WRC

Rally Australia: Pre-event press conference, part 1

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Telstra Rally Australia FIA Pre-event Press Conference 10.11.2005 Present: Isao Torii -- Mitsubishi Malcolm Wilson -- Ford Q: Welcome to both of you. Isao, if we start with you first. You've come here with Gigi...

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Telstra Rally Australia
FIA Pre-event Press Conference
10.11.2005

Present:
Isao Torii -- Mitsubishi
Malcolm Wilson -- Ford

Q: Welcome to both of you. Isao, if we start with you first. You've come here with Gigi (Galli) and Harri (Rovanpera): is this a rally that you think will suit them and the Mitsubishi Lancer well?

IT: Yeah I think so. This is our expectation and...especially Harri. Last year he did a very good job, he finished second with Peugeot and he know Australia very well, he has experience. In the last two rallies on the tarmac he felt some frustration so now he's now free and he's favourite, so he will show his best performance I believe. And Gigi is still on the rally and this time I just say "stay in the race for next year" so he will do, I believe. So I hope Harri will make a good result.

Q: Thank you very much, Isao. Can you tell us now how far advanced you are with plans for next year? Are you in a position to say who will be driving the Lancer in 2006?

IT: Actually, at the moment I'm still working with my colleague and next week after this rally I'll go to Tokyo headquarters and have a meeting with my executives and ask them to approve next year our activity. Of course our intention is to attend all sixteen rallies and challenge the championship so that is my intention... but so far I cannot say what is the plan but that is my challenge so still I'm working.

Q: So you'd expect an announcement maybe mid-December or before then?

IT: Oh yeah definitely before December 15th I will make some announcement.

Q: Okay. We look forward to hearing it. Malcolm, welcome.

MW: Thank you.

Q: Ford have provided probably the biggest news of this rally -- you've come here with an all new car. It ran competitively at today's shakedown, what do you think?

MW: I'm very happy, I have to say. I mean considering what happened back in the UK with the car, I mean okay we did a thousand kilometres -- three hundred on asphalt and seven hundred on gravel - but in fairness we didn't do any development work at all and we've come here today and neither of the two drivers had driven the car, which made it even more difficult for them, but in fairness we've achieved quite a lot in the shakedown. I have to say, I am very, very pleased and very impressed with the performance of the car. I think even the first time we did on the shakedown was very, very encouraging and I know that there's a lot more to come from the car and I think there will be more even once the driver starts to understand exactly what it does.

Q: Did you encounter any problems on the shakedown this morning? Any teething troubles?

MW: No, in fairness I can't believe it but the car's run absolutely faultlessly. We did start to make -- as I said, we didn't do any changes or spring settings as with the previous testing that we've done -- so both drivers played around with springs and damper settings but we didn't even get the chance to even do rolls bars so there's still a lot to come but as I say, the times were very encouraging and I'm sure that the rest of the event is just going to be about testing and trying to maximise the resources that we've got here.

Q: It's obviously, as you say Malcolm, a big challenge with a brand new car. Do you expect them both to finish here or not?

MW: It's a good question but I think with Super Rally then for sure we stand a reasonable chance. I think the main objective from our side really is to try and finish the rally, try and get full rally distance on all the major components. Okay, we have achieved it in testing but there's nothing like the rally conditions and what they can throw at you so the main objective is to try and get full rally distance on both cars.

Q: And finally, Malcolm, is the car we see here the definitive version, or is the car we see in Monte Carlo next year going to be a bit different?

MW: No I think all the major items, well the major regulation items, will certainly be fixed for the next twelve months, some of them obviously now for two years, with the change in regulations, but I think there will be a lot of work then done on the final setting and so I think you will see quite a lot of changes between now and Monte Carlo but as I say, this is classed as an extended test so really we want to see what happens here in case we've got any major sort of redevelopment between now and Monte Carlo.

Q: Thanks very much indeed. Are there any questions for Malcolm or Isao?

Q: Malcolm, would you expect it to be closer on gravel or closer on tarmac?

MW: I think it'll probably be closer on gravel. The bigger gain should come on asphalt.

Q: Malcolm, maybe you can tell us, what were the reasons behind you deciding to do this event? What can you gain from competition that you wouldn't have been able to do with more testing?

MW: Oh I think we all live in a competitive environment and the main target was to try and get the car ready for this event but I think most importantly for us as a team and with the events being linked together, for example Monte Carlo and Sweden two weeks apart...if we'd let and done all our testing, if we had a hiccup then we wouldn't have been able to do anything about it in that two week period. As it is now we've obviously got probably about eight weeks between now and Monte Carlo so if we do have to do a major redesign then at least we've got the time to do that. So that has always been the main target from our point of view.

Questions from the floor:

Q: Malcolm, can you quantify what the difference in performance should be between 05 spec and 06 spec?

MW: Well, in theory, it should be slower but I'm certainly hoping that this car, well it's proved already this morning that it's certainly not any slower than the current car -- and that's very much in it's early stages. The difference with this car is it is completely different -- there's no carryover parts whatsoever -- so it's a complete new engine, complete new transmission, obviously roll cage, body shell, everything. So obviously we're very pleased with the first results that we've seen.

