Cyprus: Pre-event press conference

2003 CYPRUS RALLY FIA World Rally Championship, round 7 The conference was held in the media centre at the Hadjipavlou Building in Limassol on Thursday, June 19th and was attended by: Markko Martin (Ford) Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot) Carlos Sainz ...

2003 CYPRUS RALLY FIA World Rally Championship, round 7
The conference was held in the media centre at the Hadjipavlou Building in Limassol on Thursday, June 19th and was attended by:

Markko Martin (Ford)
Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot)
Carlos Sainz (Citroen)
Petter Solberg (Subaru)
Corrado Provera (Peugeot)
Host: Anthony Peacock

AP: Good afternoon. Joining us today is the winner of the last rally - the Acropolis Rally - Markko Martin, with Carlos Sainz and Petter Solberg from Citroen and Subaru. On the back row we have Corrado Provera, team principal of Peugeot Sport, and Gilles Panizzi, who is driving for Peugeot in this event in a car run by Bozian Racing. Markko. Start with you. Congratulations for the victory in Greece two weeks ago. Talking with your team boss Malcolm Wilson this morning, he thinks that it will be a lot more difficult for you to win here. Do you agree?

MM: It is difficult to win any WRC rally these days. People keep saying that it is a similar event, but I say that Greece has more fast flowing stages and here they are very twisty. These stages need quite a special approach and more people can fight for a good place in this rally than other gravel events. It is also very tough on the car, because of the heat. The average speed of the stages mean that this event will be more about survival.

AP: Thank you Markko. Carlos congratulations to you to on second place in Greece. That second place also puts you to second in the Drivers' Championship, just five points behind the leader Richard Burns. Do you think you can come away from here on Sunday with the lead in the championship?

CS: I have been long enough in rallying to know that it is very difficult to make predictions these days. You can in certain rallies know that some drivers are difficult to beat. Cyprus is a rally where I consider five or six drivers can win with different cars. This year we are facing the roughest and the toughest rally of the season, because of the conditions and the heat we will face over the next three days. Of course we want to do well, but we cannot predict a result.

AP: Petter. Nice to see you. Today we had a taste of what this rally is about in the shakedown. It is very hot, rough and twisty. For the driver and the co-driver is this the most demanding event of the whole championship?

PS: It is a couple of years since I saw such rough stages and the heat is going to be quite bad. I like this type of stages. It is perfect for me, the car and the tyres. If you are prepared - I have done a lot of training lately - I am ready.

AP: How hot does it get inside the car?

PS: 67 degrees I think we saw.

AP: Carlos is that the temperature you saw?

CS: I do not know exactly the figure. But it feels very hot. It is like having a sauna for quite a long time.

PS: Coming from Scandinavia we are used to taking sauna, so it should be quite okay.

AP (joking): Of course, not many Scandinavians take a sauna fully dressed in their overalls.

CP (joking): Come all to Peugeot because we have air conditioning!

PS (joking): That is very heavy isn't it!

AP: When negotiations have finished! Gilles. According to the shakedown times this morning you were the quickest. Second was Marcus with 6m 09s. Can you win some stages here or make the podium?

GP: Shakedown is just a test of the conditions. It is different. Tomorrow is another day. If I can do the same times then I will be very happy.

AP: Corrado. Turning to you. Greece was not the best event for Peugeot. There were some reliability problems. Have these problems now been solved and do you think that rough, hot rallies are still the weak link for the car.

CP: Before answering the question I will tell everybody thank you to Piero Sodano for inviting me to the Thursday press conference. I would rather prefer to come to the Sunday press conference and I hope that will be the case. Now for the question. I don't think that this is a weak point for 206. We have won in Argentina this year and we won last year here, but that is another story. In Greece we faced a lot of problems, but not at all linked to the rally itself. All the cars have been checked to ensure that things have been fixed properly to avoid the problems at the end of Friday. As far as the clutch problem is concerned, we just went back to the previous one and still believe that we can take a good result here. As Carlos said before, there are four, five or six drivers who can win here.

AP: Are you confident that the problems we saw in Greece have been solved?

CP: Absolutely.

AP: Thank you Corrado. Markko, coming back to you. Cyprus has the lowest average speed in the WRC. Last year the winning average speed was just over 62 km/h. Do you think it will be even slower this year with the new stages?

MM: For me it is like the organisers have gone back to the 2000-spec stages. But this year all the stages are very, very twisty. For me, they all look the same and are boring stages - not much fun to drive.

AP: Obviously, drivers want to go as fast as possible, but on these slow, tight stages are they fun to drive?

