WRC – Rally Sweden – Pre-event Press Conference transcript

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Kalle Rovanperä (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Oliver Solberg (SWE), Hyundai i20 N Rally1
M-Sport Ford WRT – Craig Breen (IRL), Ford Puma Rally1

Q:
Kalle, let’s start with you, it’s going to be first on the road for a brand new Rally Sweden. What are your impressions of the stages from the recce and what it’s going to potentially be like this weekend?
KR:
I think it seems that it’s going to be quite nice. The conditions is fairly good, at least is the recce it looks fairly good. A lot of snow, fast stages so I don’t see any issue there, it should be nice.

Q:
Are we going to be beating average speeds this year?
KR:
At least in some stages I think yes. Overall we have quite a lot of junctions still where we drop the speed. But it should be fairly fast in all the stages.

Q:
If we look back to Rallye Monte-Carlo, a great result for you but if we look back to Thursday evening it didn’t start so well for you, you were outside the top 10, you seemed to be struggling. But miraculously everything changed and you found some great pace. What was the change? Was it anything major or did you just get more adaptive to the car?
KR:
I think it was a bit of both. We changed quite a lot the set-up of the car. I was quite off with the set-up from where I should have been. I didn’t really find the right way to go with the test. But we changed the set-up and I got more comfortable in the car. And after that it could much easier for me to really learn the car and understand how to drive it and then it got much better.

Q:
What’s the hope here, you’ve done well on snow previously, your first stage win was on Rally Sweden and your first podium as well? Is the top step the target this weekend?
KR:
I think it depends a lot what happens tomorrow. Let’s see the condition. Being the first car on the road can be a bit tricky, some stages look like there will be a bit of loose snow tomorrow and second pass after the small cars the ruts can be really tricky and quite a mess so let’s see what we can do tomorrow and see where we are and try to fight of course for the best place we can do.

Q:
What was the shakedown stage like?
KR:
Obviously the first pass was quite okay. I think it was going quite soft for the guys behind and for sure we can get big ruts but I think it will be like this for all stages, there will be some proper ruts. Other than that the stage was holding up quite okay, a lot of loose snow and ruts but I think it’s always like this.

Q:
Turning to Craig Breen, you’ve had some pretty good results on snow, your best result was here in Sweden so you must love the stuff. You must be targeting a good result this weekend?
CB:
Like you said I have no idea why but it always goes well on the rallies that are the furthest away to what I was brought up on.

Q:
Maybe you were a Swede or a Finn in a previous life?
CB:
There’s Viking blood somewhere! A bit like what Kalle said I really have no idea what to expect until we get our teeth into tomorrow, what the road position will do for us. If it’s to do what it’s expected to do overnight, which is to get quite cold after all that slush and rain today it could be nice to be running further up the road. Until we get into the first couple of 100 metres of the first stage tomorrow I really have no idea what to expect. Obviously the key is to try to finish Friday in a good position and get ourselves a good road position for Saturday and into the rest of the weekend, that’s our plan.

Q:
Looking back to the Monte, you had the Monte master, Sébastien Loeb with the most experience in your team and now you have the most experience and the best experience in the team which kind of puts you at the lead of it. Do you feel pressure now?
CB:
Yes and now. I don’t think I could feel more pressure than what I felt coming into Monte. I put myself under so much pressure starting the event. You work for something for all these years and suddenly it’s landed in front of you. It was quite daunting so if I take Monte as a reference to how much pressure I was under then this weekend is far from that. I’m just looking forward to it. I’ve never had to run so far up the road on the first day but thanks to the partial seasons I’ve always been fortunate to start further back on the first day. We’re doing quite well in the Drivers’ championship right now and this is one of the challenges that comes with it so I’m genuinely, genuinely looking forward to it and seeing what it brings.

Q:
How was the test session prior to the event? I believe you were also mentoring some of the Junior WRC drivers. McRae Kimathi you were sitting alongside him. His first time on snow and you were sitting in the co-driving seat. You had got to be a bit nervous, right?
CB:
If his tea-making skills were anything to go by I couldn’t put a lot of trust in him but luckily enough he was better at driving than he was making tea. It was interesting I have to say. An incredibly nice guy, first and foremost. We had a lot, a lot of fun. Even his whole approach is a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed it. He definitely learned a lot. He’d never seen snow before in his life and was a day into the first test before he realised he was driving on a lake, he didn’t know. He just thought it was a track in a field and he needed to be explained that there was water underneath there. It’s amazing, it’s a great news story these two guys coming from another continent having never seen snow in their life about to head into some of the fastest stages in the world. Best of luck to them this weekend.

