Present:
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Thierry Neuville (BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Ott Tänak (EST), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Dani Sordo (ESP), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Julien Moncet (FRA), Deputy Team Principal

Q:
Thierry congratulations on the win here at Acropolis, it’s been a while to wait for the first win to come this season. Now it’s finally here, how are you feeling after it?
TN:
Yeah, it’s finally here like you say. It has been a long time since Spain last year we haven’t been on the top step of the podium and there haven’t been many podiums either, and it’s true it felt like ages. So it’s a good feeling to be back to be honest. It’s my 16th victory in WRC, I won’t say we get used to it but we know how it feels. But I feel like this weekend there are special emotions because we have done a 1-2-3 with the team which is something we have worked hard for over the past years and we have gone through a lot of highs and downs, some difficult times, some great times as well but we never achieved to secure a 1-2-3. To get it here this weekend feels amazing and I think everybody in the team, and especially those that have been with me since the beginning in the team, feel very proud and feel like yeah another mission is accomplished.

Q:
How tough has the challenge been this weekend out there because we’ve seen the leaderboard change on its head over the course of just a few hours. What kind of challenge has the Acropolis been this year?
TN:
Yeah, it’s a challenging event. It’s the characteristics of the stages but as well the itinerary makes it even more challenging due to the fact that Friday’s a long day in hot temperatures so it was really exhausting, and then we had completely different characteristics again and throughout the whole day the conditions are changing and you have to face any condition and be good on all those stages, and that makes it very challenging but like I said the beginning after the first stage already, the car felt great since the beginning and I felt comfortable in the car as well and this makes it much more easy then.

Q:
You mentioned how special the 1-2-3 is for the team. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that we don’t see, and there’s been a lot of chat in the press, especially this year. This result now silences that chatter, right?
TN:
I think we are capable of calming down all those criticism, already a couple of events ago. It’s the fourth event when in a row all three cars are running without any major issues. Ott was able to secure two victories in a row as well so that shows that the speed is there and the reliability is there as well. I mean Ott was capable of beating the Toyotas at their home event in Finland, we both were leading in Ypres as well and here again I think we were the strongest. This shows that we have a good momentum, we are in a good mood, but we have to be careful as well on the other side. I think that, yeah, it’s not because we had a couple of good events we think that we are there right now. I think all drivers agree that we still have some improvements to do and we still need to continue pushing very hard to be able to keep that momentum and go forward because there are a couple of tricky events to come. But yeah, let’s believe in the best and hope for even better results in the upcoming events.

Q:
Ott, second position here. Let’s start off with the challenge of this event first and foremost. We saw you drivers in absolute bucketload of sweat at the end of stages, it was exhausting, it was tough, it was challenging. It seems it was harder this year than last year, yes?
OT:
Yeah last year was in a different way hard. Already on the recce we had no visibility, it was very much like autumn weather. This year we are here in the middle of summer, temperatures really high, the stages especially yesterday were really slow so we didn’t get any airflow in the car so yeah we got really cooked by the end of the day.

Q:
Congratulations to you all for making it through yesterday afternoon alone I think! There were a few issues that you had throughout the weekend, without those who knows what the result would be. Yesterday afternoon when things were going wrong for the three Hyundais with this battery voltage issue, how concerned were you that it could be game over?
OT:
Yeah I mean in the beginning yeah, we had a couple of issues so we were not really close enough to take the fight to Thierry, but I would say yesterday afternoon it was just heat related it was just the safe mode so it was, let’s say, nothing to be concerned [about]. I think in the end we knew quite immediately what was the reason and obviously the reason was the same why we were getting cooked in the car so you know it was no difference to the car.

Q:
We saw some great times from you when things were going right. Yesterday morning for example and again this morning you came out very, very punchy. Not quite enough to make such a difference to Neuville, there wasn’t enough kilometres today really?
OT:
No exactly, it was definitely not going to work out just like this. I mean Thierry’s been very strong this weekend and we just lost too much out from the beginning, just too far away and kind of chasing

Q:
There was lots of chat this morning about the potential for team orders. How much of a distraction was that this morning?
OT:
It was nothing we could change. We still had our own job to do. I mean yeah, it was very obvious that Kalle made a great gift for us so we just had to take the maximum points out of it and these points we took now they were the maximum I could take.

