5 May 2011
Rally Italia Sardegna - Pre-event press conference
Tell me about the Championship itself, is it going the way you planned from the start of the year or are things not quite on track?
They're not quite on track. It's really difficult when you lose a rally, now I can really understand and imagine how Sébastien (Loeb) felt in New Zealand when Marcus (Grönholm) beat him by point three of a second because there's nothing like winning, so to be honest it's a big disappointment to lose by that margin, but I think it's fantastic for the sport to think that we have two intense days over that sort of distance and that's what rallies are being won by and that's the great thing about this sport and with the likes of MINI coming in as well they've seen they're competitive on the shakedown I think we've got quite a future.
Let's talk about the car itself. Are you happy with the Fiesta's progress?
Yes, we're very happy with the performance side; I think as you mentioned earlier when talking to Sébastien that tomorrow is a first for all of us to run a hundred or more kilometres without a real major service. I think ultimately at the end of the year the Championship will probably come down to reliability and that will play a part in it and I think we're going to see some aspect of that probably tomorrow.
Last week I believe the team tested here in Sardinia, on gravel but also on asphalt with a gravel tyre – why was that?
We've never done that with this car, and the next event is Argentina, where there's one stage which has ten kilometres of tarmac, plus the fact we will have the Michelin soft compound tyre so it's the first time that we've tried that, and of course it was for many reasons but it was also for the drivers to see how the car reacted in gravel set-up on tarmac, to see how the new soft compound tyres worked and also to try and get a direction from a set-up point of view as to what we need to do when we go to events that have got asphalt sections in them.
Nick, Michelin returns to the WRC in 2011 – is it good to be back and has it been successful so far?
It's always good to be back in competitions where we can demonstrate what our tyres are meant to be doing. I guess the people to ask are really those around me today. From a tyre point of view we're more than happy with the performance we've seen so far, first of all starting off in Sweden with the snow tyre, a big success there. Obviously a lot of development work on the gravel tyre and that had a great start back in Jordan.
And that of course was the 'joker', effectively. You had good feedback from the teams from that?
You need to remember that the whole start of rallying for us at World Championship level started back in 2010 and we had to submit the tyres even before we'd run a kilometre in true race so we learned a lot from the first couple of rallies before we introduced the new tyre. Listening to people like Sébastien, the teams and Malcolm's comments led us to introduce this “joker” tyre, the second gravel tyre. The feedback was obviously very positive, I think just looking and listening to the Power Stage (in Jordan) was a good testament to what our tyres are capable of doing.
What will be the main challenges on the surface here in Sardinia?
Back to difficult conditions, a little bit like Mexico perhaps more demanding, perhaps something that we've not seen so far in 2011 is the impact of weather, very bold meteo that they can have here on this island. We've got some new conditions coming up and it'll be interesting to see how the tyres work out.
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