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Rallye Monte Carlo: Pre-event press conference

15 January 2014

Press conference

Q:
Sébastien, you return to defend your Championship title in 2014. How different does starting the season as World Champion feel compared to this time last year?

Sebastien Ogier:
Compared to last year, it's a big difference. I was quite nervous this time last year and worried to know where we are. We wanted to know if we had done a good job with the car, we had a lot of questions. Luckily, after one stage, we had a good answer and we knew the car was well born. This year it's different and we have number one on the door and everybody is expecting and waiting for us to win this rally. But everything can happen. The meteo (weather) is difficult for this rally. I will try to do my job – I haven't won this as a WRC round, only in the IRC. And I would love to win.

Q:
Is it an advantage – for the meteo – that you come from Gap?

Sebastien Ogier:
Maybe a little bit, I have some friends around! But with the weather you don't know who to trust – like always we will trust our team.

Q:
Do you expect it to be tougher this year?

Sebastien Ogier:
We always say it's hard to get it [the title] and harder to stay at the top. It's good news to see more manufacturers coming – it's been a long time since we saw four cars, this is good news. For the competition I'm sure the performance of every car will be close – at least we know for the three who have been there before. For the new one [Hyundai] we have to wait, but I expect them to be fast. We have a lot of competition, and with the new regulations the one leading the Championship will have the disadvantage on day one. I'm sure there will be more fighting in the Championship.

Q:
The 2013 WRC season finished just 60 days ago, how much testing have you done since then and do you feel you had a successful Monte test?

Sebastien Ogier:
Let's say the break was not so long! Last year was the first title and I had a lot of request and a lot of trophies to pick up from all around Europe – and that was nice. Then I had two weeks of holiday, which I enjoyed under the sun and with no telephone and no contact with the rally – that was important. But now it's good to be back in the rally car and good to start with Monte-Carlo, especially starting in Gap. Starting in Gap is a special moment and I expect a lot of support. Sporting, it makes no difference, there are only two stages [I know], but the others are all new in my life. Only François [Delecour] might have done some. I'm very happy to be here.

Q:
Elfyn, a fantastic opportunity with a full WRC season ahead of you with M-Sport. How are you feeling ahead of one of the most challenging events on the Championship calendar?

Elfyn Evans:
I'm under no illusions this will be easy – I've got a lot to learn. For the first half of the year I've got to get experience and we'll see then about the second half of the year. It's important that I keep improving and I've got to show promise.

Q:
This time last year you were here as weather crew for Ford. As you stood freezing on the mountainside could you have imagined that in just one year's time you would be in a WRC car?

Elfyn Evans:
To be honest I never imagined this. Last year was a great development year and this is a fantastic opportunity to continue that development. I'm really looking forward to this challenge.

Q:
How has the pre-event testing been going? Do you feel you are adapting to the WRC car?

Elfyn Evans:
We had two good days of testing with good preparation and with the car we have done as much preparation as possible. I've done a lot of research into this event, but it's a real lottery. The key for me is to get the experience and to get to the end of the event.

Q:
You have an experienced ice note crew for this event, your father Gyndaf, former British Champion, and Phil Mills, who has competed eight times here alongside Petter Solberg. No doubt some great advice from both?

Elfyn Evans:
It does help the confidence and they are very experienced and they've worked hard over the Christmas period to get the best system. This is the first time for me using an ice note crew. We know what we're aiming for and I hope it will all work out on the event.

Q:
Thierry, you begin 2014 with a brand new team at Hyundai. What are your initial thoughts on the car after testing? What is it like being part of the team?

Thierry Neuville:
It's at the beginning. Everything is new. Hyundai started last year creating everything, then half way through the year they started developing the car. It's all quite new, but for the last two months I drove the car and we developed in the good direction. The last test was good, it was nice and I enjoyed the car with a good feeling – but we know we are far from the top performance we are aiming for.

Q:
What's the best thing for the car?

