Meet the crews – Day 1
Meet the crews - Day 1 © Agence S Presse

Meet the crews – Day 1

07/04/2017

Friday 7th
Present:
Marek Nawarecki, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Michel Nandan, Hyundai Motorsport
Malcolm Wilson, M-Sport World Rally Team
Tommi Mäkinen, Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team
Kris Meeke, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT
Sébastien Ogier,M-Sport World Rally Team
Thierry Neuville, Hyundai Motorsport

Q:
You’ve come to your home event here in France and you have taken the lead of the rally. Kris Meeke being pretty dominant all day. Three stage wins for him, you must be delighted!
MaN:
Yes it was a very good day. A great day for us and despite a lot of work which was done before this rally we didn’t really know what to expect and since the first stage Kris did quite well. He found the right pace and he continued like that without any trouble so the first loop went well. The most important was to stay consistent for him and he managed very well. But it is only the first day so we have a long way to go.

Q:
Tomorrow we kick off with a very long stage indeed, I’m sure tyre preservation will come into play then.
MaN:
Yes that’s correct. Even today Craig Breen had some small issues with tyres but he managed it also and tomorrow it will be one of the major points to save the tyres during the long stage.

Q:
Sébastien Ogier is in second position. There are ten seconds between Seb and Kris Meeke, it’s a great battle between them. You are obviously happy with his performance but what more can be done now to try and catch Kris?
MW:
We’ll be trying everything! Sébastien is in there now with the engineers looking for every little bit of detail. Every tenth of a second that he can find. I think everybody knows that he will not give up that’s for sure. So he’s putting my guys under a lot of pressure but I’m very happy. Obviously Kris has driven fantastically today. Fair play, he’s done a great job but 10 seconds behind on this kind of event, it’s all to play for.

Q:
It is still all there to play for. Unfortunately for Ott Tänak things have not gone quite his way today. I think his line to me just now was “spectators could not have got me out of the ditch, a tow truck struggled to get me out”. He really put it off.
MW:
I’m relieved to say that normally if you go off in Corsica then you end up with a lot of damage but I can’t believe it, basically there is no damage to the car. We’ve got it back so he’ll be out tomorrow, there is nothing to do apart from to give it a clean. It’s a shame he just got caught out on the gravel and it was really frustrating as he was doing a good solid drive. Some valuable points have slipped away from him.

Q:
Thierry Neuville is in the best position for you, he’s in third position right now. Can he get some more pace out of the car though Michel? Because we’ve seen him leading events and he’s a little bit far away from the pace at the front.
MiN:
It’s true he is a bit far away and we are a little bit surprised. I think he’s really trying and we’ll have a talk with the engineers and they are looking at the data and they have already some ideas of what to do. So for sure we’re not giving up, we will try all what we can do in order that he can at least try to be a bit closer.

Q:
You’re the only manufacturer so far who hasn’t had a win this season. Do you think he’s too far away now to challenge right at the front?
MiN:
It’s true that more than 20 seconds is quite far. The stages tomorrow are long stages and it’s still a long day, anything can happen but for sure it’s already a big gap.

Q:
The first full tarmac test of the Toyota, how do you think it’s gone so far today Tommi?
TM:
Jari-Matti was trying some very late development parts which he was not absolutely satisfied with those. We will investigate quite carefully what we can do tonight for tomorrow. Of course it’s a bit dangerous to do a big change but as I mentioned before the start, we are here for learning and picking some more data up and analysing things. We are getting stronger, slowly. Juho was a bit unlucky again with some damage. It was very, very close to burn the whole car but they just managed to stop that and it he will continue tomorrow.

Q:
As you said, it’s all about learning for you guys. Testing and development, I know you’ve already won your first event. There is no better testing ground than you being in competition.
TM:
Straight away in the most difficult and extreme tarmac conditions, there is definitely a lot to learn here.