<hr>

Present
Chris Atkinson -- Subaru
Colin McRae -- Skoda

Q: Let's start with you, Colin. Welcome back, I've not seen you in a car since Rally GB. Australia is a slightly different scenario. How much do you think your road position can help you on the first day? Is this the big thing that you can play with?

CM: Hopefully a lot. It always has been a major factor in the past here and providing the weather stays dry we're obviously going to have a slight advantage on the first day and hopefully then carry that forward, but it's one of the toughest rallies in the championship and when you haven't had much practice it's not easy to capitalise on something like that straight out of the box.

Q: Have you done any testing since GB or was this it?

CM: Nope, shakedown was the first time I was back in the car so I was a bit rusty again.

Q: And presumably you were using your GB settings as a base and then just working from there?

CM: Yeah you've got to be a bit careful, there's obviously limited time to play around with the car settings. In GB they were working well and they were consistent. I think that's the main thing, to concentrate on driving rather than trying to redesign the car during an event.

Q: Thanks very much, Colin, we'll get back to you a bit later. Chris, congratulations on your podium in Japan: it's your only podium so far but is this the place where you're going to capitalise on that?

CA: It's pretty hard to say. It's always tough out there and especially the top three guys are very quick and always pushing a hundred percent on every stage so to match those guys is not going to be easy. It's only our second time at this event and for sure we'll be trying from the first stage but nothing beats experience and that's what we'll still be trying to gain.

Q: You came I think fifth here last year and it was the event that really put you where you are now -- in many ways. How different is it when you come back in a factory team, in a factory car, in a realistic position and with the eyes of a whole country upon you?

CA: Yeah that fifth last year was a bit of a surprise but obviously there were a lot of retirements and we gained from that, but in a world rally car it's a totally different thing and we wrote totally new notes this year as well because the speed is so much faster here, so changing them has made them a lot tidier and a lot nearer and they seemed to work well today on shakedown, so just looking forward to the stages.

Q: Colin, this is an event that you've been successful on in the past -- what is the key to doing well here?

CM: I think just staying out of trouble - it doesn't give much this event. If you make a mistake there's a lot of very nasty trees very close to the road so there's no room for error. The second part was beginning to get rough so really you've got to keep it clean and not make any mistakes - as I said, there's no room for error.

Q: In GB you finished seventh. The Skoda Fabia's best result is sixth. Do you think you can give Skoda their best result?

CM: If I can achieve it!

Q: Chris, everybody talks about this being your home rally -- but to what extent is that true? You come from the other end of this country: so to what extent is it because the roads you were brought up on are very different to this.

CA: Yeah exactly and to live five thousand kilometres from your home rally is a bit strange. It's sort of like saying to the English guys that Cyprus is their home event -- which is far from the truth. So a lot for me to learn and I think we surprised even ourselves last year because Perth is the only place in Australia with roads like this. At home we have more normal gravel roads and most of the other roads throughout Australia are different to this so it's as much a foreign event for me as everyone else.

Q: Colin, there's been a lot of talk recently about the future of Skoda and where you may fit into it. As things stand at the moment, what are your plans looking like for 2006?

CM: Nothing really at the moment. I'm looking at different options and unfortunately at the moment there's not many out there so it looks like maybe another holiday next year.

Q: But ideally you'd like to be back competing full time in the WRC?

CM: It would be good to be back in the right situation and that with a competitive car and a chance of achieving a result. It's very difficult too, after you've been there, take a step back to something that's no quite as competitive. If there was an opportunity there with a competitive car then I would definitely consider it.

Q: Chris, there's been a bit of speculation about your future, where do you see yourself in 2006?

CA: For sure I want to make sure I'm in the championship next year. I think we've done enough to deserve to be back here -- fastest times, got a podium and shown improvement throughout the year, so I'm quite happy with this season and just looking forward to the future.

Q: And have you done your deal with Subaru yet, is that closed? Or are you looking at all sorts of options?

CA: I can't say anything right now.

Q: Chris, how difficult are these roads to drive? Colin talks about the trees and about the amount of gravel -- how do you see it because you hopefully will also benefit from a fairly good race position tomorrow?

CA: I definitely think it'll help a bit but even today on shakedown we went out first on the road and maybe lost a second or something and really didn't go out at it ,so I think we won't be as advantaged by the position, especially tomorrow morning. I think there's a little bit of moisture under the trees and the first few stages I don't think it'll be as big as possible but tomorrow afternoon I think there could be a bit there.

Q: What is the best weather for you at this rally?

CA: As dry as possible -- same as Colin - if it's dry then helps our road position helps, if its wet then it's not as good.

Q: Chris, are you off the leash this weekend? Are you allowed to go for a result?

CA: I'm going to do what I want I think.

Q: Colin, are you off the leash this weekend?

CM: I'm definitely off the leash!

Q: Your announcement that you are coming back here seemed to come very soon after it was announced that Rally Australia is staying in Perth for one more year next year. Is the two linked? Why are you here? Are you short of a quid or what?

CM: It was the wrong way around. I thought it was going to be the last one but I could've waited till next year. There is no connection as far as that's concerned.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Colin McRae , Malcolm Wilson , Chris Atkinson