FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Sébastien Ogier (FRA), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Thierry Neuville (BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Kalle Rovanperä (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN), Team Principal (pictured)

Q:
Sébastien, 55 career WRC wins. You showed impressive form from the start. How happy are you with this result and the pace you have shown this weekend?
SO:
I am really happy. Yesterday night, it is difficult to explain why I felt at one with the car and could do what I wanted with the car. Also, I felt quite relaxed as well. I don’t know but this weekend, from day one, straight away, I have seen that we had a good chance to fight for the win. Starting from seven on the road it was not the best position but we were still having good times. I knew from this moment the speed is there but we still needed to bring it all together and finish the weekend and stay out of trouble. That has not always been the case. I am very pleased that we safely secured the title for Toyota. It is not often that we achieve all these results. This has been my signature win and I try to seal my titles in style and now we achieved the Manufacturer championship win with a double podium with Kalle and we made it happen. It’s great for the whole team that we have done it. Now I am even more relaxed for Rally Japan which is coming and will be an important rally for us.

Q:
It is an important rally because the whole team will be there. You can all relax a bit. However, Toyota will expect the top step of the podium in Japan?
SO:
Hmm, of course we will love that. We have not looked so much what is coming. I have just heard that it might be very challenging with some unusual stages. After this weekend we will have the confidence. That is a very important point. I know that it is not always easy to deliver when it is expected. I remember at Volkswagen it took some years before we finally took a win, even we were winning every rally. We throw away a couple of times the win, like Jari-Matti in Germany… I’m sure Kalle, Elfyn and I will try our best.

Q:
Thierry, second position overall. Earlier today, you said that you had been a mechanic most of the weekend changing the set-up between stages. Were you finally happy with what you had by the Power Stage?
TN:
More or less, yes. We start the weekend and I did not feel bad in the car. I felt under control in terms of the balance and the feeling. We just had a bit of issue with the feedback in tricky conditions. I felt like, compared to last year, I was not on the same speed in some of the sections. We tried in both directions, softer and harder, and worked on the balance of the car. We tried a lot of things. We were trying to get a little more feedback that we were missing to match the times of Seb this weekend. We were not really worried. He was so strong but we didn’t know what was missing. We were not far away. It was still better going on.

Q:
Talk about Japan. How do you prepare for this event?
TN:
To be honest, at the moment, not a lot. Basically nothing. But I take things event-by-event and will start to prepare very soon. The target will be to translate the information from this weekend into performance for Japan. If we get that right, we could be definitely challenging Toyota there.

Q:
I guess you would like to take revenge there?
TN:
It would be the biggest pleasure to win in Japan. It would be fun. It won’t be easy. It’s a big task. Toyota have been strong all season and if they have Kalle and Sébastien on the start line it will be even more difficult. So we have to work to see what we can do. It’s not only me. My team-mate Ott also had good speed over the weekend. That’s what we hope for.

Q:
You mentioned team mates. You are missing one going into next year because Oliver Solberg is not with the team. Do you have any idea who will be in the team next year? Who would you like to see in the team?
TN:
We will find out. No, the question has been raised a couple of times. I always gave support for Oliver in the fourth car. Maybe it was too much pressure for him and the step was too big from the R5 immediately. The decision was taken unfortunately. But that is a decision for Hyundai now. Now the team will take the decision for the third driver. I don’t know who it is going to be.  There are a lot of experienced and fast drivers – Andreas, Elfyn, although I understood Elfyn is not available. There is Jari (Latvala), a lot of good drivers who deserve it. It’s not me to make the decision for the drivers. What I like is to have Ott as my team-mate because he is the strongest team-mate I have ever had. It makes an additional challenge for me but it is also motivating as well for me.

Q:
Kalle, third overall here. A bit of a drama early on with the drain on the Ruidecanyas stage. Are you happy with what you did out there?
KR:
I think we always want the top spot like everybody. I am quite happy with what we did. My feeling before the rally was that I wanted a good result and fight for the win if possible. I try to have a good podium and winning the championship was nice. Anyway, Seb was flying this weekend. I could not catch him even I was trying. He deserved to win.

