12 Jun 08
The Rally of Turkey pre-event press conference took place in Kemer on Thursday afternoon. Present were Sebastien Loeb, Barry Clark, Chris Atkinson and Per-Gunnar Andersson. Here’s what they had to say:
Questions to Sebastien Loeb:
The last time this event took place you did not compete due to your shoulder injury, but you have won it twice in the past. So, is the fact that you missed a year going to make any difference?
SL: I don’t know but I don’t think so. Now we all have enough experience of the event to be fast even if you miss one rally. Maybe I have had to adapt my pace notes and do a little more modification than some of the other drivers but it shouldn’t be a problem.
You are back in the lead of the Championship now by one point over Mikko Hirvonen, how important will it be for you to hold the lead as we go into the mid-season break?
SL: It would be good to go on holiday still in the lead. It’s one point at the moment and that’s nearly nothing. Also we will be cleaning the roads on the first day and the surface is very loose so I could lose a lot of time. We will see on Sunday.
In Greece we saw tactics come into play and also drivers conserving tyres, how much will that be a factor this weekend?
SL: It wasn’t a question of tactics but for sure on one stage I thought if I went very fast I would destroy everything on the car to I took it easy. Here I will try to go fast and not lose too much time on the first day.
We have had seven events with the brand new Pirelli tyres, is the performance better than you expected?
SL: The tyres have been good. The only thing for me was Argentina when we had to use a very hard tyre. In Greece the roads and heat were a big problem for the tyres and we have some punctures and I think that could happen here too. But overall, the result with tyres is good so far.
Questions to Barry Clark:
It’s the second time we’ve seen you in a WRC car this season with the Munchi’s team, but this time it’s not so last minute as in Jordan. You have had a least some time to prepare, how are you feeling ahead of this weekend?
BC: I’m quite confident at the moment and really, really pleased to be back in a World Rally Car. This time I’ve done a proper recce, I’ve got my own pace notes and I’ve got an English speaking co-driver! [Paul Nagle]
The car you are using was last used by Aris Vovos in Greece and I understand you played a big part in not only rebuilding it but retrieving it from the stages?
BC: Yes, the Ford team asked me to drive a truck out to Greece and it was the recovery truck. So I went out to get the car when Aris had his problem and took it back to the service park, popped it up on axle stands and started to rebuild it. It should be OK. I’ve got faith in my own ability as a mechanic as well as all the other boys.
In Jordan it was a case of just getting the car through the stages, so will we get to see you at full speed here?
BC: The key to these events is experience and it is my first time in Turkey and I have little experience of the Focus. So I’ll just drive along and try to pick up the pace from what we did in Jordan. If we could nudge the top 10 and maybe score some points for the Munchi’s team that would be fantastic.
You have a new co-driver in Paul Nagle and I believe during shakedown this morning it was the first opportunity you have had to sit together. He has slightly more experience than you at WRC level - do you think you can learn from him in some way?
BC: Oh yes: things are working well so far. We seemed to slot in with each other this morning and there haven’t been any problems at all. Hopefully we can form a great partnership. When you are comfortable together that’s when the times start coming.
Questions to Chris Atkinson
The new Subaru Impreza debuted in Greece and got off to a great start with Petter’s second position. However you suffered an electrical problem. What were your first impressions of the car?
CA: Well, it has been a great step forward although I don’t think we can fight for wins just yet. But we were about on the pace in Greece and we would have been in contention without our problem. Here the car is already feeling better for me and every step you make takes you closer to the front.
Is there a lot of work to be done with the car over the summer break?
CA: I think it will mostly be small things from now on - fine tuning, work on the diff settings, that sort of stuff. Those improvements get you the last few tenths of a second a kilometre that put you right at the top. Each improvement takes you nearer.
When in your opinion will we see the car winning rallies?
CA: Hopefully soon: Everyone in the team is waiting for that moment. I think it might come a bit later in the year and if we can get both cars in the top five here, that will be great.
We have seen some great performances from you so far this season and you still lie in third position in the Drivers’ Championship but Jari-Matti Latvala is chasing you down. Can you stay ahead this weekend?
CA: Greece was unfortunate for us. Without our problem I think we’d have taken points from Jari-Matti. Here will also be difficult on the first day, running third, especially tomorrow when guys like Gigi Galli running further down the order will be very fast. Hopefully we can make sure we don’t lose too much time and then we can attack the next two days.
Questions to Per-Gunnar Andersson:
The SX4 has recently completed rallies without the use of SupeRally, with you in Italy and Toni (Gardemeister) in Greece. How much would you say the car has improved since its debut in Monte-Carlo?
P-GA: It has been making small progress all the time. Today we had a small problem with the gear change but now it’s all OK. All our development has been on the rallies but this time here we have some new parts which should help with both the speed and the reliability.
The team has had a limited testing programme this season, with all efforts ploughed into development. Do you think it would have been wiser and more beneficial to actually test the car instead?
P-GA: Of course it helps a lot when you do testing but we haven’t had time - or something like that - and we just have to cope with that. Hopefully in July we can do some testing and fine tune the cars.
You know what it takes to win here - in a super 1600 car at least. That good experience should be to your advantage?
P-GA: Well, at least it’s not a disadvantage to have done it in JWRC. But all the other drivers have experience of the rally so we will just have to see what we can do.