Peugeot team interview Markko Martin: Steady at first, then full speed ahead-- In addition to contributing to Peugeot's position at the top of provisional Manufacturers' World Championship standings, Markko Martin himself figures in second...
Peugeot team interview Markko Martin: Steady at first, then full speed ahead--
In addition to contributing to Peugeot's position at the top of provisional Manufacturers' World Championship standings, Markko Martin himself figures in second place in the Drivers' series, just one point behind the leader; not a bad start at all for the team's new Estonian signing and a favourable pointer to even better things to come--
Q: With a new team, a new car, new tyres and a new team-mate to accustom yourself to, you have certainly had plenty to keep you busy so far this season --
Martin: "It's true, but I have been made to feel very welcome in the team and that helped me make progress from the outset with the Peugeot Sport engineers although I needed a little time to familiarise myself with the 307 WRC. In the first two rallies, I felt as though I was fighting with the car rather that being at one with it. Since Sweden, we have made a big step forward but not everything is perfect yet. For the moment, the car still isn't stable enough to my liking."
Q: What type of handling suits your driving style?
Martin: "I prefer a car with neutral handling or a little bit of under-steer, and I like it to be fairly progressive in its reactions. The car is a bit too much rear-end happy at the moment which makes it quite nervous and pointy to drive. Marcus knows the 307 WRC well and he lives with that better than I do, but he too would prefer the car to be more stable."
Q: Marcus Gronholm has been part of the team for some time. How do you get along with him?
Martin: "There's no problem whatsoever there. He's obviously a tough rival on the stages because he's so quick. But from what I can see he's also a loyal team-mate. We get on well and we try to compare our impressions in order to progress. Our collaboration is a little handicapped by the fact that our driving styles and set-ups are reasonably different. Even so, we have started to come up with some ideas together to work in the right direction and it can only get better with each rally."
Q: How much do you think you can improve personally with the 307 WRC?
Martin: "It's difficult to say. It's clear that I'm still not yet at 100% but I already feel more relaxed and more confident at the wheel. That allows me to drive better, even though I still have to fine-tune the package as a whole so as to be able to drive with a totally free mind. After Sweden, I started to analyse my data with the engineers to see how we could adapt the car's handling to my style and vice versa. We still have some work to do, but I feel we are moving in the right direction. Today's WRC cars are highly sophisticated machines and every detail counts when it comes to optimising their performance. Inevitably, that takes time."
Q: Pirelli tyres are another new factor for you to discover and take onboard--
Martin: "Even if it could be better, they seem to work well. Our three days of testing on the loose before Rally Mexico were upset by poor weather, and mud was hardly representative of what we found in Leon! We were pleased with the performance of the tyres we used but we would doubtlessly have been able to optimise our choice had we had better knowledge of the entire range. It's another area in which we stand to progress very soon."
Q: In the space of a single season, your mission is to help Peugeot win but you must also put yourself in a favourable light for the future. Is that a doubly difficult challenge?
Martin: "That's the way it is. Today, a driver must show that he can win rallies but also that he is capable of scoring points for his team. In both the Drivers' and Manufactures' championships, the current points scoring system is such that you must above all be reliable to stand a chance of winning the title. I perfectly understand Peugeot's needs. I am happy to do all I can to help them win the title and I don't think that will prevent me from making a favourable impression on a personal level."
Q: Your approach to the first part of the season has been intelligent--
Martin: "It was only logical to take things one at a time. I knew perfectly well I would need time with the 307 WRC to be fully competitive and it was normal to sacrifice a little outright performance to progressively get to know the car. I hope this will allow us to turn it up a notch afterwards."
Q: You are 2nd in the championship after Mexico, just one point behind the leader. That's not a bad way to start--
Martin: "I've had a little luck but it's true that I am pleased with my position which, to be honest, is better than I could have dared hope for. And the fact that Peugeot is on top in the Manufacturers' standings is also a very promising sign. It proves that the 307 WRC is both competitive and reliable, which is encouraging for the rest of the season."
Q: When do you think you will be able to start fighting for victory?
Martin: "I can't say exactly. Recent results prove that we are making good progress. We have set a number of top stage times but our performance has been somewhat up and down. We need to be more consistent and we intend to work on that. We came back from Mexico with some ideas in mind but it was necessary to pass via Velizy before working on them. We will have moved on before travelling out to New Zealand. We will soon find out by how much."
Q: Rally New Zealand is an event you know and like. What sort of result are you hoping for?
Martin: "It's effectively an event I enjoy. It's a real driver's rally. The grip is good and you can drive flat. To be competitive, you need good knowledge of the stages, and that is our case. But you also need complete confidence in your car and the result we can aim for will depend essentially on that."