FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP RALLY D'ITALIA SARDEGNA FIA Pre-event Press Conference May 18, 2006 Present: Luca Betti - JWRC Urmo Aava - JWRC Gigi Galli Harri Rovanpera -- Red Bull-Skoda Team Matthew Wilson -- Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally ...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
RALLY D'ITALIA SARDEGNA
FIA Pre-event Press Conference
May 18, 2006
Luca Betti - JWRC
Urmo Aava - JWRC
Harri Rovanpera -- Red Bull-Skoda Team
Matthew Wilson -- Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Petter Solberg -- Subaru World Rally Team
Marcus Gronholm -- BP-Ford World Rally Team
Welcome to the Pre-event FIA Press Conference of Rally d'Italia Sardegna.
Joining us there are two drivers of the JWRC, Luca Betti driving a Renault Clio and Urmo Aava driving a Suzuki Swift. Luca, Urmo: welcome to both of you.
Q: Luca, if we start off with you. What is it like to be competing on your home round of the WRC?
LB: It is not so near to my home in Monte Carlo but my friends are here and also Italian people that came. I hope it will be good for us.
Q: You're currently third in the JWRC, just two points behind the joint leaders P.G. Andersson and Patrick Sandell. Is your aim here going to be to try to win the rally, or move ahead of them in the points table?
UA: Of course, to win is important. Everybody is trying to win.
Q: Luca, how competitive is the JWRC compared to last year? Is it tougher than in 2006 or a bit easier?
LB: This year's JWRC is as competitive as last year even though we've lost some good drivers, like Sordo who is now in the WRC. But there are other drivers, like Sandell, who are very good. It is very difficult to win because there are a lot of drivers to look out for and to fight.
Q: How well suited is this rally to two-wheel drive cars? We saw a very strong performance from the Suzuki Swift in Argentina, so do you think that it will be good on the gravel of Sardinia?
UA: It seems to be possible, but to win it doesn't mean everything. We hope to be much better than last year. We hope to be very fast.
Q: Luca, what are your personal objectives on this event? You're still waiting for your first victory in the JWRC -- do you think that you will be able to achieve it here?
LB: I think that it is not easy to win but we'll try to take the lead. We were very close to the podium in both Catalunya and Corsica and victory didn't seem to be that far away. All the drivers that were ahead of us in Catalunya had some minor problems
Q: Urmo, you came heartbreakingly close to victory in Corsica. Are you out for revenge now?
UA: We try to be fast. We'd like to be fast and that's all!
Thank you both of you best luck for the rally
Q: Gigi, you managed a fantastic achievement by taking your first podium in Argentina; can you do the same again here?
GG: I think it will be more easy here!
Q: Is it even possible to envisage winning this event on home territory?
GG: Everything is possible. After Argentina we put in a lot of effort. There we knew the car, the race. Hopefully we can repeat the performance here.
Q: How much confidence did the podium give to you?
GG: It was a good feeling. What else can I say?
Q: Argentina was another victory that slipped through your fingers Marcus. How much damage did that do to your Championship prospects? Do you feel that you have to win here now to maintain any chance of winning the title?
MG: It is very difficult now as the gap is very big. We'll try to do our best but there is a really great gap.
Q: Does that mean that you absolutely need to win this rally?
MG: Yeah, for sure we need to win.
Q: You've said before that your only chance now is to go for outright victories. How confident do you feel about your chances of winning here? You tested in Greece before this event; have you found any improvements on the car to help you achieve that objective? Has it just been bad luck holding you back so far?
PS: We are really doing everything to win, but you'll see. We have tried a lot of things and they seem to be working very well.
Q: Has it just been bad luck holding you back so far?
PS: I think in Japan and Australia last year it was really bad luck and many other small factors that came into play. We really pushed hard for improvements and now many things can happen. Now everything will be ok.
Q: What chances do you have to get on the podium Harri?
HR: The podium is far away but it's ok, we'll see tomorrow and the day after and on Sunday. I hope to show you a good answer.
Q: Matthew you won the last stage you competed on (Rally Argentina) and in doing so you also picked up you first drivers points; was that a case of starting as you mean to go on?
MW: It was a great way to end the rally. Now if we can set the fastest time on a 30 km stage we'll be very happy.
Q: Another gravel rally Dani, how would you judge your progress on this surface so far? You were fourth in Mexico but you found Argentina more difficult. What do you expect from the rally d'Italia?
DS: I did a good rally in Mexico. The first time in Argentina was very difficult but we were fast. In Sardinia many stages are new so we'll have to see if we manage to be fast.
Q: Do you expect the same results as last year?
DS: I don't know; it's very difficult to foresee.
Q: Gigi, this year the rally route is 50% new. What are the major differences that you can see?
GG: The organisation in Sardinia did a very good job because they built some great new stages and reviewed others. In comparison to two years ago it is very different but they are doing better and better. The speed has to be not too high, but they did a great job.
Q: Marcus, how worried are you about reliability? Have you solved all the problems you have experienced in the past?
MG: I think it will be ok. We had just a small problem in the engine, but in the very last few days we had nothing so I think it's going to be ok.
Q: In Argentina there were two Pirelli-equipped cars on the podium. Do you think that Pirelli will have an advantage here?
PS: There is an advantage for Pirelli. Pirelli tires in Italy: of course will be good, but we'll find out for sure tomorrow.
Q: What do you think Gigi: is there something special from Pirelli here?
GG: They try to improve all the time for Sardinia. We have some new compound but I have tested nothing. I'll let you know...
Q: Harri, do you think this is a rally that could work well for you and Skoda?
HR: We'll try to do our best and drive fast tomorrow. We are pretty confident at this moment and you'll see tomorrow.
Q: Matthew, from what you can see of the rally on the recce, is it one you like?
MW: We improved our skills. It is the first time here so we will have to see.
Q: Gigi, why are you the only top Italian driver? Are the others afraid to be beaten by you or is it because of other reasons?
GG: I think it is too expensive; this is the main problem. I think that when Fiat and Lancia were in the WRC it was better for some Italian drivers, but it is a combination of reasons. One more is that the sport does not yet get a lot of coverage on TV in Italy, so it is not that easy to find money to help. I received help by a big sponsor, Pirelli, but there is not really any other big chance to get big sponsors in Italy. It's difficult to explain the exact reason. It is a combination of many things put together.