Q:
Oliver, home event – even if home is a few hundred kilometres away…
OS:
Thousand!

Q:
Okay, there you go, 1000 but it is your home event, you’re on TV, there’s a programme about you, you’re everywhere here you are a star in these neck of woods so how are you feeling about heading into this weekend after a difficult Rallye Monte-Carlo, you can turn it around here, right?
OS:
Well I hope so. For sure Monte-Carlo was really tough and it can only get better hopefully this weekend. It gives me a bit of extra pressure that you’re home but every race is the same. You have to give it the same approach and mentally everything is the same. First of all it’s a great opportunity to be here in a factory car in your home country. It’s just amazing.

Q:
Last year’s Arctic Rally Finland we saw a strong showing from you on snow. With more experience under your belt this year, what can we expect?
OS:
The pace was really good last year but overall the result can get better and that’s the main goal for this year. The pace I just have to build step by step and see where the confidence is tomorrow morning. Hopefully the conditions will be good for me starting in the back. I honestly don’t know what to expect, it’s so difficult to say. It all depends on the conditions and how the feeling is tomorrow morning.

Q:
How quick is it going to be out there, is this the fastest event you’ve ever competed on?
OS:
Well at least in a straight line, it’s the longest straight lines I’ve ever had. It’s going to be really fast in that point of view. But like Kalle said there are a lot of junctions and that’s going to slow the average speed quite a lot and that also makes it more interesting with the boost and the regen and how we have to use it. It will be an exciting weekend anyway.

Q:
We watched in Monte-Carlo how much regen you were getting because there are so many braking zones, but here there are not so many so much will you be using the hybrid system?
OS:
I don’t know, we’ll see tomorrow. I honestly don’t know.

Q:
Talk about team morale because it was a difficult start to the season for Hyundai but if any team can pull it around certainly it’s this team. Good result in shakedown this morning with Ott and Thierry. Is everybody feeling more upbeat about this one?
OS:
Yeah, second pass we were one-two-three and after I just slowed down trying to learn the car. I don’t know what to expect tomorrow to be honest with you. Everyone is pushing hard, everyone is positive. We all need a great result now after Monte-Carlo because it was tough for all cars and for the whole team. We’re super-motivated and we’re all working quite well together so it’s just to push on, that’s it.

Questions from the floor:
 
Markus Stier, Sport Auto (DEU)

My question to all the drivers, in these conditions under ice and snow is it more tricky to handle the hybrid power? Or is it easier with the experience after Rallye Monte-Carlo?
KR:
Overall, it should be a bit more difficult because we have less grip. It’s not so easy to use the power. On Tarmac it’s quite clear when you have the boost on it’s quite easy to lay down the grip and get the boost. But for sure here we don’t get the boost so often with less braking but when we get it, at least at slow speeds, we have to really think how we get it to the ground the best way possible.
OS:
The same, nothing new.
CB:
A very polished answer.

No Sebs [Loeb and Ogier] at the startline for two decades. The title is quite open isn’t it?
OS:
Well not for me! It’s for them to be in the fight. The competition doesn’t change, we just need to go as fast as we can.
KR:
You remember before the briefing he’s not here but Seb was really good at what he’s doing and you can really feel it in the team because he’s pushing hard, doing all these details all the time and taking care everything is good. You can see it is missing.
CB:
I can tell which Seb my mother is missing, that’s Seb Loeb, she’s got a very soft spot for Mr Loeb. It is strange, Rally GB 2006 was the last time but that was a one-off because Seb [Loeb] was injured so if you go back further it was 2004 or 2003, nearly 20 years. It will be strange, it’s great and it’s about time somebody else got a chance!

FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Toksport WRT – Emil Lindholm (FIN)
M-Sport Ford – Mattias Adielsson (SWE)
Ole Christian Veiby – Ole Christian Veiby (NOR)

Q:
Ole Christian, we’re going to start with you. It’s great to see you back in the championship first of all and congratulations on your result on the rally last weekend, which you won. Good preparation for Rally Sweden?
OCV:
Absolutely. We have been driving a lot. We did four rallies in Norway and for sure we are well prepared. We did also a lot of testing so I feel really good with the car and we are more than ready to start. But for sure it’s a new rally up here, new for everybody, new stages, new pacenotes. So you have to be confident on the pacenotes you make. So far on the shakedown today it was good. We had some good confidence over there. All good so far and I am looking forward to start tomorrow.

