroen C4 had on gravel?
DS: I do not know exactly, but I had two days before the rally.
Q: Jari-Matti, you have competed here once before, but in a Group N Car. How will it differ being in a full WRC specification car this year?
J-ML: It's different to a world rally car. Everything happens much faster in a WRC and you need to concentrate and don't have much time to think. But the driving skills are not so different. What is good with a world rally car as well is that we have good tyres. With a Group N car we had tyre problems last year, so it should be better this time.
Q: You have a great opportunity this year with the Stobart team; what are your hopes for the season?
J-ML: We have a great opportunity. We have a fast car. Everything depends upon myself. For the year I want to improve myself as a driver. We are trying to get as many points as possible. What I hope at the end of the year is to be able to make the fight for the podium.
Q: You have set some great stage times this year but it hasn't yet translated into a solid result. What can you do to achieve your first WRC podium?
J-ML: Well I think I have made quite a lot of mistakes in the past. That is a weak point of mine. What I need to do is to make less mistakes. There are a couple of things I need to improve. I need to be fast and finish to make the step forward.
Q: How was the recce? Plus, you had some dramas on the shakedown as well.
J-ML: We had a hard recce in a standard road car. We got five punctures, three tyres at the same time. There were some sharp stones. It took quite a long time to get three tyres to the car, that's why we only did one sweep of stages two and three. Thankfully, we had the notes from last year. It is not a nice situation when you have only one run in the stages. This morning, first time through the shakedown stage, there was a big dip at the start of the stage. We don't have as much power in the engine as Norway, because of the altitude, and I went flat out over a not-so-little dip and we landed on the nose and did some damage to the chassis. We managed to fix the car, but I have learned something for the rally.
Q: Richard, a brand new evolution of the Subaru Impreza is launched here in Mexico. What can you tell us about the changes that have been made to the car?
RT: The changes are limited visually, just to the bonnet and front bumper. Most of the changes are hidden under the skin to improve traction and tyre wear, so differentials, suspension, weight distribution. Those have been the main areas. What we are looking for this weekend is some podium speed.
Q: It's been a long time since a Subaru driver has been on the top step of the podium. What are your expectations and is a podium position possible this weekend?
RT: Well I'm sure everybody starts rallies with an expectation. We have to be realistic. It is a new car with a limited amount of testing so far, so podium speed is what we are looking for.
Q: The Stobart team moved ahead of Subaru in the manufacturers' standings in Norway and now just one point separates you. Can you retake your position here in Mexico?
RT: It is entirely possible. Petter, Chris (Atkinson) and Henning (Solberg) would like to be on the top step as well. There is plenty of competition here this weekend.
Q: It seems that it was touch and go with the cars arriving on time for this event; what happened?
RT: It was not as exciting as it sounds. We deliberately kept the cars back until Friday last week. We were testing in Spain until Thursday. There was a bit of a 'plane problem getting them here and they arrived 24 hours late. It did not cause a problem and was not such a bad thing, because it also gave the engineers less time to play around with the cars when we got here!
Q: It was announced last week that Pirelli will produce the control tyre for 2008 onwards -- what are you thoughts on this?
RT: Very interesting question. We have not given too much thought to 2008 yet. We have 13 rallies to concentrate on with BFGoodrich and we will worry about this later on. It will be a very different environment and new ground for everybody in 2008.
Q: Why did you have problems on the recce?
J-ML: I did not have a proper Volvo recce car. We had to have a normal rental car and normal road tyres. That is why we had the punctures.