MM: It is a personal preference, but it is zero fun. You go around a 3 left and then around another corner and it is another 3 left. 30 kms like that, a right 3 left into a left 3 left. For me I don't like this.

AP: Next year one of the three rough surface rallies, Acropolis, Turkey or here may be dropped. Do you think 3 rallies of type are too many, or do you think that each rally has its own merits?

CS: Obviously it's not my decision. I can tell you what I think, but at the end of the day it is down to the Manufacturers and the FIA to decide what is better for the sport, as a rally and as a place to come and live and bring some VIPs, which all count in the whole rally. Between all three events, they have similar characteristics, but if you have to ask me which one is more interesting, I have no preference. It is up to them. You have to count everything. Maybe the stages are a little slow, but rally drivers should be able to be fast in slow, in rough, in good, asphalt, everywhere. You have to look at the complete thing. If you want to bring some people here it is the right time of the year, nice hotels, so it is not up to me. I drive wherever the FIA and Manufacturer says.

AP: Thank you Carlos. Petter. The three events are quite similar. Which ones are your favourites?

PS: Seriously I don't care so much. I enjoy it. If they are having a rally or changing a rally it is okay for me. I like to drive a rally car if it is fast or slow. It is good fun.

AP: Absolutely. In Greece two weeks ago you were close to being in a position to win the rally. Is your tactic the same here?

PS: This is a rally I need to tackle a little bit differently. Because a lot can happen with the bad rocks. I think there are cars in front of you which can pull out a lot of bad things. We have to look a little bit more compared with other rallies. If you are in a good position for the last day, great.

AP: Thank you Petter. Gilles you are obviously a tarmac expert, but do you like driving on gravel and what are the differences?

GP: I like more and more driving on the gravel .I prefer some surfaces to others.

AP: Which sort of gravel - fast or rough, hot ones?

GP: I think that it is important in a championship to drive on all surfaces. I believe it is an excellent concept. I like driving on all surfaces, but some drivers have preferences for certain surfaces.

AP: Corrado. There's been speculation about the new Peugeot, which will replace the 206 WRC. What is the latest and when can we expect to see it?

CP: I will just intervene very shortly. The only problem with these three countries we have been talking about is that they are too close together. This is the only problem. As far as the rallies are concerned, it is because we are just a few minutes away in a plane from Turkey or Greece. As far as the question you asked, we still have a 206 WRC, which is a performance car. When the company decided to come back to rallies we wanted to enter the championship with a 306. But the company told us we had to do this with a 206 for a marketing reason. The management of Peugeot is suggesting to us which car we race when the 206 is replaced by the new car. The decision of racing with the new car will be first much more than a sport decision. It is obvious that we have to prepare for the future, carefully preparing with another car. I think it is not a secret that we are developing the 307, but having it racing will only be taken after the company management will tell us that we may. And the second after our engineers will have given us the assurance that the next car will have the same performance. Again in the order, first marketing and then sport.

AP: Thanks for explaining that. Are there any questions?

Martin Holmes to Carlos Sainz: Would you recommend Madrid as a nice city for a young British sportsman to live in?

CS: I'm sure it's a very nice place to live and a very nice club to play for with all those very good players. I am sure that he may be happy there.

MH: I'm sure there are many who will be pleased to see Mrs. Beckham arrive. But did Mrs. Beckham go to Madrid because the shops were better than Barcelona?

CS: You will have to ask her!

AP: Any other questions?

Q: Journalist: A question to Corrado Provera about the Rally of Italy 2004. There are rumours of changes to another part, maybe to Sardinia.

CP: Nobody is perfect, but because I am Italian I will answer your question. From next year a decision has been taken that only four tarmac rallies will be scheduled in the championship. Rumours are going around suggesting that Sanremo will switch to gravel, but these are still rumours. Now in spite of my birthplace I hardly imagine a championship without a rally organised in Italy. It is like Spain without Catalunya, France without the Tour de Corse or Britain without the RAC. We would really like to have a rally in Italy, because the market is very important. It is not enough, but very well followed by Italian tifosi.

Rumours are also going around by which the rally could be organised around Sanremo, but I hardly see this. The rally could be moved down to Tuscany where we had the 205 Turbo 16 in the eighties. Rumours are going around by which a stronger organisation exists in Sardinia and they could bring us to Sardinia for a Costa Smeralda at world level. I can't comment on all these rumours, because I don't know where we stand on this. As the team responsible for Peugeot, we are really keen on keeping Italy in the championship.

AP: Thank you Corrado. Any more questions. No? See you at the end of the rally on Sunday.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Richard Burns , Gilles Panizzi , Petter Solberg , Corrado Provera , Markko Martin
Teams Citroën World Rally Team