Meet the Crews – Day 1
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Meet the Crews – Day 1

30/09/2016

Friday 30 September
Present:
Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport
Michel Nandan, Hyundai Motorsport N
Malcolm Wilson, M-Sport World Rally Team
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Motorsport
Thierry Neuville, Hyundai Motorsport N
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Motorsport

Q:

Sven, it is Sébastien Ogier who is in the lead and it’s a very good lead at the end of day 1. How are you feeling about his performance today?

SS:

I think it’s very clear that we are very happy with his performance. I think it’s been one of his best days in rallying to be honest. I think everyone heard his comment at the end of the last stage of the day. We had a very happy driver, he enjoyed his whole day. We can only say “hat off” and a really good job.

Q:

He has really shown how special he is as a driver today. He seems to be in a class of his own, way ahead of everybody else. Do you think that’s difficult for a driver not to be in a battle with anyone and to be so far ahead or do you think that’s pretty satisfying? It must be as a team I’m sure.

SS:

Well also, I think for him. He’s won all four stages. He said himself he struggled a little bit on the first one because the notes were not so good. So he started not on a real attack pace and then just built it up until the end. This afternoon everything just came together, the car, notes, himself. So I think he’s very happy to have this lead because it seems like tomorrow may be that the weather gods are going to come in and it’s better to have this lead than only one second.

Q:

Talk to me about Jari-Matti and Andreas then because for Jari-Matti it didn’t seem to get off to the best of starts. Certainly the first two stages this morning, not what we’re used to seeing from Jari-Matti. Certainly not on tarmac, a surface which he has improved much on over the years. What was the issue this morning Sven? Anything in particular?

SS:

Well, I think that the first part of the first stage was quite OK. Then he lost somewhere the rhythm in this stage because there are lots of changes of rhythm in this stage. He lost a little bit of confidence in the car himself then we did some very small adjustments because there was no service at midday and then in the afternoon it was better, he was finding confidence again and he’s looking forward to tomorrow to have the real pace and especially the pace of last year.

Q:

What about Mr Mikkelsen? What have you thought about what he’s done out there today? What more can we see from him tomorrow?

SS:

Well Andreas, in the morning he had some problems feeling the brakes and we didn’t know really where it was coming from but now we know that maybe he needs some physio tonight to relax and then he was happy with the car and we will make some small changes as well. He’s still fourth which for him here, because he’s not done this rally so many times, he’s still happy and he’s not far from second place so at the end he was happy with the end result.

Q:

Thierry Neuville in second position, we’ve seen Sordo very much on pace today as well. There have been some ups and downs though Michel, what have you thought of the day?

MN:

Yes as you say it was really ups and downs. Thierry I think in the first stage was maybe a little too much attacking and he overheated his tyres, so we had some issues at the end of the stage. Otherwise, he was feeling quite well even if the car was understeering a bit. But let’s say after he made some adjustments with dampers, with the engineer, it was fine. So I think he had a good day even if it’s true that he’s quite far behind but well, he did quite good. Dani was OK, just behind and wasn’t going too bad, even if he was complaining about the car at the beginning. Unfortunately on the last stage, I don’t know if he had a slow puncture but in fact it started at the beginning of the stage, then he had the puncture, then he had to stop. Then of course he lost a bit more than two minutes. So for him it’s a bit over but he will start tomorrow and fight again. Hayden had a difficult moment in the morning with some pace notes. Then after he was recovering a little bit better. He has also a puncture 8km from the end of the last stage. So yes, it’s a day that’s a bit up and down as you say.

Q:

Talk to me about the performance of the Hyundai R5 which we see here in the hands of Kevin Abbring, Stéphane Sarrazin, Fabio Andolfi as well. What have you thought of the first day of competition?

MN:

Well it’s a great day for us as it’s the first time the R5 new i20 is entered on the rally. So while I think Kevin was quite cautious as he didn’t do the shakedown – he took it a bit easy for the first day as we decided. He had no problem, he was quite good and enjoyed the day quite well. They did a bit of adjustment during the first day and I think this evening they will do a bit more. To be a bit more competitive. So it was quite good. The other two customers, well Stephane, it’s the first time he’s driving this car so I think he’s trying his best. He’s still trying to find some settings and adjustments which I think he will improve for tomorrow. Unfortunately Andolfi had a puncture and after that he hit something and that damaged the suspension. So I hope tomorrow he can start in Rally 2. So for the first run of the R5 I think it’s not too bad.

Q:

Malcolm, Mads Ostberg has told us at the stage ends today that he’s been trying out a new driving style, trying to adapt to a different way of driving on tarmac to ensure success. What have you thought of Mads today and this new kind of style?

MW:

I think he’s basically now got a plan. He wants to try and improve on his tarmac side of the driving. He’s probably finding it very difficult because he’s probably not driving in a natural way that he’s used to. But he’s very determined to try and succeed on asphalt. He’s really sticking to his game plan and he says he’s learning a lot from it. Hopefully he can start to put that into good practice.

Q:

We’ve seen Eric Camilli having a difficult couple of events and he said his objective here was to get through the stages to regain some confidence out there but you can hear his frustrations sometimes maybe when he’s not quite on the pace that he wants to be on. What have you thought of Eric’s performance?

MW:

He’s picked a difficult event to come to after having two very bad rallies. He couldn’t have picked a harder rally but in all honesty the way he’s adapted to the event, very cautious on the first two stages and you can see that his pace has improved on the second passage. And I’m really pleased with his performance and his progress this afternoon.

