FIA World Rally Championship 2004 Rally De Catalunya - Rally De Espana FIA Post-event Press Conference 31.10.2004 Present: 1st Markko Martin, Ford 1st Michael (Beef) Park, Ford 2nd Marcus Gronholm, Peugeot 2nd Timo Rautiainen, Peugeot 3rd Carlos...
FIA World Rally Championship
2004 Rally De Catalunya - Rally De Espana
FIA Post-event Press Conference
1st Markko Martin, Ford
1st Michael (Beef) Park, Ford
2nd Marcus Gronholm, Peugeot
2nd Timo Rautiainen, Peugeot
3rd Carlos Sainz, Citroen
3rd Marc Marti, Citroen
Malcolm Wilson, representative of winning Manufacturer
Q: Markko, what made the difference for the Fords here?
Martin: I think it is clear from the moment the new Focus was launched last year that it had very good pace on asphalt. Unfortunately we couldn't put that into good results. This year we can use the full potential. The strong things are the balance of the car, which is fantastic and it's so easy to drive. The other thing is that it works so well with Michelin tyres.
Q: What do you think, Malcolm?
Wilson: It's like Markko says. When Christian Loriaux penned the car it was all about centre of gravity and weight distribution. As Markko said we had suffered from those problems with the old car. That was where the emphasis was placed on the new car and it has worked.
Q: Beef, how difficult was tyre choice?
Park: It was quite easy. We have a man in the bus who looks after the alphas, charlies and Zulus. From the outset the weather didn't look that difficult, but with all the cuts and all the mud on the road, it did make it quite difficult. I can honestly say without the safety crews it would have been very difficult and I think there are a few of us who wouldn't be here. We have to say a big thanks to the FIA for allowing the safety crews back here.
Q: Marcus, do you feel 307 can fight on equal terms now?
Gronholm: Yes, we have done a big improvement from Corsica with one weeks' test, without that we couldn't do this result. Now it was much better. I'm not perfect on tarmac yet, but one day I hope I could win.
Q: You seem to have found more speed since Corsica, what happened in the test between the rallies?
Gronholm: There were small changes everywhere: in the diffs and the balance of the car. We still have many things to try, but we'll see when next year starts I hope we can have everything under control.
Q: Did you think you had a chance of victory?
Rautiainen: We were fighting for second all the time. We knew Markko's gap was too big to achieve without any problems. We were really happy we could make the second place, especially as we know how fast Carlos can be on his home event.
Q: Carlos, big fight between you and Marcus. Did you think you could catch him on last day?
Sainz: Already it was quite a difficult choice on the first couple of stages. Marcus went on an intermediate and we took a slick with a few cuts -- the result was not so big a difference. We took a softer tyre in the afternoon, the result was not so big a difference again, but for us the sun came at the wrong moment. We expected much wetter roads on that loop. It made our life difficult with that tyre in the final stages.
Q: Marc, how much does it help to have support from local fans?
Marti: They motivate, they don't help -- Carlos must push the pedal to do the time. It's very nice to see all the fans at home, nice to have them staying with us.
Q: Do you notice the spectators in the car?
Marti: Sometimes, but mostly we are concentrating. In some of the tight junctions you can see them.
Q: The biggest fight was with Francois and Seb. Both went out -- who would have been biggest rival?
Martin: Good question. It would have been a very close battle, but it never happened. It made our life easier, but at the same time it's quite difficult to drive with everything to lose and not a lot to gain. It's probably easier to drive when you're fighting with someone.
Q: In the past there have quite often been cancelled stages here. This time there was only one. What is your comment on event organisation?
Park: The organisation has been superb. We've seen in years gone by problems with spectators, but the organisers have made a big effort to keep the people off the road. A couple of years ago Carlos hit a car, this time we didn't see any cars on the road at all. The cancelled stage yesterday was unfortunate, but you can't really stop a farmer dropping whatever he dropped on the road. The problem was dealt with quickly. I have no complaints at all about the organisation.
Q: Australia next. How confident are you of challenging for victory. 2005?
Gronholm: Yes I hope so. It would be nice for the team to win again before the end of the year.
Q: Can you look forward to next season, Marcus?