Q:
Did it surprise you the potential speeds that could be reached?
OCV:
Well yeah a little bit. It’s going to be fast but some stages are more than fast but you also have some really nice places with some good corners. It looks really good, you have some really high snowbanks, you need to keep in the middle of them but not too much in them but you can lean a little bit on them.

Q:
How concerned are you about the temperatures creeping up a little bit?
OCV:
Well you could see on the shakedown today it came quite loose and then for sure the conditions are really difficult. You could see a lot of guys were struggling a little bit. But now the temperatures will be a little bit colder now during the night and it looks really good for the rally. It would just be a good thing to get more ice on the road.

Q:
Aside from this rally, what’s the plan for the rest of the season?
OCV:
Let’s see.

Q:
What is your hope this weekend?
OCV:
We proved before we can win here. Okay it’s a new rally but I’m really confident at the moment that we can be up there and fight for the victory this weekend. That’s for sure the goal.

Q:
Now Mattias he said he was confident for this weekend about three times. How confident are you?
MA:
Four times! Of course it’s a winter rally in proper Sweden conditions. It’s with high snowbanks so Rally Sweden as it used to be. I feel confident in the car, we’ve had one and a half years with the car in the Swedish championship and I’m really proud to represent M-Sport for this rally, it’s a huge opportunity.

Q:
It is a huge opportunity but are you feeling a little bit of pressure with that opportunity?
MA:
No, actually I don’t. I have a task for the rally and we will follow our plan. They know what we can do and if I follow the plan then it can be good for the future.

Q:
What is the plan?
MA:
Go fast and take the car to the finish like every team boss says. Go as fast as you can but take it to the finish.

Q:
Ole Christian say it’s more than fast in some places, is this going to be the quickest Rally Sweden we’ve ever seen?
MA:
I think so, yes. There is some parts that are slower than normal on Rally Sweden but there is some really fast sections. It will be a great experience to do it. I have done the rally here two times before so I know the roads are hugely fast in some sections and you get blind when you go into the slow parts. It will be the most difficult task to find the pace between the fast and the slow parts.

Q:
So is your previous experience going to be an advantage?
MA:
They cancelled the best stages of the rally and I have done it two times so obviously not an advantage there but I have done one stage before, the Power Stage, so that’s good.

Q:
Emil, a new season in WRC2 with Toksport, a big season for you?
EL:
I guess so, our second go in the WRC2 and honestly I’m looking forward to this season. We have some experience of the rallies from last year and we will try to capitalise on that this year.

Q:
What are your thoughts on the stages we’ll see, what’s your general view?
EL:
It’s on the fast side of it all, which I am used to basically because of where I’m from. Okay in the technical sections where we really have to keep the line and there’s lots of time in those parts of the stages. I guess on average the stages are quite nice but there are some super-fast parts and super-slow ones.

Q:
There is a stellar line up of drivers within WRC2, what can you achieve here this weekend?
EL:
Let’s see. Sunday will tell at the latest. I hope at least we can fight for the podium. If we are really on it this weekend then we could edge closer to Ole Christian and take the victory, I really hope so. We’ve done two rallies this winter and these conditions are quite familiar and the roads look nice so let’s see where we are.

Q:
Looking at the season ahead for you do you have a plan and a strategy across the season?
EL:
Well I guess we’ll have to take it a bit rally by rally but obviously looking at last year we had some DNFs and this year it would obviously be great to score points in the rallies we are in, that’s our target.

FIA WRC3 CHAMPIONSHIP / FIA JUNIOR WRC CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Sami Pajari (FIN), Ford Fiesta Rally3
McRae Kimathi (KEN)

Q:
Good start to the season but the Juniors is where it’s at for you for the rest of the season. A returning champion back into the Junior fold. What was the reason behind that decision to come back to the Junior WRC?
SP:
I think it was quite logical choice to make if you were looking into the details what we had to choose from. For us it’s a good opportunity to gain more experience but it was also a step ahead. Last year we were driving the front-wheel-drive cars but now we’re in the four-wheel drives. So it’s also a step ahead and lots of new things to learn still. I think I have time so no need to rush.

