Tuesday | 20 May 2014

Q&A: Ola Fløene

After an 18 month hiatus, Ola Fløene is back as Andreas Mikkelsen’s co-driver following Mikkelsen’s decision to end his partnership with Mikko Markkula.

Floene was Mikkelsen’s first co-driver, and the pair had a successful seven year run until 2012 when Mikkelsen decided a change was due. Fløene talked to wrc.com about his upcoming return at Rally Italia Sardegna, and why he feels the absence has done them both good:

Q: Ola, how does it feel to be back at the top level of the WRC?
OF: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m in Hanover [at Volkswagen Motorsport’s base] now and coming back here, after more than a year, was like I was dreaming. I went into the workshop and the first thing I did was go and see the mechanics and I had a big warm welcome. It was like, hey, congratulations! But what’s really special, and emotional, is the relationship that Andreas and I have. We are like two brothers who lost each other for a year and a half, and suddenly we found each other.”

Q: Has your return been planned for a long time?
OF: “Not really. We started talking just before Argentina. He asked me what I was doing, and I asked him the same– even though we both knew through families and so on. But the friendship was still there. I told him I missed him and he said the same. Right after Argentina he asked me straight up and I thought for maybe five seconds and then said yes – providing he first cleared the situation with Mikko. That needed to be fair and I felt it was correctly played.”

Q: Since you last worked with Andreas you have become a world champion alongside Pontus Tidemand. Has the experience benefitted you as a co-driver? 
OF: “Okay, when we split up everything was bad, but sitting here now I’m actually very happy about what happened. Andreas would say the same. It was a thing he had to do, he needed to work with new people in a different way and I have been doing the same. I was so happy to be with Pontus because he was the opposite to Andreas and working with him gave me a new life in rally. I was starting to get tired of it, bored even, now I’m waking up thinking about rally. It was like that all last season because I had so much I wanted to share with Pontus and there was a good deal of respect both ways. It was so nice to transfer the experience over to him and see it paying off. I had a super nice year with him.”

Q: And what about Andreas? He says Mikko helped him with his pace notes system. How easy do you think it will be to get the partnership back to full speed?
OF: “I’m happy Andreas had Mikko in the seat because when we worked together we had got to the point where we had too much information in the notes. Mikko has introduced a system that is simpler, easier and I believe faster. Previously we used two or three words to communicate the information Andreas now gets in one. There’s less information now but it’s better.”

Q: You spent much of 2013 in a Fiesta R2. Will it be difficult to get used to the performance of a World Rally Car again?
OF: “Perhaps some slight speed shock? I went in the Polo today with Jari-Matti [Latvala] and, yeah, he had a lot of confidence, if you know what I mean. I have been in the car before. Actually I was the first co-driver in the original test car, chassis number one. Andreas and I also did a three-day Monte Carlo pre event test, but that was a long time ago and the car is quite different now.  I was impressed today. Okay, I got a little bit, oh-oh, but it’s good for my head to get used to it. I did about 60kms today, not reading notes, just getting used to the intercom and the things I work with.”

Q: Will you get a chance for a proper test before Sardegna?
OF: “No, but the pace notes are basically unchanged. The angle of the corner, the distance to the next one, the crests and so on are all the same, but before we were mixing in more information and now we’ll take it out. So actually my job will be easier than it was before. Sounds stupid, but Mikko has made my job so much simpler. Somehow all this extra information we added before didn’t have the same impact.”

Q: What’s your target for Sardegna?
OF: “To do a good job for Andreas. To read the pace notes and navigate the road sections perfectly. If I’m able to do this, it should pay off.”
Q: You navigated Tidemand to a world title in one season. How long until you get Andreas there?
OF: “Next year!”

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