Gronholm: Yes I can do, I have to. I think it can be okay.
Rautiainen: I think we should be fighting for the win. In addition to what Marcus said, what we are looking forward to is going on from these two rallies where we have had no technical problems. This side of things is looking very bright for the future.
Q: How emotional an experience was your last Catalunya Rally? Was it one of your favourites?
Sainz: As you can imagine it was very emotional. I felt really something special driving this weekend, I've never felt like this before. Everybody was very warm, and the podium was a very special prize, whether it was first, second or third. The best prize you can get is that of recognition from your country and your friends and we have had this. I was very lucky to feel the warmth this weekend and I will never forget this rally. I will also never forget these years.
Q: Carlos is retiring next year but what will you do?
Marti: Big holidays. I don't know, I have some ideas, but it will be very difficult. After two years with Carlos, it will be difficult to find the motivation. I will do something around the rallies.
Q: What are chances of equalling Petter's record this year and make it three wins in a row for Australia?
Martin: At the moment the chances are very good. For sure we should be able to do a good rally, the only thing is that I have a very bad record. I have never managed to do well there, we'll be lucky to finish it. But we will go there and do our best.
Wilson: It's not just Markko who's been unlucky -- it's Ford. I remember the first year when we had our contract to run the Ford and Carlos went and had an engine failure when there was a championship there. There have also been times in the past with Colin as well. Both drivers have a lack of experience in Australia, but look at the way the drivers have progressed this year -- particularly Francois who must be the most improved driver of the season. I think they'll be right up there fighting. Francois was very competitive here, like he was in Germany and Corsica. He made a small mistake here, but the conditions were very difficult. It's a drivers' decision on how much he wants to cut a corner and he paid the price for that.
Q: Malcolm, there's been a lot of talk about Ford's future this weekend and an announcement coming in Brussels on Tuesday. Would you like to comment?
Wilson: You should all go to Brussels and find out for yourself.
Martin: One point I want to tell. Now we have had three tarmac rallies, safety crews on two and we had big accidents on one. The people in charge should look at those facts and decide what they want to do about that.
Q: I don't know if Marc could read the notes in Finnish, there will be a driver without a co-driver next season. Is there any message for Paavo Lukander, who retires after this rally?
Martin: Not yet at the moment. I don't know what I'll do next year. Of course Paavo decides to stay at home more. I like to stay in the championship, but the FIA must think about the fact that 16 rallies make this a crazy season.
FIA JWRC Championship Drivers
Nicolas Bernardi, First Overall
Winners of the FIA JWRC (subject to publication of results by the FIA)
Q: Big fight. Suzukis dominated day one, you were quickest day 2. Why?
PGA: I didn't expect that I should go so quick on Friday. I saw the speed was good, but on Saturday it was a bit slower. Overall, though, I was happy with the speed on this rally.
NB: On the first day I made some small mistakes with tyre choice. On the second day, when the weather was better, I managed to attack harder and take the lead.
Q: What were stages like for a 1600 car?
JA: Not too bad. They were a little tricky with all the cuts, we don't have mousse in the tyres, but they were okay.
Q: How much pressure with championship situation?
PGA: Before the rally I had no pressure. I was doing my own race and going as fast as possible. I knew guy was fast on tarmac, but he started slowly so I pushed to take more time on him. Before this morning I had a good feeling in my body, I almost knew this could be going well.
NB: I did have pressure, but that's part of the job -- I enjoy it. My objective before the event was to win it and I've done that.
Q: Did you have any major problems?
JA: No. We didn't have many problems, just some small things with the tyre choice and some small moments on the stage -- but you'll always have that with the weather.
Q: How did you hear about Guy? Do you feel sorry for him?
PGA: That was not my first thought, but for sure now I feel sorry for him. He put the pressure on me, but then as long as I was coming to the finish, my position could be number three -- I slowed down a lot in the last few stages.
Q: What are you plans for the future, Nicolas?
NB: On the whole it's been a good year. I've won the French championship. So that means first in one and second in the other. In the future I would like to drive a World Rally Car, but if not possible JWRC again.
Q: What has been the key to winning the title? How about the future?
PGA: For me it means a lot for the career. I don't know. I hope Suzuki will run me next year.