Q:
You celebrated your world championship title in New Zealand. What does it feel like to be part of such a successful team?
KR:
Of course, it is a big thing and really nice. I think this year we did a big step with the new cars. It also shows how hard the guys are working on the cars back in the workshop. They made a car which was fast, strong and reliable at the beginning of the season straight away. That helped us to get the positions and we all really enjoyed this championship.

Q:
Jari-Matti, what can you tell us about the driver line-up for next year?
JML:
I cannot give you anything official but I guess the question is, ‘if you win all the championships, is there a point to change something’? But it’s not my decision. Hopefully we will have some news when we arrive in Japan.

Q:
It’s been an incredible season. You go home to Japan having sealed the Manufacturers’ title on the round before. Everything is done and dusted in your favour. That must be something pretty special?
JML:
I am really proud of the team. I think it’s the combination of people working hard and they have shared the passion and desire for success. At the end of the day, the most important is everybody works together. If you have great individuals it doesn’t help. You have to get everybody working together. That’s also not only the team: the drivers are working together. That’s why we are able to build a car that’s so fast and reliable and that is why we have people who are prepared to make the car as fast and reliable as possible.

Q:
Talk about the performance of your drivers this weekend.
JML:
After being able to see the different drivers, I could see the commitment was there on the shakedown. You were asking who was going to win the rally. I know the boys are fast on Tarmac. Kalle is in a very strong position but I could see that Seb was there for the challenge too. I could see on the shakedown that the speed was there, I know Sébastien from years before. He still has a big hunger to win and without a win in the season, at some point, that hunger has to come out. Kalle had a good fight with Thierry – to finish in the third position with a good feeling. To have two world champions at the finish you do not have to take crazy risks like I would have done. A great performance and also knowing what is good and what is important.

 

FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Hyundai Motorsport N – Teemu Suninen (FIN), Hyundai i20 N Rally2
Toksport WRT 2 – Nikolay Gryazin (ANA), Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo
Armin Kremer (DEU) – Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo

Q:
Teemu, your second WRC2 victory in Spain. You know the roads here well. How was the weekend?
TS:
The weekend was very good. Spain has been the first rally when I have enjoyed driving. It is similar to circuit racing and you choose the lines. I enjoyed the rally a lot.

Q:
I guess coming to the end of the season it is a good thing to have your name on the top step of the podium, especially when you don’t know what is going on next year?
TS:
It was good for me and the team. Now we proved that we have a winning car and that is important for me at this point of the season. Hopefully it helps the situation for next year.

Q:
You had a good lead this morning. It was around 30 seconds at the midpoint today. How many risks were you taking out there?
TS:
In the mornings, every morning, I try and push a bit more and try and get some time. In the afternoon, when I felt that there were more risks because of the cutting and the punctures on the rocks, I took it a bit more carefully. I managed my pace in the riskier places.

Q:
What can you tell us, if anything, about next year?
TS:
Of course, I hope to get to Rally1. I have no kids, so I am happy to do a full season! My manager is talking to some teams. I trust his job.

Q:
Who is he talking to?
TS:
Teams in the WRC….

Q:
Nikolay, you were battling for podium positions this weekend. It has been interesting to watch. It has been very close. How happy are you with what you have done out there?
NG:
I was quite happy all the weekend. It was also nice to manage the weather conditions and what they were going to be – the risk with the tyres. Thursday was quite nice. Yesterday I had a spin and we lose 15 seconds. It happens during the rally when you are trying to increase your pace. My set-up worked during the rally and I was enjoying.

Q:
Thierry Neuville told us he was like a mechanic most of the weekend changing the set-up. Did you feel you were doing that a lot?
NG:
I was doing some changes under the car in the mountains but only one time to try and repair the brakes. We are not mechanics but we understand how it works. I feel more confident.

