Rally of Turkey: Pre-event press conference

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Rally of Turkey FIA Pre-event Press Conference 02.06.2005 DRIVERS / TEAM MEMBERS: David Lapworth, Team Principal, Subaru Malcolm Wilson, Team Director, Ford Harri Rovanpera, Mitsubishi Janne Tuohino, Skoda Marcus ...

Rally of Turkey
FIA Pre-event Press Conference

David Lapworth, Team Principal, Subaru
Malcolm Wilson, Team Director, Ford
Harri Rovanpera, Mitsubishi
Janne Tuohino, Skoda
Marcus Gronholm, Peugeot
Carlos Sainz, Citroen

Q: Malcolm, Ford recently passed a milestone in Cyprus: 50 consecutive points finishes. What does that say about the team?

MW: I think it says a lot more about the team than it does about me, to be honest. Last night, we had a celebration for those 50 events and it was fantastic for me to get together those drivers who had contributed those points since 2002. There is only one thing there from my point of view that I still class it as unfinished business. I think if I don't get some titles in the next fifty events then I think I know what my future holds!

Q: You recently overtook Subaru for the third place in the manufacturer's championship. How big a battle do you think it is going to be?

MW: I would like to think it is going to be a good battle and like you said, we managed to be in front in Cyprus but we come in to this event with Toni (Gardemeister), who didn't do the rally last year, and Roman (Kresta) hasn't done it before, so we obviously are at a disadvantage, but I think the really pleasing thing is Toni's performance in the last two rallies. The results in the book don't reflect his overall performance. So I think things are going to be difficult here but I think that from Greece onwards, hopefully we can take the challenge to try and get on the podium in the Manufacturers Championship.

Q: David, how though do you think the battle is going to be with Ford going to be over the course this year?

DL: I am sure we are going to have a difficult battle with Ford but in a way it is difficult to explain. The Manufacturers Championship is not our primary goal. Our goal is Petter (Solberg) and the Drivers Championship and hopefully on the way to achieving that we can concentrate on wining some events. We are very competitive by nature but we cannot be drawn into a bit of a battle and if it's close with Ford, and I think it will be as we get nearer the end of the season, we might focus a little bit more on trying to get that third place. But for the moment our focus is on Petter and the Drivers Championship.

Q: The Ford Focus has always been very strong on these rough and hot gravel conditions however if we look back to Cyprus, Sebastien and Citroen were in a class of their own. Do you think here you can really take the fight to them?

MW: We have to be realistic. I think Toni is making great progress and obviously this is not going to be as strong an event for us as Greece, but right from the outset we designed a car that would be strong and could cope with these conditions and it has still proved it's the case in the last two rallies and we are hoping that Roman and Toni, now they are getting more time and experience in the car, they can start to push a bit harder in the second half of the season.

Q: David, your two cars suffered from a few mechanical problems in Cyprus. What steps have you been able to take to make sure that does not happen again in these rough and hot conditions?

DL: In the end it turned out to be fairly straightforward. Petter's main cause of retirement was a sensor problem and we have taken a couple of minor counter measures to stop that happening again. And it seems from the investigation to be a one off and the other bits and pieces were also very specific to those conditions. We have done a little bit to protect the car from dust and grit and so on and it is not the kind of thing we expect to see just in this rally but in any kind of rally as normal and the cars that have come here are pretty much he same as the ones that went to Cyprus, just set up differently

Q: A recent WRC commission meeting has indicated that a move to pairings of rallies is possible for next year. What overall benefits do you think this will bring?

MW: I don't think we have enough time to discuss this because we spent ten hours discussing this in the Rallies Commission meeting. It is of obvious benefit to the teams by pairing the events together but it's not just a case of pairing the events but working in line with a lot of the new technical regulations -- such as one engine for two events and things like transmission moving on even further. As an example if you had Norway and Sweden one week apart or if Sweden and Finland were both snow rallies you could use the same car and same engine so you would not have to do a complete rebuild. You don't get two events for the price of one but it certainly makes a significant impact on the calendar and if we can start to look now at events pairing together in the way that is the most economical for shipping, then we know what sorts of things can have a significant effect on the budget. The calendar is key and I think the more the event organizers can work together I think we will see the benefits.

Q: ...David...

DL: For sure, the studies we have done about how you can pair events both geographically but also technically with common engines and transmissions and body shells and so on there are huge savings. On some events you can imagine pairs where you could do two events for the price of one. Going to New Zealand and Australia as one round trip seems to be an obvious one. But as Malcolm hinted we should look wider. It is not just the pairing of events. The whole layout of the calendar is the key to the cost and the value. A lot of the focus naturally is on how we can reduce costs and pairing is one of the best ideas but we also need to look at the bigger picture of which events are in the calendar and what order are they in the calendar because there is the value side of the equation. We are not just talking about the number of rallies but which rallies and in which countries and where do we get the best value and where are the big car markets and so on and start to look longer term because the calendar is not just about cost - it is about value.

Q: Are there any other measures you would like to see as a result of this meeting?

