WRC

Rally Argentina: Pre-event press conference

Team Principals: David Lapworth, Corrado Provera and Malcolm Wilson Q: Corrado, Marcus's last win was here on gravel one year ago. How confident are you that he will be able to repeat that? CP: You told us we just have 15 minutes to make it...

Team Principals:
David Lapworth, Corrado Provera and Malcolm Wilson

Q: Corrado, Marcus's last win was here on gravel one year ago. How confident are you that he will be able to repeat that?

CP: You told us we just have 15 minutes to make it short. Marcus will be here in 15 minutes and in much better position to answer, it's better to ask him.

Q: David, everybody expected very cold, quite rainy weather here in July and this appears not to be completely the case so far. Are you a bit disappointed by that, as your Pirelli tyres seem to work very well in nasty conditions?

DL: I wouldn't say we were disappointed. It is quite a challenge having to nominate your tyres in advance. You have to take a certain amount of a gamble and for sure if we'd known what the weather was going to be like for sure our choice would have been a little different. We are less specific with our tyres and that's not necessarily a bad thing. We still look really strong, even though it's not out prefect choice.

Q: Malcolm, Markko Martin was tipped as potential winner of the last two rallies, in Greece and Turkey, but they didn't go well for him. With the championship so finely balanced, how much will this have set him back?

MW: Firstly, you're absolutely right, the last few events have usually suited our car and drivers, but we've scored nothing like the points we could have done. Having said that, if you look at where the championship was this time last year and where it ended up, I don't think there's a problem. But it is vitally important to score good points here. If that's the case then I think it will go down to the wire.

Q: David, Petter starts this rally, the half-way point of the season, in second place in the championship, nine points behind the leader. Is this about where you expected him to be mid-season? Or is this above or below your projected target?

DL: We don't start the season with any projection of where you will be at any one time. We've learned the championship can turn upside down at any time. When we won with Richard in 2001 and in 2003 with Petter, we were at a much weaker point in the mid-point of the season. We feel very positive about where we are right now, Petter's in great form and like Malcolm said, I'm sure the championship will go right down to the wire.

Q: Malcolm, there's been a lot of talk recently about Ford's new engine. What are the differences, will it be used here, and which benefits do you hope it will bring?

MW: When we did the 2004 car, we made some changes to the engine which gave us a better top end. This was fine, it suited Francois's style more; he has about 50 per cent more gear changes than Markko. He drives it more like a racing engine, whereas Markko prefers an engine with more flexibility and more low down torque. This is one area where we did lose with the 2004 engine. We have been working -- or Cosworth has been working quite hard -- to bring that area back into the engine. We have some improvement for this event, but it's fair to say that we're not where we hopes we might be. We have set our target for Finland, which is an event where performance from the engine is very, very important.

Q: Corrado, we have seen changes at the top of the technical side of Peugeot. Is this because of the team hasn't won this season?

CP: Because everything must be adapted to the situation. Michel Nandan has done some fantastic work with us. We would like him to be even more active on the development of the 307 and we wanted to give Pierre-Yves Dujardin the chance to be straight and tough on the daily adaptation of the job. They are both taking the daily tough decisions. There is no link with what happened in Cyprus or from the start of the season. It is just an evolution.

Q: David, do you have any thoughts about the manufacturers' title?

DL: We've obviously got half an eye on the manufacturers' title, you can't help it. There is still some kudos in trying to well in it. But we've made it clear from the start of the season that our focus was on Petter winning the championship and us winning individual events. We'll watch the manufacturers' championship position, but we're not going to change our policy.

Q: Malcolm, we will soon have a new Wilson driving in the championship..tell us something about his program.

MW: He would have been doing more WRC events this year, but his age has been a restriction. He will do Australia and Great Britain as a 17-year-old this year, he then has an eye to doing the full WRC in a 2001 or 02-spec Focus. He's doing the British Championship this season, he won his first national rally at the weekend. He's set a couple of records already, being the youngest driver ever to score points in the BRC and win a national rally in Britain. It's something else for me to worry about for the next few years.

