FIA Pre-Rally Press Conference 7, August 2003 15:30h Attended by: Marcus Gronholm, Marlboro Peugeot Total Markko Martin, Ford Motor Co Ltd Sebastian Loeb, Citroen Total Toni Gardemeister, Skoda Motorsport Fiorenzo Brivio, Pirelli Chris Williams,...
FIA Pre-Rally Press Conference
7, August 2003 15:30h
Marcus Gronholm, Marlboro Peugeot Total
Markko Martin, Ford Motor Co Ltd
Sebastian Loeb, Citroen Total
Toni Gardemeister, Skoda Motorsport
Fiorenzo Brivio, Pirelli
Chris Williams, Michelin
Q: Marcus, you've won this event for the last three years. That's a lot of wins, but do you think it will be harder this time to try and win it because the opposition seems to be quite close? Lots of people have said that the man next to you, Markko Martin, can cause you a problem.
MG: I think so, yes, and also my teammates Harri and Richard and many other drivers will really fight to win. It's difficult to say -- I think it will be a hard fight. We'll see tomorrow when the first times are coming how it will be.
Q: Do you think it's going to be the hardest Rally Finland ever for you?
MG: Yes, I think so.
Q: Markko, this is probably the closest you get to having a home event. There are lots and lots of Estonian fans here. How realistic do you think is your chance of winning?
MM: OK, it's probably the closest I can get to a home event but it doesn't mean it's any easier for me. It's probably the toughest rally in the championship to win for a non-local but definitely we'd like to have a go especially because the Finns have won it ten times now and Marcus has won it three times so I'm sure they don't mind if somebody else wins for a change. But still, I think it will be a very tight battle between many drivers and it's not going to be decided very early. I'm sure the fight will continue until Sunday and I'll be very glad if I can be among those people who fight for victory.
Q: Seb, congratulations for your win in the last World Rally in Germany. But here it's very, very different. Do you think your car, the Citroen Xsara, can it be as competitive on gravel as it is on asphalt?
SL: I don't know. I hope so but sure, last year it was not very good. We've worked a lot and the car seems to be better now but I don't know if it's enough to fight for the victory here. I think I have to get more experience here to try to finish in the points.
Q: How much work have you done on the car and are there any things different to last year so that it can be a lot more competitive?
SL: I think it's easier to drive and that's important here because you need to be confident with the car. We've changed a lot of little things but we'll see tomorrow.
Q: Toni -- it's only the second event for the all new Skoda Fabia WRC. I know that you've been testing since Germany. Do you think we can see a stronger performance here than in Germany or about the same or something different?
TG: OK, we'll see how it goes. I've done quite a lot of testing here -- more than 1000 kilometres, actually. I was quite happy with the car in the tests but I don't know what the true speed of the car is when compared to the others. We'll see that on Friday, but I'll start as fast as I can.
Q: What were the main things you got out of the test and where do you think you've made the biggest steps forward?
TG: I think we found something for every part. We've made completely new diff setups and we also worked quite a lot on the suspension and some geometric things.
Q: Marcus, you know Finland very well since you are from here. Lots of people have said it's going to rain tomorrow. If that does happen, what will be the effect on the rally? Is that good news for you?
MG: If it rains a bit it's not so bad for us but for the spectators it is not so nice. In heavy rain it can be slippery at some places but light rain is OK.
Q: Markko, you won in Greece -- a fantastic win. You said at the time that maybe God took a weekend off because normally you have bad luck and you've had bad luck since then too. Your car is very fast but how confident are you that it'll be reliable here?
MM: I'm still quite confident that we can still have a reliable car because everything that has happened to me has been related to bad luck. It's not bad engineering or big mistakes by the team members. When you have technology involved you can never be 100 per cent sure. So I'm still confident that if we have a bit of luck it should be no problem.
Q: You must have felt sometimes that you are the unluckiest man in the world?
MM: Sure, we haven't had much luck after the Sweden rally. In the last one and Greece we were sort of OK but still had to fight with the bonnet and stupid things like that. But that's life and that's rallying, and there's not a lot I can do - just my best and if that's not good enough then what else can I do?
Q: Seb, one thing that Finland is very famous for are the big crests and jumps. How do you know which speed to approach them at when you do the recce at just 80 km/h? How do you judge it?
SL: Sure, at 80 km/h it's not easy. I try to write in which gear I can go over them but experience on these roads is very important for that. I have to learn a little bit more.
Q: Toni, you are one of the drivers who can benefit from the third driver rule. You've not been on the podium for the last three years. Are your plans to stay at Skoda next year and how long do you think it takes until the car can become a winning package?
TG: We have planned to stay there. I don't know when it can win but I hope it'll be in a few years. We work very hard for that.
Q: Chris, if a Michelin car wins here, it'll be the 200th win for the company. How important is that achievement?
CW: Perhaps the first thing to say is 'if a Michelin car wins here'. It'll be the 200th win and obviously we hope so. There are two guys on rival tyres that could be quite strong here so we're not going to count our chickens before they hatch. If that happens it'll be a nice landmark achievement that symbolizes Michelin's uninterrupted presence in the championship. We won the first event of the world championship, the Monte Carlo rally, in 1973.
Q: Fiorenzo, Finland is the fastest rally on the world championship. Which sorts of tyres are needed for these conditions?
FB: It's important to have a tyre that's very precise because every little mistake can cost a driver the rally. It's important that the tyre is stable throughout the stages. Here we have two different threads according to the surface: one for the harder surfaces and one for the softer surfaces. We also have four compounds that are used according to the temperature, humidity etc., on which we'll get information from the gravel crews at the last minute.
Q: Chris: Your tyres, Michelin and Pirelli, look similar. What's the difference between them?
CW: The challenge we both face is the same here so I'm sure their solutions are going to be close to the ones that we've developed. The tyres we have here look identical to the ones we have in Cyprus but there's a difference in the construction and compound so that these guys can have the most precise tyre possible at high speeds to give them as much confidence as possible so they can gain those tenths of a second that make the difference at the finish.
Q: Fiorenzo, can you explain what the proposal by the Rally Commission to limit tyres on each car next year is all about and how it will work?
FB: We're in favour of it. We've worked with the commission and other manufacturers to reduce the costs. The proposal is that there will be only two choices of tyre per tyre change, and this will bring the total number of tyres per driver from the present 200 to c. 80 and it could probably lead to a limit of 30-40 tyres per driver in the future.
Q: Chris, is Michelin in favour of that as well?
CW: Nothing's been decided yet and talks are going on. Michelin's point of view is that the progress made on the safety and cost saving issues is very positive. We'll see what comes out of it in September.