Q:
Will you be back in WRC2 next year?
NG:
I don’t know yet. Let’s see I want to drive. Just give me the car…

Q:
Armin, you take a win in WRC Masters. It has been a successful season for you. It must have been very difficult for you guys with all the debris on the road?
AK:
It was dirty roads but we have a good race. The car’s running well. The Škoda, we had some problems at the beginning of the year but this time it was really nice. This rally, we had a puncture on the third stage so we lose some time. But we can come back to the first place in the Masters. We are in a good position. But, at the moment, the result of the Masters will go to Japan. That, at the moment, is the situation.

Q:
You are not competing in Japan. So, you have to sit at home and wait to see what happens there?
AK:
We have seven rounds in WRC2 that we are going to. That is the situation.

Q:
What have you thought of the whole experience this year?  
AK:
It is a fantastic new step and I think it’s really good that WRC2 has a new Masters’ Cup. A lot of drivers are coming to this new cup. I think it is 43 for the championship and more drivers are coming to the rally.

Q:
What was it like to experience a stage in the dark?
AK:
It was really nice. We are rally drivers and we drive at the night. It was a good situation for us and we had good fun.

 

FIA WRC3 CHAMPIONSHIP/FIA RGT CUP

Present:
Lauri Joona (FIN), Ford Fiesta Rally3
Enni Mälkönen (FIN), Ford Fiesta Rally3
Emmanuel Guigou (FRA), Alpine A110 RGT

Q:
Lauri, you have achieved the WRC3 title in Spain. It was a winner-takes-all situation and you have had a hell of a battle with Jan Černý. How are you feeling?
LJ:
Of course, I feel very good. Now I just realised that we are winning the championship. It was not so easy rally for us. On Friday we struggled with tyre choice. On Saturday we broke a driveshaft and we dropped a little bit of time. The situation changed a lot. But we are here and we are the winners, so…

Q:
What did you think yesterday when you had the broken driveshaft?
LJ:
Of course, it’s not so fun when you realise that something is broken on the car. Luckily it was not so big problem and we could drive the stage. It was our luck that El Montmell was cancelled on the first loop and we did not lose too much time.

Q:
How intense was the battle? The lead kept changing and it was down to 0.5 seconds at one point.
LJ:
Hmm, maybe I did some big risks. I am not so familiar with Tarmac and circuit racing conditions. It was always risks for me but today the gap was so big and we take it a bit carefully and take few cuts.

Q:
What does this all mean now for next year?
LJ:
I think it helps a lot always to get a title. It is more likely you can get some budget easier. When we get the title we can step up. We could get some good sponsors. It’s all about money.

Q:
Enni, you were given the trophy for winning the WRC3 Co-drivers’ title on the start ramp. You’ve had an incredible season alongside Sami Pajari. What does this title mean to you?
EM:
Well, of course, I am really happy because, 10 years ago, it was something I only dreamed of. It’s something so hard to get. But, well, after all, I am really happy.

Q:
It’s been an incredible season. There are quite a few female co-drivers with success. We see also in the ERC with Sara Fernández being successful sitting with Efrén Llarena for a second year in a row. Do you feel it is important?
EM:
Yes, and for me that is the main thing. Next we go to Japan and then we will know more. It will be the first time in Japan or me.

Q:
Emmanuel, a brilliant result. It’s great to see these cars on these beautiful roads. But they’re exceptionally low to the ground and there was a lot of cutting. How difficult was it this weekend?
EG:
During the recce you can see a nice road without mud and gravel. After 50 four-wheel-drive cars it is really difficult with the Alpine. After that it was easier and I changed my set-up. It was easier to drive the Alpine.

Q:
Which stages were the most challenging?
EG:
I prefer the second day on Saturday because the road was less gravel – as today the same thing. The first day was very difficult.

Q:
Did you make the correct tyre choice?
EG:
Yesterday morning was a disadvantage at the start because it started to rain. It was a difficult stage with a small road and gravel and mud and it was very slippery.

Q:
What has it been like in the RGT class in the WRC this year?
EG:
It is a nice championship. There is five races and we start with Monte-Carlo. It is a nice race to start. Maybe one more race could be better for the championship because if you lose one race you lose the championship.

Q:
What is your plan for 2023?
EG:
Maybe the same thing, to drive with the Alpine with the RGT championship and on some circuits too.

 

Fuente: www.fia.com