MW: I think there has been a lot of stuff going on technically which is also contributing to where we are trying to get to with the calendar so that has been going on and a lot of recognition has not been given to that and I think it is also very important. But I think David has touched on this as well. There are a lot of new events which are obviously of interest to the manufacturers and they are obviously very keen to work with some of the organizers so they can link into some of our current events. As a lot of people are probably aware we had a big study to really realize the value the championship brings when we were discussing our future with Ford last year. If you immediately drop to 12 events there is 25% of the value gone so we have to be careful. 16 events is a lot and I know it is difficult for a lot of teams probably but I think at the moment until you sort the calendar it is very difficult to do a definitive budget and I class calendar as key.

Q: You mentioned new events that could be interesting that are willing to work with new organizers. It is sometimes suggested that USA or China but which of the events that are running now could realistically be useful to you?

DL: The candidates that are on the table now all look interesting because they are tackling both sides of the equation -- they are interesting markets but they are looking at what they can do to save costs. The new events on the horizon now are looking at providing us with testing, hotel costs, and help with freight and travel costs and so on and they are desperate to get into the championship and are making some proposals to make it more attractive. And clearly from the manufacturer side, Malcolm talked about value, the cost -- we have to look at ways in the future to go to China, USA, Russia and India and so on -- the big and developing markets. You put those 2 things together and come back to what Malcolm said and the calendar is everything, it is not just the cost it is value.

MW: You are right David. China and the US are not on the map at the moment but they are obviously are of interest. The ones that are serious contenders, South Africa Norway, Portugal and Jordan for sure they are of interest to Ford and probably all the other manufacturers as well.

Q: Harri if we start off with you: in Cyprus, the last rally, you had a few problems but in Sardinia you drove a fantastic rally. What is the realistic potential for Mitsubishi on this sort of event? I think the 2 cars were fastest on shakedown -- does that mean anything?

HR: Yes of course that means something! Okay shakedown is shakedown, but tomorrow starting the rally as we know. But we sort some problems out in the last test and some problems that we had in Cyprus and I am quite confident in this weekend I am really hoping that this car will work like in the last test and today. If that happens we can do a nice result.

Q: Is your objective to be to finish on the podium or is it to finish in the points?

HR: If it is possible, podium of course, I try that and why not? I am quite confident like I say and if the weather stays like this and it is dry then it helps me and our car.

Q: You mentioned recent testing what did you find that you think will help you here?

HR: We tested many things, we worked with dampers and I have built a more stable car for here and that is the main thing. Okay the road is more flat compared to Cyprus and I think it is working even better.

Q: Janne, in Cyprus the rally ended up with Skoda scoring some important points. Do you see an even bigger improvement here in Turkey?

JT: Yes for sure. We did the test after Cyprus and we find some nice things for the car performance and lets see how things will go during the rally and I hope on my side I can do the weekend without mistakes and the car is working on the weekend and we don't have technical problems. That is the main thing.

Q: Janne, what do you think of the performance of the car in these very rough very hot conditions?

JT: Here the roads are better condition than in Cyprus and Sardinia and our car is working better in the faster conditions when it is a little bit flat and I think so it is better for us.

Q: Do you think the Fabia is quite well suited for the conditions here?

JT: I hope we do our best and let's see.

Q: Harri over the last few days it has been raining hard and today it is hot. What are the conditions for the stages?

HR: Some stages we have not been able to see anything! It has been foggy in the car. Sure there are some muddy areas and yesterday we didn't know if it is muddy or not in corners but the road if it is dry is quite nice and is much better than the last two years this means that the rally is faster. I think it is not too hard for tyres and everything looks good at this moment.

Q: Janne, do you think that the rain will affect the conditions for the stages for this rally?

JT: I hope it is dry but if it is raining it could be a very difficult rally like Harri said. Yesterday it was very slippery and difficult but hopefully it is not raining.

Q: Harri, tyre wear is important on these rallies. Are you happy with the recent developments made by Pirelli?

HR: Yes we have one new tyre with different compounds and that is working quite well and one week ago in the test I was confident with that.

Q: The teams are required to nominate tires in advance. Are you confident that you have the right tyres for this rally?

HR: Yes

Q: Janne, are you happy with the work done by Michelin recently?

JT: Yes for sure. We think it is dry and hot like last year and not funny if it is raining.

Q: Harri your team is the only team starting with new engines on this rally; is it going to be an advantage for you? How worried are people on their second rally with the engine if it is still strong?

HR: I am not worried about it at all. I was just asked that after shakedown one hour ago and everything looks good.

Q: Carlos, what is the story behind the reason you are sitting here now?

CS: It is very simple. I think everyone knows a little bit about what has happened in the last rally. Only due to those circumstances is the only reason I am here. I have no wish in coming back to compete in the World Rally Championship before, but after saying that it seems to be a small problem and I have a few conversations with Guy (Frequelin) after Saturday and Sunday and finally on Monday. At the end he convinced me to be here and since I took the decision I will try to do the best I can but it is just the only matter to help the team and in these circumstances try to get some points and say hello to a lot of friends I have in this room and try to enjoy the rally and try to do a good job.

Q: Carlos, Guy asked you to do this rally and you agreed. If he asked you to do some more would you?

