FIA World Rally Championship 2004 Rallye d'Italia - Sardigna Pre-event Press Conference 30.09.2004 Present: Martin Muehlmeier, Skoda Nobuhiro Tajima, Suzuki Malcolm Wilson, Ford Marcus Gronholm, Peugeot Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Q: We have seen...
FIA World Rally Championship
2004 Rallye d'Italia - Sardigna
Pre-event Press Conference
Martin Muehlmeier, Skoda
Nobuhiro Tajima, Suzuki
Malcolm Wilson, Ford
Marcus Gronholm, Peugeot
Sebastien Loeb, Citroen
Q: We have seen some happy faces. Can you tell us what the news are for the Skoda's future in rallying?
MM: The news is that Skoda will remain in the WRC for the next year. (applause) The decision has been taken with the help of the Volkswagen board. The drivers will be Armin who has a contract for next year, while Toni's contract finishes at the end of this year. But the good news is that drivers are coming to us rather than us coming to them, which was the case before!
Q: Have you got any good news -- or the beginning of any good news?
MW: Non news yet from Ford. I should send Martin to discuss with my management! The good news as I previously mentioned is that any project is necessarily going to be a long term one.
Q: Let's talk about Super 2000, which has been in the news recently. (Motorsport boss) Jost Capito has been quoted saying that could improve the chances of Ford staying in the championship.
MW: Super 2000 is a project that could be of interest for Ford, because some commonality of parts with world touring cars would be able to help reduce costs. It can surely help, we are still discussing all different aspects.
Q: What is Skoda's view on this subject?
MM: We would have to see what the exact regulations are and how they would work. But we like the philosophy behind them. They could help to cut costs.
Q: Tajima San, would these new measures encourage new manufacturers like Suzuki to build rally car to compete in the Manufacturers Champiopnship?
NT: Suzuki is very interested in the Super 2000 regulations. It could certainly help us to build a top level car. I think the new regulations are a step forward for the sport Question : What are the latest news on Suzuki's motorsport plans?
NT: Suzuki recently launched the Swift at the Paris motor show. We will be using it in the Junior World Rally Championship towards the middle of next year. Beyond that, our plans are not fixed. Question : A Suzuki driver is leading the JWRC for the first time : how much does this mean to the team and its future?
NT: All four Suzuki drivers are very good. They have deserved their results this year, but to be leading the championship is an important event for Suzuki.
Q: Seb, you are leading the championship and there is a chance you could wrap up the championship title. How can you do it and how likely do you think this is?
SL: To win the championship I have to finish 3 points ahead of Petter. I will be doing my very best, but I am not thinking so much about that. As usually I will find my pace and see what the others do.
Q: New rallies seem to suit you well. Do you think this one has come at just the right time for your championship chances ?
SL: Difficult to say. It is a very tough event. The roads are very narrow and extremely difficult. I don't know what he (Gronholm) thinks, but I think it will be very difficult to finish three days of this route without making any mistakes.
Q: Peugeot have tested a lot in Sardinia. Do you think the car should be suited to the terrain?
MG: When we tested we did it on wider roads, now the rally roads here are slower and much narrower and more difficult than I expected. It's going to be very tough.
Q: Seb, more asphalt rallies seem to be disappearing. Would you be happy if the championship was all on gravel?
SL: I think the rallies should contain different surfaces. It would be a real shame if the championship went on just one surface. We should have variety.
Q: Marcus, your chances of winning the championship are much less than Seb. Does this take away pressure so that you can focus on winning?
MG: (laughing) As always I will try to win, but we do not know what will happen.
Q: Are you now happy with the car; are there new developments?
MG: There is still a lot of work to do on the 307 but everybody is trying hard. For next year we are switching tyre manufacturers to Pirelli, so we have a whole new tyre to learn as well.
Q: Mr. Tajima, should the new S2000 regulation be approved by the World Motor Sport Council in October, do you think that Suzuki will build one of these cars?
NT: Meetings are still going on, but we are surely interested in the project, it can be a very good solution.
Q: To both drivers. As the roads are narrow, if there is a problem with one car, do you think the rally road can be blocked?
SL: It is true that some stage has places where a car can block the road, but not many. Anyway if the first car has to block the cars behind (laughing) I hope it is not on the first day, because I am first on the road!
MG: I do not want to think about it before the rally