Q:
You had a brilliant run on the Power Stage, the title still goes to New Zealand although he doesn’t have to do too much in New Zealand to win. But who knows what could happen there with what we’ve seen in the past two events?
OT:
Yeah I mean it’s never finished until it’s finished. Yeah, from my side I will still keep pushing to see if we can take some other points out and then maybe we could keep it open until at least the last event. That is the target from my side. If it’s possible or no we don’t know, but it’s not finished until it’s finished so my target is still the championship to keep it open.

Q:
Dani Sordo, we spoke at the start of the weekend and I said no pressure, every event we’ve seen you on this year you’ve been on the podium, and you do it again! You are definitely the best second driver, substitute driver, whatever we call you, you deliver the points. How are you feeling at the end of the weekend?
DS:
Yeah honestly I was happy because we are 1-2-3 for the team, it was good. Obviously some drivers in front retired so we take some positions but also we didn’t make any mistakes. We were all the time there, so at the end it was good

Q:
It was good. Took you a little while to get up to your pace on Friday though, it wasn’t until the final stage on Friday where we saw the time start to come in. I remember you identified something on the car before the final stage on Friday where your time was far more competitive. What was that?
DS:
I start to take a little bit the rhythm of the weekend and for sure, at the beginning it was difficult. I hadn’t been really on a good pace because for my road position normally I need to be a little bit more competitive especially in the first day. Second day also was not so bad when we have the same road position as the others, it was a little bit better. But the first day I lost a little bit of time there.

Q:
What was the feeling going into the final stage today, because even though you just had to get through it, you didn’t have any pressure behind, the stages seemed to be difficult out there. We saw a couple of drivers have issue on the final stage?
DS:
Yeah for sure when Evans, when we saw he had problems, it was much more easy to try to keep this position and not make any mistakes, so for the Power Stage it was really bad. Some rocks and we didn’t want to damage nothing and we were not fighting for nothing there, just to finish.

Q:
Julien congratulations on an historic day for Hyundai. A 1-2-3 has never been achieved by your team in the WRC and today we see it happen on one of the toughest events on the championship calendar. What’s your feelings from the weekend?
JM:
First of all thank you very much, it’s an incredible feeling for all the team. As you said we have never achieved such a result since we are in rally back in 2014, so it is very nice. As Thierry said we are on a positive momentum, we have to be careful not to be too positive and we know that we still have to improve the car on many aspects but it’s just great results right now.

Q:
And a great boost for the Manufacturers’ championship today for you?
JM:
Yeah for the manufacturers definitely but it was really important for us this 1-2-3, we are really attached to this result. That’s the first time this year we won in Finland, I think that’s the first time as well we have three consecutive wins. If you look back at the start of the season where we were really struggling to say the least, we knew we would struggle in Monte Carlo we were obviously late in the development, in the parts, in everything, and step by step we improved the car. I was pretty sure it would happen because the team was still there, the infrastructure is still the same so there was no reason we could not make it again, but we were just missing time. So it was not a question of if but more when. And yes it’s very, very nice, incredible. Another page in our history book.

Q:
It certainly is, a really important page in the history book. We move to New Zealand next, we haven’t been there as a championship for a decade. I’m sure the drivers are really looking forward to getting back to those roads, and I’m sure the target now for the team is yet another win on the board?
JM:
Why not do four in a row? No, let’s take the event one by one, let’s be not too optimistic neither. Maybe remember we had some good events during the season then Kenya was very, very difficult and maybe what we have learned in Kenya, how much we suffered in Kenya, paid off this weekend in Greece, because it has showed us what we need to improve on these tough rallies. So reliability was really a key point this weekend. In New Zealand it will be a different rally, so we have to be very careful. For sure we will try the best possible result but let’s see what we can achieve.

Q:
Ott I just want to come back to you finally. Today in FIA WRC3 Junior an Estonian driver has taken the championship title, Robert Virves. Give me your thoughts on his performance this year and how happy you are to see an Estonian doing well in that category?
OT:
He’s not only Estonian, he’s actually from Saaremaa, it’s the island where I am from so it’s the same place in small Estonia. I mean he has done an incredible job, he was definitely a lot smarter than I used to be. I think he only won this rally and he has just been consistent through the whole season so very smart drive and it’s been a big job from his side to get the funding for this season. I know how hard it’s been for him just sitting behind the doors and asking for one dollar here, one dollar there, so it’s been coming hard to him but fair play, it’s a great prize for this Junior category as well. It’s a great place to start a career and for sure we hope there is another generation coming now.

FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Toksport WRT 2 – Emil Lindholm (FIN), Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo

Q:
Emil congratulations on the win. It is I know the second win this year, but this is the first let’s say proper win for you. Tell me how you’re feeling at the end of the toughest event I’m sure you faced this year?
EL:
Yeah you’re absolutely right. It wasn’t great to somehow inherit the win from Teemu in Finland, but now I can say that we honestly did it. And yeah, I really enjoyed this event. It’s really difficult one where you need to be kind of strategic and know what to do and where to push so a tough one but really enjoyable.

Q:
It has been a really tough event all round but you seem to have avoided problems out there, you’ve been very cool and calm under pressure. Did you imagine the top step of the podium was possible here?
EL:
Well you can always dream. The realistic part of me was not expecting to win here, no. But OK when I saw the stage times on Friday I soon realised OK we might have a chance. Obviously and unfortunately Andreas’ problem on Thursday helped us quite a lot, but that’s how it is in this game. Yeah, happy anyhow and really happy for the team. Honestly without any issues the car has been perfect this weekend so I can only say a big thanks to them.

Q:
Toksport have been a busy team this weekend, even before the event got underway with Brynildsen’s car. Talk about the toughest point of the weekend though as we’ve just spoken to the WRC drivers, we talked about yesterday, the 33 kilometre stage, the heat, the concentration levels you to have. Which element of the event did you find the toughest out there?
EL:
Surely yesterday was tough with the heat. Long stages, and slow stages which means you don’t get a lot of air into the car. But what I think was really difficult and challenging for me was the fact there’s so many stages. Basically a lot of corners and to do the recce, to do every corner and to be perfect on the recce and to check the stages from the videos takes a lot of time, so it’s balancing with the work and the sleep and everything like this. But it looks like we somehow managed to find that balance yeah.

Q:
It was a bit of a crazy stage on the Power Stage as Yohan Rossel had that minor roll which you would have passed. What did you think when you saw that?
EL:
Well obviously I was sorry for him. I somehow realised quite quickly what had happened because there was proper ruts behind the crest which you couldn’t see when you entered the corner and yeah, it’s really treacherous you can easily roll a car in a place like that. Yeah, unlucky obviously for him to have that happen to him.

Q:
Did that put that a bit more caution into your drive or not?
EL:
It did yeah because I knew the rest of the stage would be even… that was basically the start of the rutted section and immediately I saw that there could be some issues here. So anyhow we had a gap which was quite safe so I really decided to back off then.

Q:
What’s the plan for the rest of the season? Which other events are you doing?
EL:
We are allowed to collect points from two more events. I hope to be in two more events let’s say. For now it’s not sure but we will try to decide and see what happens quite soon after this.

FIA WRC3 CHAMPIONSHIP/FIA WRC3 JUNIOR

Present:
Robert Virves (EST), Ford Fiesta Rally3
Diego Dominguez (PRY), Ford Fiesta Rally3

Q:
Robert congratulations. You have got a big smile on your face and I can understand why. Championship victory and the rally win, save the best for the last round which is what you’ve done. What are the emotions?
RV:
Well thank you, feelings are quite good I would say! Obviously I think maybe I haven’t realised it yet, what I have achieved, but yeah, I feel really good.

Q:
It is an incredible achievement. To be WRC3 Junior champion with all of that reward next year as well, what a season you’ve had. It’s been consistent in terms of your points scoring, but coming into the final round with so many drivers able to take the championship title how did that feel? Were you a bit nervous before starting or not?
RV:
Not really. I was taking it as any other event and yeah obviously it wasn’t the easiest one to decide the championship in because we knew it would be really, really rough for the cars and the tyres so after Portugal, which wasn’t close to this one by the roughness I finished the rally with seven punctures. So coming here was yeah, not the easiest task but as I said I didn’t feel any big pressure or anything I just had to learn from the mistakes from the past and I just tried to make it altogether here and I think it worked out really well.

Q:
What was the feeling like today, because it could have gone any numbers of ways on the final day. What was your mindset this morning, you get out of bed, you get to the service park, what did you think? I’m just going to go for it today?
RV:
Not especially actually, I just tried not to stress myself. I just woke up, had my regular coffee, took my car and went to the stages. So yeah, of course I had some strategy for today because both runs of the Power Stage were really, really rough, even rougher than I expected so my plan was just to be easy there and push on the second one. The gap was enough, so that’s all I needed.

