FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP RALLY ARGENTINA FIA Pre-event Press Conference Thursday April 27, 2006 Present: Marcos Ligato (PWRC) Toshihiro Arai (PWRC) Patrik Sandell (JWRC) Guy Wilks (JWRC) Manfred Stohl -- OMV Peugeot Norway Luis Perez Companc...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
FIA Pre-event Press Conference
Thursday April 27, 2006
Marcos Ligato (PWRC)
Toshihiro Arai (PWRC)
Patrik Sandell (JWRC)
Guy Wilks (JWRC)
Manfred Stohl -- OMV Peugeot Norway
Luis Perez Companc -- Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Petter Solberg -- Subaru World Rally Team
Sebastien Loeb -- Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen -- BP-Ford World Rally Team
Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.
Q: Hello Marcos. You're competing on home territory, does that make a big difference and do you have a lot of local support? How disappointed will you be if you do not win here, or will you be happy enough with a podium?
ML: Welcome to everybody, it's a pleasure for us to have a World Championship rally here. For us it's a pleasure to have an event like this in our country and it's very special for me, for the Tango Rally Team. This rally will be very important to have a good result for the team -- for myself and the other drivers, Sebastian Beltran and Gabriel Pozzo. I don't want to think about the result. We will try to have a good podium. We are three good drivers, we know the event well and have a good car. We tested on Monday and the feeling was very good. If we could win, it would be very good.
Q: Nasser Al-Attiyah is leading the Championship; do you think you will be able to get past him here? Does this mean that you have to push hard from the start?
TA: It doesn't matter, he has done two rallies and I've done one. I try to win, but it will be difficult for me. Argentina is very fast, but at the same time I don't want to lose points -- I want to be at the finish. I want to try to have a steady pace in some places and go faster in some; I will use the brain.
Q: Guy, you had problems on the first round of the JWRC in Sweden which means that you start with zero points. What's the plan for Argentina? Like everybody else in the JWRC, you've not been here before, but from what you have seen in the recce, do you think this is going to be your sort of event?
GW: Thanks for pointing that out! This is the second round and we have to do our best. Everybody wants to win and we're no different. Everybody says you need experience in the WRC -- I don't think that's the case. I don't think you are allowed to gain experience anymore; you have to get in and mix it straight away. Some of the teams who have competed here before at different times of the year have been surprised at the state of the roads; we're not that surprised. It's not a problem for myself and the team to compete, we're capable on every surface. It's about keeping out of trouble here, but it will be hard without mousse in the tyres. It would be so easy to get a puncture, but at the same time you can't be too slow or you'll be off the pace. We came with an open mind; if we'd looked at previous years we would have been surprised. Some of the stages are really fast and flowing like New Zealand, others are really tight -- in Condor you have to be so precise. The surface varies as much as the stages.
Q: You had a good result in Sweden, your home rally; this though is going to be very different. How optimistic do you feel that you can get a good result again? How much experience do you have on this type of terrain?
PSandell: This is my first time in South America and my first event in the S1600 car on gravel. We tested on Monday and it was very good. We're looking forward to it. Maybe my lack of experience of the WRC could be a problem, but you have to drive with your head and make a very good rally.
Q: How well do you know these roads? What advice would you give people like Patrik who are here for the first time?
ML: I think it's a difficult rally for the first time. Like Guy says, it's very fast in some parts and twisty in other parts. You have to be careful in the water splashes as you can stop in them. But you will enjoy a nice rally.
Q: There are a lot of strong local drivers here, like Marcos -- how big a threat are they?
TA: He has a lot of experience and he knows the roads very well. This year, some places have a good surface. He will be very, very quick, I think.
Q: You've not competed since Sweden more than two months ago, how tricky is it going to be to get back into the rhythm?
GW: It's always nice to get back in rally car -- it's what I love doing. As far as getting back into a rhythm, I remember worrying about it earlier in my career, but now it feels natural to find the ultimate confidence in a very short space of time.
Q: There are some stages run at very high altitude: do you think that it will be difficult for the Super 1600 cars? How demanding do you think this rally will be for drivers -- do you have to be very fit?
PSandell: I don't think there should be any big problems in the S1600 cars, but it could be tougher on the World Rally Cars. We tested on Monday; it was a really good test. The stage was almost the same as the ones we drove on the recce. You have to be careful, though, there are many big rocks. I have to try and stay on the road.
Q: Hi Petter. After Corsica you said you were looking forward to Argentina. You're here now, so what do you think is possible? Is there any tactic other than going flat-out from the very start?
