CORONA RALLY MEXICO 2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Pre-event FIA Press Conference 02.28.2008 Present: Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team Chris Atkinson, Subaru World Rally Team Federico Villagra, Munchi's Ford World Rally Team Matthew...
CORONA RALLY MEXICO
2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Pre-event FIA Press Conference
Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Chris Atkinson, Subaru World Rally Team
Federico Villagra, Munchi's Ford World Rally Team
Matthew Wilson, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Michal Kosciusko, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Shaun Gallagher, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.
Q: Dani, the Spanish drivers get a lot of support here. What does it feel like coming to Corona Rally Mexico? Is the support for you similar to that which you receive in Spain?
DS: I think it is better. All the people speak the same language. It is nice. It is also a nice rally to be a driver.
Q: Seb had an engine problem this morning. Do you know what it was and are you concerned for your car?
DS: No the problems for me finished in Monte-Carlo. It was okay in the shakedown this morning. We changed some small things on the suspension. It was really good.
Q: Let's talk about your pace in Sweden; from someone who didn't have a huge experience on snow and ice you were putting in some great times. Were you surprised at your pace and has it given you more confidence for the future?
DS: In Sweden I drove very well. On the first stages I had no confidence then it got better and better. My start position was not easy, but the performance was better and better. I will try to drive faster here as well.
Q: Citroen currently lies in fourth position in the Manufacturers' Championship. How much pressure do you feel to pick up a good result here in Mexico?
DS: It is very important that we take a good position for Citroen for the Manufacturers' Championship because, at the moment, after Monte and Sweden, we are not in a good position. Here it is important for Seb and I to push and take top points. I will also try to finish.
Q: You have a good road position on Friday. How much do you think your position in the running order will benefit you?
DS: Of course my position on the first day is very good. In Monte-Carlo the stages were clean for me. I will try to push on the first stages here. After that I expect all the drivers to go faster.
Q: What is your aim for this season? Could you challenge for the Championship title or will your role be to support Sebastien's challenge?
DS: Of course it is most important to try to win the Manufacturers' title for Citroen and then I will try to win one rally and finish in the top three in the Championship.
Q: Chris, it's been a good start to the year for Subaru. Now it's the first event where we are back to gravel, what can the team achieve here?
CA: For sure it's been good, especially with the podium finish in Monte-Carlo. We are not on the pace of the front guys yet; in Sweden we could see that. We are taking some small steps here and there. It is never going to be a miracle. The shakedown was okay, but we will see tomorrow. Sweeping the stages makes it an interesting event. We have done nothing drastic, just small set-up changes. It is not a new car, but I am feeling good and comfortable. No miracles. We will drive hard and try and get into the top five.
Q: We have had two fairly cold rallies to start the year and now we have temperatures of up to 30 degrees. Have you done anything different in your training regime to prepare for the effects of the heat?
CA: No more than usual. We have taken the same approach, but it is nice to be warm for a change.
Q: It's the first time we see the Pirelli gravel tyre here, what have you thought of the new tyres so far this season and how concerned are you now that you are preparing to tackle a gravel surface for the first time without mousse?
CA: I will not say anything; if someone says anything they are sure to get a puncture. The tyres are working okay at the moment. The tyres worked well in snow and on tarmac. But this is the first gravel rally and it is new for everyone. We will hold our breath and see. It is bad luck to predict.
Q: There have been very few changes to the itinerary this year, the schedule is almost exactly as it was in 2007. From what you have seen on recce, how are the stages, are they any rougher at all this year?
CA: They are a little smoother and looser. It looks as though they have graded the roads. There are more rocks than I expected on the edges of the road. It was the same on the shakedown - a lot of rocks. This is a new thing with the road positions. I'm not sure whether leading on the first day will help or not. I remember on Rally Australia you had to be careful about your approach. I am sure there will be a few people driving flat from the start.
Q: Federico, it's the first time we see the Munchi's team in 2008. What are the team's hopes for this year?
FV: For our second year in the WRC we are expecting to improve. We had seven race starts last year. This year we are looking forward to pushing harder on every rally.
Q: It's also the first time you have competed in Mexico -- are the stages similar at all to any you have competed on previously?
FV: Kind of. It's a difficult rally, very fast and then it slows down right away.
Q: You are Argentine champion; could we possibly see you on the podium in Argentina in a couple of week's time?
FV: Maybe; I hope so. It is something special for us to be back in the WRC for a second year. I have more experience than last year and it is important for the Munchi's team that we are back again.