CS: Actually he asked me to do the whole season but that is impossible! I think everyone knows my aims in terms of sport is to try and find a car the Dakar 2006 and I have still not found one, unfortunately. I can find a car to do World Rally Championship but not Dakar -- it seems strange. But in any case, as I said to you, Guy asked me and I said there is no chance to do the whole season. It is just a single situation and we will see how the team will find a solution for the second driver which has to be found as quickly as possible.

Q: Carlos, do you think Francois Duval deserves another chance?

CS: I always have a lot of faith in Francois Duval and when I decided to stop last year I spoke with him a lot and I think he is still capable of doing a great job. He is young and he is very talented. He is a good driver and he has a lot of future in front of him. I don't know exactly because I have not been in rallies and discussing with him or following exactly with him but one thing is sure, the results at the beginning of the year were probably not as good as everyone expected and I expected and I don't know exactly what was the reason.. Maybe with a little bit of time with re-thinking his own situation but the attitude maybe has to change a little bit and he has to approach differently in a little way some things. You must think that when you are young and you have the chance to drive for one of the best teams like he is driving now, driving for the team which is world champion you have to do maximum - you have to do 100 per cent everything. You are so lucky to do as a profession of what you like; to drive one of the best cars -- you need to give 100 percent, you need to enjoy, you need to work very hard. I am not saying that Francois is not doing that; I am sure that this period of time I think he will think a little bit about what he wants to do. But I say again I am very confident that he can be a very good driver and he will be a very good driver.

Q: Marcus, is it nice to have Carlos back?

MG: It is nice to see him back but I think like Carlos said it is nice he is not back for many rallies! I hope he can enjoy it.

Q: Marcus, in Cyprus you had an engine problem in the first stage. How badly do you think it has affected your championship chances?

MG: I hope it is not the same case like last year. We won in Cyprus and we were leading the championship by one point and then they took off the point from us. After that we could not come back any more and hopefully it is not the same this year. I hope we can fight here for a win and try and change the situation a little bit.

Q: Marcus, are you still confident you can win the drivers championship?

MG: No I am not confident at all! I will try as far as possible and still it is possible, so I will try.

Q: Marcus, you must be pleased with general level of reliability with the Peugeot which overall has been good?

MG: Up till now we have had no big problems, just this one in Cyprus and it is not normal - just a mistake or something; it can happen. So I am quite confident.

Q: Carlos, as a former winner of this event what is your objective for this rally? Will you be able to go quickly or have you had to adapt?

CS: The first thing today has been to adjust to the HANS system. It was quite difficult for me. Tomorrow I will try and follow my speed. It has been nearly seven months since I did the last stage and I am very happy again to be here to help the team, to be honoured by Citroen to give me a call to do this. I think everyone knows and I have told already that I will try my best but you should not expect anything special because I will just try and score maximum points for the team and try to get into the rhythm as quickly as possible and drive fast but safe.

Q: Carlos, how much testing have you had here and how much has the Xsara changed since you drove it last?

CS: Basically we did one day in a circuit in France last week just to be back in the car a little bit and get used to HANS and drive a few kilometers before the first shakedown and stage. In January I did one day in the car but I had an injury playing football and I have been a little bit not doing many things for a couple of months and I am okay and have no problems and happy to be here and trying to do a good job.

Q: Is the car very different from last year?

CS: The car is very similar to how we drove in the last rally.

Q: Carlos, do you think after such a long time after you drove the rally car it will take you some time to get back up to speed or do you think you can go fast from the beginning?

CS: I am sure I am a bit rusty. The level in the World Rally Championship is very high and you need to be competing nearly every month to keep the performance the same, it is the same in any sport -- in football for example, even if you come back from an injury after a few months away you are still not the same. You cannot just disappear for seven months and come back. I think honestly this is going to be tough but I accept the challenge and I think the team knows as well

Q: Both of you; how are the road conditions in Turkey?

MG: It was raining during recce and it was really muddy and when it is raining here the roads are very slippery and I hope it is drying up for the rally or it is a nightmare.

CS: It was not the best weather yesterday and the day before to come back to rallying! Only in a very few cases have I seen such a bad weather condition in the stages and hopefully we will have better weather and it will be dry.

Q: Marcus what do you think will be key for winning this rally?

MG: Normally the fastest driver gets to win, but this time it is a rally about tyres. Maybe but we don't know how the weather will be. We know that it was completely muddy yesterday and the day before and we have to guess again.

Q: How strongly do you feel about your own chances of winning this weekend?

MG: - I can't say. I don't know. I will try.

Q: Carlos how strong do you think Marcus's chances are of winning this weekend?

CS: I think Marcus is a favourite in every single rally that he competes in. He can win everywhere and he can be very fast everywhere. I have not seen very carefully this year how it has been, but I hear last rally mid-way through the first stage he was quickest by far so if he can continue the same speed as first stage in Cyprus then he can win. I think we are going to face a very difficult rally especially if this afternoon is still raining -- even if it is stopping now then we can find a lot of places with mud and without gravel crew I am sure we will have good moments and a few exciting situations tomorrow.


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team