PS: I am ready! That's all I can say and things are looking good. The car works very well. We have done some improvements from Mexico, we're still not happy but it's much better. There's no tactic; I'm just going to go for it. I'm fed-up with second place and not winning.
Q: But of course Seb, you were the winner last year. What are your chances of doing it again? Who is the biggest threat -- Petter or Marcus?
SL: It's difficult to say. I hope I have some good chance. I will try. Okay, I'm sure Petter and Marcus will push very hard but I will try to fight. The biggest threat is hard to know, we will see tomorrow. Marcus is really confident with the new car and Petter had a difficult two or three last rallies, but I am sure he will be competitive here.
Q: You drive the same Ford Focus as Marcus: how good do you think his chances are? What about you -- you have less experience than Marcus in Argentina, but you certainly have a good car underneath you. Is it possible that you can even challenge for a win?
MH: For win? Well I'm sure I will try. Like you say, I wasn't here last year, but that's not such a big thing. I've done the rally twice and feel I know the stages quite well. I will push, the car works quite well -- like we saw in Mexico. I think Marcus might have a chance, actually...!
Q: Luis, you are another Ford driver, but in the 2005 car. How far up the field do you think you can get, realistically? Do you have a lot of local knowledge of these roads?
LPC: I don't know, it's hard to say. Getting in the points is going to be tough, we'll see. I know these roads from the national championship and will try to go fast, but I have to be secure -- I have to make the finish, too. I don't know if it's an advantage -- I think the others will be at the same level.
Q: Of course Manfred, when we talk about experience we have to remember that you are about to rack up 100 WRC starts here in Argentina: only Marcus Gronholm has more on 125.
MS: First I have to say I make most of those rallies in a Group N car. In the World Rally Car, I'm still a rookie. I still enjoy it and I would like to think about 100 more, if possible 200, we will see. It depends if I like it and if the sponsor stays behind me -- I hope it will be much more.
Q: This year the rally moves to April, which means that conditions are likely to be warmer and drier than they were last year. Is that bad news for you? Would you rather it was wetter? What are the latest developments from Pirelli for this event?
PS: It doesn't matter. It's better for the spectators and the people in El Condor. Last year, up there, it was minus one and windy. It's better at this time of the year. As for the car, there's so much development, I can't tell you -- I have a big list; it's incredible! Pirelli has done a step, a small step, but we're going to need it on this rally.
Q: Do you think tyres will play a major factor on this event? Do you think you prefer the rally in April or in July?
SL: The stages are nearly the same. It was less rough last year, more stones coming out this year. It's really dry from the summer, so it's very rocky. The ruts can be deeper with some big stones in the bottom. It can be tough on the tyres. I think I prefer the stages after the winter.
Q: Mikko, in Corsica you had a good fight with Dani Sordo, but he eventually finished third. Do you think this is where you can take your revenge? Is your emphasis going to be on scoring points again, or going as quick as you can? Has your boss, Malcolm Wilson, suggested anything?
MH: Well, he's been really fast on Tarmac and improving on gravel. He will do well, it's going to be a good fight, but I don't just want to beat him here... We'll see; on Friday I will push, then we'll see what happens on Saturday. I need the points, I need the finish and as high as possible. Believe me, Malcolm has a lot of advice -- always good advice.
Q: What about you Luis? Are there any team orders?
LPC: Finishing the rally is my goal.
Q: Sebastien, you have a good lead in the Championship, how does that affect your approach to the event?
SL: It doesn't make any difference. If I see Petter or Marcus is too fast for me, or if I have to take a big risk to stay with them, then perhaps I say no. But as long as I can fight for the victory, I will do that. We have 11 rallies to go, if I start to finish second now, the season can be very long.
Q: Petter, any concerns about reliability? We spoke earlier about the weather, which is likely to be drier, but of course there will still be some water splashes -- around 27 of them. Do you have any worries about them?
PS: Everything is perfect. No worries.
Q: Manfred, let's finish off with you. You're more than quarter of the way through your very first full season in the WRC. How do you think it has gone so far? Have the results been better or worse than your expectations? What sort of a difference has it made to you now that you are in the car for every rally?
MS: I am quite happy. It works well this year. We were not good on Tarmac, but now we have three gravel rallies and I'm happy. I hope we can make a good result here. It's a big difference being in the car all the time. In 2002/03 I did a few rallies in WRC, but all of the time I was spending the first day getting used to the car. Now I feel confident from the first stage -- it makes a big difference for me.