Richard Burns, Toni Gardemeister, Tommi Makinen Markko Martin, Colin McRae and Armin Schwarz were at the pre-event press conference at Rally HQ in Lamia to give their views on the 50th Acropolis Rally. Q: Toni, we'll start with you as we heard...
Richard Burns, Toni Gardemeister, Tommi Makinen Markko Martin, Colin McRae and Armin Schwarz were at the pre-event press conference at Rally HQ in Lamia to give their views on the 50th Acropolis Rally.
Q: Toni, we'll start with you as we heard some very exciting news today that the new Fabia WRC will make its debut in Germany. This is much earlier than expected -- why did the team make this decision and do you think it was the right one? What can you achieve with the new car?
Toni Gardemeister: "We want to take some real test. The car is not ready yet. We have a lot to do, but it is good to now if we have the car speed and reliability and everything need on rallies. For sure I am happy with the new car and we'll try to get some more speed. In the tests it had been reliable. We will see at the rally for sure."
Q: Richard, you've led the World Championship since round three of the series, Turkey, but your team mate Marcus Gronholm is now two points behind you. Do you think you can stay in front?
Richard Burns: "I hope so, yes. My plan is to finish these two next rallies and try staying in front of Marcus in the championship and in front of everybody. I am very happy of leading the championship. Of course the point system is helping me at the moment, but I have a good feeling at the two last rallies."
Q: Colin, with two non-finishes on the last two rallies, are going to be concentrating on getting to the end here, or will you pushing hard from the start?
Colin McRae: "No, I am going to push hard from the start. It is important to finish, but if you are in a position a few points behind, you need to get high results and as many points as possible."
Q: Markko, you came so close to winning here last year with the 2002 Focus WRC. This year's car is even quicker, but how much of that speed has come at the expense of reliability? You've also had two non-finishes from a very strong position...
Markko Martin: "I definitely still think that it has the reliability, but the problems we had so far are just strange. There is nothing wrong with it. It is still a very strong car. That looks good at the moment but we'll find out at this rally if it's that strong but I'm sure that it is."
Q: Do you think Markko this is your best chance to win?
MM: "No, I don't think there any differences to the other rallies. This is just another rally. We try to win every gravel rally this year but unfortunately we haven't made it. On every rally we try to do our best and hopefully it will happen here. If not, there is always the next rally."
Q: Tommi, you're in Greece for the ninth time, but it's one of the very few rallies you have never won. Have you just been unlucky?
Tommi Makinen: "Yes I think so. I don't want to think of it any more. I will just start tomorrow and that's it, we'll see."
Q: Armin, Hyundai desperately needs points -- so far the team has only scored in Monte Carlo. Do you think enough work has been done to be confident of a good result here?
Armin Schwarz: "Well, first of all we are always confident before the event because you can only check your car in the shakedown and there, it is always good, even today. I'm still optimistic in taking some points here like we did in Argentina. I'm motivated anyway."
Q: Richard, tonight there's a ceremonial start in Athens. Do you think the rally would loose anything if we did not bother and started the event here? How much time does it take out from everyone's schedule?
RB: "I think the cars have left two hours ago and I don't suppose they'll be back before ten o'clock. So you can ask the mechanics how much they enjoy it. I don't know who it benefits; I suppose the photographs, but I think you can find a nice place for photographs closer to Lamia than Athens."
Q: Colin, Carlos won with the Citroen Xsara in Turkey, also run on rough gravel. How similar are the conditions here?
CM: "It's not as rough and it's quicker than in the past. Probably Turkey was a little rougher than this one so there is not a really comparison."
Q: Markko, we hear rumors suggesting that you are going to drive on the Estonia Rally at the end of this month. Tell us a little bit more about this event and why you are doing it.
MM: "This is the third time for me in the Estonian rally and it is going to be a part of our Finland preparation, that hopefully will give me extra performance for Finland, because we can get used to the fast and smooth gravel after rough rallies like here and Cyprus. Hopefully it's going to be a benefit for us. I'm happy the team choose to go there."
Q: Armin, there are a lot of new stages this year, particularly on the last day. What effect do you think they are going to have? Will they help you?
AS: "I must say I quite like the stages, and that we are doing this year again some of the stages we had done already in '94 or '92. Some stages up there have a little different surface and character than all the other stages. For me it's a nice area to go. It's only the road section in most of the rallies that goes longer and longer and I would like to see more stages than road sections."
Q: Tommi, tough gravel rallies like this is traditionally where Pirelli tyres have been strongest. Do you think your tyres will give you and Petter an advantage here?
TM: "We hope so. I think it might be. Of course both teams are working harder and harder. I hope our performance is still there."
Q: Toni, at the moment, Skoda is fifth in the championship, eight points behind Subaru. Do you think it's possible to beat them by the end of the year -- especially with your new car?
TG: "First of all I think we should get the points from every event, but we will see when the new car comes. I can say nothing yet, but it's for sure we'll try to get from this as much as possible."