Q:

Looking to WRC 2, the freshly crowned British Rally Champion Elfyn Evans has done exceptionally well so far. He leads WRC 2 and had a great morning and a strong afternoon. He was leading this event at this point last year in a WRC car. What have you thought of Elfyn’s performance today?

MW:

He’s doing exactly what we hoped he would do. Everybody knows how good he was here last year on this event and that’s obviously why we picked it as one of our R5 rounds. Hopefully he can carry on that sort of pace for the rest of the event and then of course if he does win, of course we’ve just got to wait and see what unfolds for the rest of the championship for the season but if you can take those 25 points away from here then it would be a real boost for him.

Q:

Will we see him in a World Rally Car this year?  With you?

MW:

You’ll have to wait and see.

Q:

Will we see him with you next year?

MW:

You’ll have to wait and see.

Q:

Sébastien, what a fantastic day you have had. Forty four second lead at the end of day 1, that is massively impressive. You have been in a class of your own today. What does it feel like to seat there with such an advantage?

SO:

Honestly it feels great but I am also surprised, thank you for the nice words. It’s been incredible I didn’t expect to have such a gap. For sure I had a good feeling and I am very happy with the drive I had today. On the first stage I was maybe a little bit on the defensive to get the good rhythm and validate the pace notes but from the second stage I started to push more. I tried to give my best for sure but I would have signed for less than 44 seconds for sure!

Q:

We have seen some great stages out there today for you to compete on. You obviously got a good feeling this afternoon. What were they like?

SO:

There was only two stages. The biggest part was the long section. On the first loop the temperature was still cool and the tyres were OK, it was just about driving well, getting the good line. The second loop was a bit more about management and about the tyres. They were completely OK with the wear but the movement was quite there and you have to adapt a little bit the way you drive to try to save them as long as you can. In that moment I felt a little bit more difficult to know really my rhythm. That is why I was again surprised to have a good gap but I thought it was maybe because of my tyre management. To be again much quicker in the last stage of the day was another great surprise. I can’t complain. What is taken is taken but tomorrow is still a very long day maybe with more difficult conditions. Today we had a fantastic weather but maybe tomorrow will be more difficult and it’s always better to have this gap in your pocket.

Q:

I think it will make you sleep a little bit easier tonight, 44 seconds?

SO:

I will sleep well also because it was a very long day and the road section to come back here was maybe the hardest part of the day for me. We still have some work tonight: to work a little bit on the video. The night might be short but that is rally and when you have the adrenaline, when you put the helmet on in the car, you always find some energy to drive!

 

Q:

You need to get Julien to drive the road section!

SO:

We can ask him but no, actually I prefer to drive all the time!

Q:

You don’t trust him?

SO:

He is doing his job perfectly with the road book and the pace notes but I prefer to keep the steering wheel!

Q:

Thierry, second position for you at the end of the day. It’s been a challenging day. How did you find your performance out there? Were you happy with your pace or can you show us more tomorrow?

TN:

I am really happy. If you look at the results, we are a bit far behind Seb but I couldn’t do much more. I was pushing all day, maybe a bit too much of the first stage this morning. My tyre pressure was very high and at the end I overheated the brakes. Other than that it was perfect management. I tried to dry as smooth as I could but obviously on the wider sections we are losing quite a lot. In narrow sections we are quite fast so I could enjoy my drive. For me the main thing was to keep Andreas Mikkelsen as well as Haydon Paddon because we are fighting for the second place in the championship so it was important. Obviously Jari has found the rhythm and Andreas has also this afternoon so it’s going to be tough for me tomorrow but I am second tonight on the podium so it has been a perfect day.

Q:

It has been a great day for yourself. Tell me what it feels like to come to the stage ends, look at your time and look at this man next to you and see the difference? Because his pace has been incredible today.

TN:

Yes really but we have seen this many times during the year. On some rallies we are nowhere, some rallies we are very close and some rallies we are on the same pace so we have to accept that. We have seen that in the narrow sections we are fast or we are faster, probably not fast enough yet but as long as my driving is well and I don’t make any mistake, I can be pleased and the team is pleased as well.

Q:

It’s all valuable information you are getting from the stages for next year. Anything you want to tell us about next year, are we still going to see you in those colours next year?

TN:

The colours will look interesting for sure, we don’t know yet!

 

Q:

Jari, third at the end of the day, but you have to admit, you got off to a little bit of a slow start for you this morning. Did you get out of bed on the wrong side? Not enough coffee? What was it this morning?

JML:

Honestly I can say that my pace notes were not the greatest. I was struggling a bit on the recce on this days, I don’t know exactly why. It didn’t go smoothly and then I didn’t have the confidence. Also with the car… I was not enough confident to push with the car. I had to drive according to the feeling I had in the morning. In the afternoon we managed to change the set-ups a bit, make it a bit stiffer and then I started to regain my confidence.

Q:

It looks like we have a good little battle now that you are in. Seb mentioned the weather could change tomorrow. We saw you really excel in the difficult conditions last year. Could things change around with that or is there just too much time loss?

JML:

Seb is flying now, he is going a speed now that there is no chance. I can’t drive a speed like that. I don’t have it. But OK if the weather changes and it becomes slippery and wet, it was suiting me last year, so of course it will change things in a really interesting way. We now have to focus on the fight that is still in with Andreas. It’s going to be tough, the first to start with tomorrow is 53 km, very tricky, with narrow sections at the end of the stage. You have to be really really sharp with your notes and with your driving so that you get everything correct.

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