Q:
How is the four-wheel drive feeling on snow?
SP:
It has been quite good, we also did some local rallies in Finland and I am quite used to the snow over the last couple of years so it’s nothing that new for me personally. But of course it’s a new location and new stages for everyone but I’m really looking forward to it.

Q:
How quick is the rally going to be for you guys?
SP:
For sure it is really fast but for me it doesn’t make that much difference. There are also some twisty sections in between so maybe we need to find some plan where to push even to gain some difference if we can. But I’m really not scared of the speed so I think it should be fine.

Q:
Obviously a really successful year for you last year in the Junior category and you’ve obviously been in it for a couple of years now. What would you say was the biggest learning curve last year and what more now do you think you can learn in this field to bring into the season?
SP:
Last year we did 14 rallies and only two were in Finland so all the rest were new rallies for me. So, in general, how much I was getting stronger and more experienced during the year was really nice to see to make lots of new rallies. That’s where you really need to push yourself to do well and also to drive against the best drivers in the world. You cannot just back off. You need to push and that makes you stronger at the end of the day. That was maybe the main key thing and we try to make the same and keep the same plan this year.

Q:
Now there are a few new entries into the Juniors, McRae at the side of you of course, but there a lot of returning drivers out there so who do you think is going to be your biggest rival?
SP:
Maybe it’s not so easy to say but for sure Jon Armstrong will be really, really good also this year I think and Lauri Joona, also a Finnish driver with lots of experience on snow and for sure a bunch of other guys. For sure it won’t be easy and that’s nice to see there is good competition and it will only make us stronger when we compete with each other.

Q:
Let’s turn to McRae then, welcome to the World Rally Championship first of all and it’s fantastic to see you as part of the Junior WRC for this season. How excited are you to get the campaign underway?
MK:
Yeah for sure for me it’s quite exciting. I’ve come from a long way out, first time here on snow, first time on Rally Sweden, first time doing a European event for me. I’m pretty much excited, as you can see I’m trying to keep it all calm like Sami here, he’s very, very calm and very fast. For me it’s just a learning curve, it’s an adventure and a whole new experience for me. I’m just here to learn all the new stages, enjoy myself most importantly and then see how it goes and see if I am here on Sunday smiling.

Q:
It’s a lot of firsts for you this weekend and we’ve seen some social media clips of you driving on a frozen lake. What was the sensation in the car, was it like you imagined it to be?
MK:
Quite honestly, quite frankly I didn’t imagine it was going to be that fun you know. You can slide the car maybe 10 or 15 metres and there’s so much grip. There are different sensations you normally have but probably on gravel you don’t have the same sensation and snow is very forgiving. Driving on the lakes you can lean on the snow banks and I was like, ‘it’s okay’. It’s something new. Of course for me here I don’t want to be in a snowbank, I need to stay on the road. Apart from that I’m just thrilled to be here, thrilled to be driving on snow, it’s a new experience for me and something I can take back home, have a laugh and have new stories to take back home.

Q:
One thing that’s key to the whole Junior WRC experience is the whole camaraderie between everyone, there’s a great bond. Do you feel you’ve made friends already?
MK:
Yes for sure the likes of Jon Amstrong, Sami here, Lauri… most of them pronouncing the names is quite difficult. I myself am McRae but it’s a good bond, they are helping me a lot and giving me lots of tips. Thank you to M-Sport Poland, they’ve got incredible people helping me. But most of all they told me to have a lot of fun and we’re having a lot of fun wit the Juniors, it’s a really nice bond, I like it and hopefully we can carry it on to the rest of the championship and the rest of the season.

Q:
How much did Craig Breen teach you when he was tutoring you last weekend. How much did you learn from him?
MK:
First of all he told me how to make tea in a different way with milk, that’s something I didn’t know before. Okay, he’s an incredible driver, very smooth, very calm with the car. He showed me a different way of driving, how to be relaxed. He corrected little bits and pieces of my mistakes and showed me how much detail I need and how much work I need to put in to make sure my driving is at the level what the WRC requires. For me we had lots of fun, I took him a little bit off.

Q:
Was he scared?
MK:
From the onboards I saw he was quite scared but I told him to relax but we were really off and there was nothing much we could do.

 

Source : Fia