Q: Corrado, are you still in time to grab the both championships?

CP: Listen, it's obvious that we are late on the schedule, but we do believe something may change. We are turning around a victory without being able to grab it -- as what happened in Cyprus. But as David says we are not half way into the championship, so so many things can happen, including that, by a miracle of efficiency, Peugeot can start winning. Let's ask ourself that question again later in the championship.

Q: Finally, a question to be answered briefly by all the team principals: the recent resignation of Max Mosley as president of the FIA has caused a few shockwaves -- what impact do you think this will have on the future of rallying?

CP: First of all, something which I really mean: Max Mosley has always been -- and still is -- a very, very good president. He has driven our sport to success. In my opinion, people will quote me, but I'm not sure in the right manner:
I think Mr Mosley is a very big expert in F1 and doesn't understand many things about rally. He is still convinced that this sport is important and he is trying to boost it. The problem is that he is trying to reach the target in the same way he did in F1, but he doesn't -- in my opinion -- know rallies. So he had to trust people surrounding him, who believe they know rally better than the president and the situation which we are in is a consequence of it. What are we looking for after Mr Mosley? The main thing is to see our sport being run as professional with steady regulations and common sense prevailing in all decisions and a democratic discussion between the manufacturers, the organisers and the sport powers. If this may then I think rally may still have beautiful days.

In the last statement Mr Mosley said teams were too often changing their minds, changing every three events:
maybe he was quoting F1. I'm being a little personal, but I never changed my mind when it came to protecting the long-term rally.

DL: I think Corrado would do a fantastic job. If I was a member of World Council he would get my vote. Being serious, the reality is that we are making great progress. As Corrado touched on, we had a bit of a bad spell at the end of last year when we were struggling to find a direction for the championship. But we have had some very positive meetings, we had a very positive meeting with Max back in April. I am sure that before Max leaves we will have got ourselves a good direction and I think we can look forward to a period of stability, I'm sure he will help us achieve that. It will turn out to be a positive period over the next few months.

MW: David has said just about everything I was going to say. The feeling is that it has been very positive period recently. I've seen a big difference in the way he's been keen to work with us, which is a very positive thing. We have been working to come up with a solution which will bring long-term stability and so from that side, being totally selfish, I hope he addresses those issues before he leaves office. But it is going to be a very difficult role to fill and we shouldn't underestimate that task. The one thing Max was, was a leader. It's not just motorsport, it's all the NCAP stuff as well. It's a job for two or maybe three people, one for Formula One, one for rally and one for the NCAP. It's going to be a very difficult role to fill.

Q: Don't you feel that it's vulnerable after October, what guarantee is there of stability?

CP: As David said, we had very interesting discussions, and the manufacturers showing unanimous decisions on some things and with Max Mosley listening very carefully about what direction we want to go to, all together. For an example, some decisions had to be submitted to World Council last week, all of these issues have been postponed until October. This shows we can really build on something together.

DL: We have a great opportunity to get things straight in the next few months. Then who comes in October can look at rally and say: "This isn't something I need to deal with now, I've got more important things to deal with. Let's leave these guys alone, they seem to know where they are going."

CP: I think Malcolm said very properly, it depends who will take over, does it need three people, or will it be another exceptional man as Max is. The only thing we hope for is that our sport is given in the professional hands. We need people to understand why we are racing and what our commercial interests are worldwide. To do this we need stability, visibility and promotability. We need easy access to the journalists to make it easy to make readable events.

Drivers:
Marcus Gronholm, Gilles Panizzi, Carlos Sainz

Q: Marcus, Argentina is a rally where you have enjoyed a lot of success. Does the psychological boost that this gives you make up for the frustrating season so far? (Your boss, Corrado, thinks so...)