Q:
Kris congratulations, it’s been a great day for you with three stage wins and you lead at the end of the day – a ten second lead – over Séb so a great battle ahead. You are feeling happy at the end of it?
KM:
Yes for sure happy. Like I said yesterday no one really knew where they were coming here. The first two tarmac tests with the new cars… We had our problems at the beginning of the year. It turned out to be a good test session because I have a really good feeling with the car today. Yes, it’s been fun, it’s been fast out there with those new cars on these roads, certainly a big step from last year so.. I am happy, it’s good and hopefully we are going to find the same rhythm tomorrow but it’s only ten seconds to Seb. It’s less than a tenth per km but finally it’s still ten seconds and there are still stages tomorrow and on Sunday is over 50 kms and anything can happen so, well yes I look forward to it.

Q:
We have a 48 km stage to kick us off tomorrow morning. How important is tyre management going to be across the stage tomorrow? How much did you do it today?
KM:
The Michelin tyre, the hard tyre seems to be lasting quite well. I have had no issues to really try to manage the tyres. OK in the afternoon for sure when the temperature is up a little bit, the roads are a bit harder, you feel a bit more movement from the tyre but I have had a good feeling. Tomorrow morning might not be so bad, it’s the afternoon loop when the temperature gets up a bit. Normally in the morning there is a little bit of dew from overnight that keeps the road a little bit cool. The tyres have been fantastic today.

Q:
You seem to be very happy with the car and guessing there are no tweaks overnight?
KM:
To be honest, I haven’t used anything and I don’t plan to tomorrow. Here Corsica is almost similar, you go into the narrow parts and it can get quite bumpy in some places and then you are on the faster road so you always need to compromise on set-ups no matter what type of stages so no. I think I’ll keep things how they are. For now it seems to be working OK.

Q:
As I said this is a great battle between the pair of you out there. How much have you enjoyed day 1? How tough did you find it?
SO:
I was very enjoyable. Like we say, it’s even faster than last year. Half a second a km faster it’s almost more enjoyable. The faster we go the bigger smile we have on the face. It was good. I struggled a little with the set-ups this morning and I was not so happy with the balance of the car. Through the day we had no service so we couldn’t change much but I made some small clicks on the dampers there just to try to find something. I was a bit happier in the afternoon. It’s still not as I would dream but overnight we now have a chance to make bigger changes on the car and hopefully tomorrow we can find a little more extra pace. We’ll see if we can.

Q:
We always see the iconic stages here in Corsica but did the stages differ anyway tomorrow from what you have seen today? Or are they the same characteristics?
SO:
They might be a little more tricky I would say. The first one is longer and has more dirty sections so it might be a bit more tricky. At the end of the day today there were small differences all the time. Tomorrow let’s see what happens, it’s not necessarily a big difference on long stages normally but at least you have more time to do it. Without speed times it’s never easy to find a perfect rhythm and being on the limit without being over the limit. We had good fun today and hopefully we can continue like this tomorrow.

Q:
So if the mechanics make the changes and give you the car you dream of, can you catch him (Kris)?
SO:
Of course, that’s the plan!

Q:
Let’s turn to Thierry Neuville. Thierry, you are in a great position, you are in third position but you are a little away from the boys in front. They just have a ten second gap and there is a little bit of a drop back to you. I know you will be a little bit frustrated with that. How are you feeling at the end of the day
TN:
Feeling happy! I think we have done an amazing job, like those two guys. Everybody was fighting very hard and nobody gives up so far. It’s a tough fight. Obviously we lost a bit too much time in the opening stage in the morning – eleven seconds – to Kris which points us now at the end of the day to a 25 second gap which is too much! I was expecting better coming here especially after the good opening of the season, we have seen good speed. I expected that we would be able to lead this evening but obviously the guys have done a good job and have developed further the car as well so now it’s going to be tougher for me to fight for a win.

Q:
So what changes are you hoping are going to be made tonight. What areas are you not happy with today?
TN:
To be honest I feel very comfortable in the car, it’s doing exactly what I want but at the end, on the board the time is not the time we want. To be honest we have to analyse where we can improve. Obviously today like Seb said before there was no service so we couldn’t do all the changes I would like to do. So tonight the mechanics are going to do the changes and hopefully it’s in the good direction.

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