Q:
I bet coming through that final power stage you heard every noise in the car. Was that the case, were you just hyper aware of touching any rock, any bang, any kind of noise?
RV:
I mean I knew that I can’t back off too much because the road conditions were I think the worst of them all during this weekend, so yeah I tried to be fast in the places where it felt and looked safe and I had to back off a little bit in the rougher sections just to be 110 per cent sure that the tyres and the car will last. But even then, we had surprises like the biggest rock during the rally which was behind a blind corner and I had no chance to avoid it, it was quite big impact but yeah, everything worked out fine.

Q:
We just had Ott Tänak in the WRC press conference and asked him what he thought about you and your result, and he was full of praise for you. How much has he been supporting you and advising you?
RV:
He has been supporting me financially this year, making it also possible just to start the season so yeah, it’s been a great help from him. And of course if I have any questions about how to do anything on the stages or whatever he is the first one that I text.

Q:
Finally then, just talk us through the final stage, once you’d completed it and having to wait to find out what Jon had done. How difficult was that?
RV:
I was pretty sure that it was enough. I knew he would be a lot faster but it couldn’t be anything too crazy because I just saw what he had to face during the stage so I was pretty sure that it was enough. But still, quite a long two minutes.

Q:
How would you sum up the whole experience in FIA WRC3 Junior this year. I’m sure it’s going to be a positive response given you’ve just won the title, but how has the whole season been being a part of WRC3 Junior?
RV:
Yeah, as I said I’m really positive about it. I have to be really happy that I even was allowed to start here because in the beginning of the season it wasn’t looking really promising with budget, so yeah. It’s not a big amount of people that are supporting me for the budget but they have always been with me and still supporting me whatever has been the result from any event, so yeah after being able to start in Sweden and going off the road in the second stage, it feels really good to be here now.

Q:
Turning to Diego Dominguez, congratulations on the win in WRC3 Diego. What a weekend it has been for every driver here but it’s something special to be able to walk away with a victory. How are you feeling?
DD:
I’m just feeling wordless. After that first few events we had this year which were Sardinia and Kenya, both are rallies we were winning, we were leading until something happened. So yesterday when I managed to get in front of Will [Creighton], I just was thinking ‘what’s going to happen tomorrow?’ But yeah thankfully we are here, it’s my first ever finish in a WRC event so yeah quite happy. Speechless, and just very thankful with the team and with my family.

Q:
It’s a really tough event to take that victory on and as you said on the previous event something has always gone wrong for you and we’ve been waiting for you to be able to finish. It’s happened here, how tough has the weekend been though? As a driver is this the toughest event you’ve ever competed at?
DD:
For sure it’s in the top two. For sure. And if it weren’t for the team actually we wouldn’t finish today. On the second-to-last stage we hit a huge rock that was in the middle of the road and we broke the lower part of the car and a lot of oil was coming out, so we barely made it here and the team did a great job and changed everything. So yeah just very thankful for them.

Q:
How did you find the final stages today then because as you said, you were kind of waiting for something to go wrong. How was the final stage for you, were there a few nerves there or not?
DD:
Actually I was quite nervous. I knew that Will was pushing quite hard and I just wanted to get the stage done to finish, but I could not go as slow as I did on the first loop so I just tried to do the best I could without hurting the car. But for sure the roads were quite, they had quite big ruts. The last four kilometres or so were quite broken but yeah, that’s rallying so yeah, happy

Q:
What’s the plan for the rest of the season now. What other events are we going to see you at?
DD:
For sure you’re going to see me in Spain.

Questions from the floor:

Bo Christer Bofeldt, Worldrally.se (SWE)
We’ve seen today and yesterday you were driving like a professional driver. You have good technique and everything perfect. What discussion did you and Julia talk about this morning?
RV:
Nothing special, we drove here and just thought that we need to continue like we had done it yesterday. So nothing too special.

Reiner Kuhn, Motorsport Aktuell (DEU)
Will we see you this year in other rallies? Are there plans to come to Spain or is the season over?
RV:
No this was my last one. I haven’t… of course I have my home island rally coming where I would of course like to compete, but for now it’s like it is. So I will get home and start to think about the next events.

Q:
In Sardinia you said the rally was a gift from your father for studying.
DD:
Yeah for me for graduating from university.

Q:
Exactly, so now you are allowed to do more rallies. You could go professional or is it still just a hobby?
DD:
The idea is to get to P1, to be fighting there with all the great names we have nowadays. But it’s a long shot, but we’re going to try our best to be there

Q:
Next year you will be in the Juniors? There’s a plan to extend the programme?
DD:
Yes for sure we have a programme until 2025.

 

Fuente: www.fia.com