MG: Okay, yes, officially yes. We won in Cyprus, but then we didn't. I think we can do it. The car feels good. We have some improvements on the differential side. But okay, it's a long rally -- three days. We'll know more on Sunday.

Q: Marcus, you recently had a long test in Finland. Did you find out some useful things there?

MG: I think so yes. Tomorrow we will see what we find out. We don't have the five-speed gearbox and maybe it's difficult to have it Finland, but we will survive with our four. I still think we can fight for the win.

Q: Marcus, can you still win the title?

MG: It's not easy, we are 21 points behind Sebastien, but still there many rallies to go. It is possible to catch him, but maybe we need some luck.

Q: Gilles, Mitsubishi has been showing steady signs of progress over the last few rallies, but Argentina seems to be a rally that relies a lot on experience. How difficult do you think this event will be for you and the team?

GP: Every rally is difficult for the team, but this rally is more difficult as it's an event we don't know. But the team is working hard to make sure that we can run to the maximum and to the best of our capabilities.

Q: Gilles, Mitsubishi has had some problems with shock absorbers on the car. These seem to be getting better. What is the next priority for development?

GP: Some new parts are expected for the autumn, suspension and transmission. There is no one priority. It's a priority to develop the car to come up with the most competitive package by the end of the year.

Q: Carlos, there are a huge amount of surface changes on this event, from soft sand to muddy gravel. With no testing allowed in Argentina before the event, how do you make the best choices in terms of tyres and set-up?

CS: At this stage of the season, we have more or less a good base where you can start the rally with the cars. It shouldn't be a problem to run in this rally. It will be softer than last year, but I haven't noticed any major problems. The only trouble could be the correct choice of the right tyres. There is more loose gravel than in previous years and it is colder.

Q: Carlos, because everyone here in Argentina speaks Spanish, you enjoy a huge level of local support. Is it like another home rally for you?

CS: Argentina is one of those rallies where, when you are coming you feel happy. Everybody is very warm here and welcome to the family of rally. It is a country which enjoys the event. That is very important for rallying. It's a little bit the same way as Portugal. I think this is what you need. We are doing this, the manufacturers are doing this, and they need the show. The only thing is that you need a good organisation to control everybody. But I always say this is a problem for the organisation it is never a problem for the public. If you work in advance enough, it is not hard to know where the people will go and where to put the police and marshals. The public should never be a problem. We are here for the show, the more people come is better for the manufacturers. On the other hand you go to other rallies in countries where rally doesn't mean a lot, where there are not so many people at the side. It is more important to go for quality not quantity.

Q: Carlos, you played tennis with David Nabaldjan. Who won?

CS: That's a nasty question. It was great for me to play with a top professional player. It was good fun. David was with me in the car today. I hope he enjoyed, but for me as an amateur to play a little bit with him was very exciting. You realise quite quickly how strong and how hard they can hit the ball.

Q: Marcus, the biggest change to this rally is the change of season. What have you seen out on the stages?

MG: It's completely dry out there. There's not even much water in the watersplashes. This means a lot of loose gravel, but otherwise it looks the same. As Carlos says, it might be difficult to choose the tyres.

Q: Gilles, is it your priority to set fast times or to get to the finish of the rally?

GP: I would like to do the good times. If I can do the fastest time I will do it. Of course for me it's important for Mitsubishi to finish the rally with two Lancers, but we will try to make the gap between us and the leaders smaller.

Q: Carlos, have you completely recovered from your illness in Turkey? Did you follow any special medical attention?

CS: At eight o'clock on Monday morning I was with my doctor. The problem was that I was completely dehydrated, very close to the limit. I hope it will never happen again. It will never happen again, there was a lot of things. I was throwing away my breakfast and not drinking a lot. Still on Monday morning I was dehydrated, but now I feel okay.

-fia-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Gilles Panizzi , Marcus Gronholm , Malcolm Wilson , Michel Nandan , Corrado Provera , Markko Martin