Thierry Neuville:
I still need to get more mileage with it. I drove it most on Tarmac, the chassis feels good. We can improve on every part. We are happy to be here and to have assembled the car early enough to start this rally. But now we have the season to develop the car and we hope to be competitive from the start of 2015.

Q:
Is it frustrating to come to a development year after being so competitive last season?

Thierry Neuville:
I did my choice; I knew it would be hard over the next years. I am developing the team and I know my pace is good and fast enough. There were no mistakes last year and now the hard work is coming on development. We will give our best, like in the past, and hope it comes together as quickly as possible.

Q:
You haven't always enjoyed the best results on the Monte…

Thierry Neuville:
I was always a bit afraid in the past, but now it's a completely new rally. The stages are different to Valence, it's a nice rally and I look forward to it. But there are some big challenges: there's some ice and some bumpy parts. We have all this rain in Monte, but who knows? Maybe it is snowing on the Col.

Q:
How is the atmosphere in the team?

Thierry Neuville:
There's a lot of excitement. Everybody is happy to be here now, the engineers have all done an amazing job in a short time. You can see many people are tired at the end of last year but now it's more work coming and I think we are all in good shape now and we can't wait to start.

Q:
Kris, a full WRC season ahead with Citroën beckons. You are no stranger to Citroën after competing with them in the JWRC and a few events last year. What does it mean to you to be back full time in the WRC?

Kris Meeke:
It's great to get the opportunity to get the full season, it's something I never had before. To start with a team which has so much experience, and to start in a good car is really great. In the last three or four years I have found myself in a position where I am doing the development and testing, so to step into a car which is ready to win rallies, it's good. I have a lot of experience to gain and it's very nice to have the full season to build that experience up.

Q:
Monte-Carlo was successful for you in the JWRC but not so later in your career. What can you do to change that?

Kris Meeke:
Everybody knows this is a massive challenge. With the altitude, it's hard to predict where the tricky places are. I've always enjoyed this rally though. My speed was never an issue and in Juniors I won here in 2005. And in 2009 and 2010 [IRC rounds] when I was driving for Peugeot, I had a good battle with Seb [Ogier] in those years. Unfortunately I didn't make the finish. It's always been a challenge, the stages around Gap are different to the ones closer to Valence – they are very technical and tricky. These stages will throw everything up, but we are the best prepared we possibly can be.

Q:
What would you like to achieve this year?

Kris Meeke:
I've been around a while, but I've never had this opportunity before. I need to finish rallies and then allow the speed to come through naturally rather than trying to force it. On the second half of the year I know the rallies a bit more and it would be nice to be fighting more consistently at the top then. But I have some learning to do first.

Q:
How was the pre-event testing? Do you feel you have fully adapted to the car now?

Kris Meeke:
This is a fully-developed car and it's shown it's able to run at the front; that's one of the best things about this team: I can learn so much. They know all about that car and that cuts down my learning. We've done three days' testing for this event and learned a lot, but there's but no substitute for doing rallies. We're here to get started.

Q:
François, you won Monte-Carlo 20 years ago and we see you back in the Fiesta RS WRC now. What made you decide to compete again?

Francois Delecour:
Physically, I am in good form, I make a lot of sport every day. Monte-Carlo is incredible, it's such an important event for me. To be back and to do this event again is magical. I don't know why it's magical, but it is… when I was the young boy I would listen all the time to Radio Monte-Carlo. I am so happy to be back in the WRC with a good car. It's a good challenge for me and I try to make a good result.

Q:
What result is possible?

Francois Delecour:
I have done this rally 18 times and I know it. But, when the weather is like this, anything can happen: you can find some snow, and it's easy to make a mistake on some ice. I didn't make a mistake in 18 times; maybe this will be the first… It's a very difficult rally, you can be sure of this.

Q:
Have you had a chance to test pre-event?

Francois Delecour:
I need to test, the young drivers are driving so fast! I know how it's going. I did some test to learn the car. Two years ago I drove a completely different car in the [Peugeot] 207 [S2000]. I have done maybe 100 kilometres, it's not enough but I am so happy to be here.


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