Q: You will be contesting the Argentinean Championship again, alongside your WRC campaign. Will it be difficult to strike a balance between the two? Which is more important to you?
FV: For sure the WRC is more important for me. I will already miss one race in the National Championship.
Q: It's your first time in the 2007 Ford Focus and the first time running with the mousse free Pirelli tyres. Will that change your approach this weekend?
FV: I don't know how strong the tyres are and how far they can go. What I have driven so far they feel good. I hope it stays that way.
Q: Matthew, it's the first time you have been nominated to score points for the Stobart team since Wales Rally GB in 2006. Are you feeling any extra pressure?
MW: No not really. I think it might affect me on Sunday if we are in a good position. To start with, no. I will start to do my own thing and try and get some points. That is the aim.
Q: You have Scott Martin back in the co-driver's seat with you for this season. Is the relationship developing well?
MW: Really good. Monte-Carlo is a baptism of fire for anyone. We had new tyres and a new co-driver. Sweden worked really well. I hope it can carry on here.
Q: We have seen you battle for positions within the top ten on many rallies now and the latter half of last season went very well for you. How much is your confidence growing and what would you attribute it too? Is it just getting more experience?
MW: I think it was always in the plan to get the experience. It's nice to come back to the same event two or three times and it makes a difference. We have made a good start to the year. The pace was good in Sweden and I come here feeling confident.
Q: You scored a point here last year; what do you hope to get this year?
MW: I don't know; it will be tricky. We will try. I enjoyed the last two years. They were good to us and good for Scott, who won the Production Car Championship here last year.
Q: The heat and the altitude are a heady combination; what preparations have you been doing physically to prepare?
MW: Yes we have done a lot, no more than normal though. I had a good couple of weeks between here and Sweden and I went for a run once or twice a day. It's nice to be in the heat.
Q: How much does the altitude affect the car and what compromises do you have to make?
MW: I think the first time at shakedown you get in the car it feels a bit different to Sweden. The car is down on power. There is nothing you can do, but once you are up to full speed it is okay. You just lose out with pick-up out of the corners. By Friday afternoon you don't think about it. My aim is to get into the points and then try and push for the second half of the season and try and get some top finishes. It will be tricky and it will not be possible on some rallies. Being nominated gives me an incentive.
FIA JUNIOR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Q: Michal, your third year in the JWRC, but for 2008 a new team. How are you fitting in with Suzuki?
MK: I hope we can try to fight for the title. It is possible for Suzuki to win the title. We have the potential.
Q: You had a bit of bad luck during last year. What is the strategy for this year and will your approach to certain events be different?
MK: I like to push a lot harder from the beginning. This is a new rally for the Juniors; pace notes are important.
Q: Michal, have you carried out any extra training for the heat?
MK: I have tried to prepare correctly for the season. I am in a good condition. I hope all is okay.
Q: Some of the well-known names in the JWRC have moved up to WRC; Aava, Andersson and Rautenbach in particular. Who do you think will be the main competition this year?
MK: It is very important to fight. There are new teams and new cars. This is a big opportunity for me to get a good place. I hope to finish well. It is normal that some teams and drivers leave. We will try and beat the new opposition. It is not easy but possible.
Q: How was the recce, what do you think of the car? How was shakedown?
MK: I was one of the fastest of the Juniors on the first round and again on the second. I did not make a third time because, on the rally, we only have two runs so there was no need to do it.
Q: Shaun, you won the Rookie award in last year's Championship, in what was your debut year. What is the aim for this season? Is your confidence high after last year's successes?
SG: The whole team is excited. Last year was a learning year for us. There are a lot of new rallies. We are looking forward to the new rallies. I have a new co-driver and a new car. We will see what happens. It is very good with my new co-driver. He is easy to get on with. I need more time in the car. More miles means more experience. To push more, I need more feeling.
Q: Which events on this year's calendar do you think you will be strong at?
SG: Gravel rallies maybe. A lot of gravel needs experience. The tarmac rallies in Spain, Corsica and Germany are different to Ireland, where we have bumpy roads. They are smooth and suited to go-karts on the other events.
Q: What do you think of the stages in Mexico? Are there any particular stages that could be very tricky?
SG: They will all be tricky. The stages are fast and flowing. There are many tricky places, but we should manage it.
Q: What are your expectations?
SG: I will try to get to the finish. To be in the points would be very good. This is a learning rally for us.
Q: The HANS safety device has now been introduced to the JWRC; how are you getting along with it so far?
SG: It's very good, very safe, but it takes some getting used to. It's a bit different.