Present: Hayden Paddon (Hyundai Motorsport), Kris Meeke (Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team), Malcolm Wilson (M-Sport World Rally Team) and Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Motorsport II).

Q:
Hayden, it's been three weeks since you took your first WRC victory in spectacular style in Argentina, are you still riding high on that win or are your feet back on the ground?

Hayden Paddon:
It was certainly a very busy seven to 10 days back home in New Zealand after the rally. We were riding a bit of a wave but to be honest, right now, it's forgotten about. It seems like a long time ago and now we're focused on doing the best performance on the upcoming rallies. There's more pressure to try to stay near the front now, so we are just focused on doing the best preparation and the best work on the rally.

Related Articles

Q:
You had a great reception at the airport when you flew back home. Unexpected?

Hayden Paddon:
It certainly surprised us. I heard through the grapevine that there might be a few people waiting at the airport and then, you turn up at five o'clock in the morning and there's a couple of hundred people, the Haka and all sorts of other things to wake you up after your flight. It was a nice surprise and obviously the attention we had back at home was amazing. The profile of the sport in New Zealand is now very high, so it is good for the sport in general.

Q:
That win propelled you into second spot in the Championship, which puts your second on the road here. From the conditions you've seen from the recce, how tough will that be?

Hayden Paddon:
I think the roads are in very good condition, particularly for the first pass. It looks like there have been a lot of road repairs since last year; they are a little bit wider and faster in places. But saying that, there has been a lot of rain recently and they are softer underneath, so I think the repeat runs might be a lot rougher than normal. But I'm quite happy with our road position. There are maybe one or two stages where we might be at a bit of a disadvantage but some others, where we have a small advantage being at the front, as it's going to cut up and become rough quite quickly. So I'm looking forward to the challenge - it is going to be different but we will try to stay close to the front.

Q:
You now know you can win, does that become the objective on every event now?

Hayden Paddon:
No, not at all. We're not quite at that level just yet. We have a bit more work to do on myself and need to be a bit more consistent. So in the meantime, we are aiming to try to keep being on the podium and of course, once we get to some of the faster rallies, perhaps we can challenge for another win.

Q:
Kris, welcome back to competition. We last saw you compete in Sweden, you must be itching to get back out there? What was it like watching from the outside for a few events?

Kris Meeke:
Watching this man [Paddon] do the business in Argentina was pretty special. It brought back memories of my own experience from the year before, getting my debut victory. But it was pretty frustrating doing the recce in Mexico and Argentina and getting on the flight home before the rally started. It was an exciting rally - I don't want to watch them too often but that one was exciting to watch. The Power Stage was pretty good but yes, it is nice to be back this weekend. I have still been doing quite a lot of kilometres - we have been testing the 2017 car - so I'm not short on mileage but you do miss the competition. Even this morning, at shakedown, it was nice to get back against the stopwatch. You get to the end of the stage and you're looking up and down the times. You still need that - that's why we're here.

Q:
Before we talk about this event, the 2017 car broke cover a few weeks ago at testing. How is the project going so far? What are your initial impressions of the car?

Kris Meeke:
We have done a couple of tests but it is certainly going to be a new challenge for everyone - a new set of regulations. We're just trying to do the best job we can. The important thing is there is a long way to go and there are a lot of tests ahead and I think we are going to enter a new era of the World Rally Championship next year. These cars are pretty exciting to drive and for sure, everyone will be working hard to arrive in Monte Carlo with the best package possible. It is exciting to be involved in it but we certainly have a lot of work to do. It puts a smile on my face to drive it but the DS3 puts a smile on my face too, when I get back into it. We have the bigger picture to think of - next year. This year, it is exciting to be part of the Citroen bigger picture for when they come back next year as a full factory team with the focus on rallying, rather than a dovetailed project with the touring cars. So it is exciting to be involved in that. As our programme was set at the start of this season, we'll do a few rallies this season to keep sharp but it is good to be back at the wheel of competition this weekend.

Q:
There is no Championship fight for you this year, with that said how do you approach each event?

Kris Meeke:
We're born to drive fast and you turn up and you want to do the best job you can on every rally. If you are leading by a long way, you might think about coming back a bit, but in my position, we want to give it our best shot this weekend. As Hayden [Paddon] said, road position this weekend is not a big factor. I don't know what Seb [Ogier] is going to complain about this weekend but certainly there are some stages where the cars at the front will have an advantage and there are others where they will have a disadvantage. But my place, back at 13th or 14th, will certainly not give me a big benefit.

Q:
What is the objective here?

Kris Meeke:
We're only doing a limited programme, so I have to use these rallies to continue to grow and get to the end and have a clean run. We know the DS3 is a good car but the development stopped quite a long time ago. The Hyundai seems to have made a step since we were here last. Everyone keeps moving forward. We know we don't have to win this rally but I will give it my best shot. The important thing is to use the rally in its full to gain more experience.

Q:
Malcolm, it was all change this year in terms of driver line-up at M-Sport. Now that we are heading into the fifth event of the season what are your thoughts on the performance level you have seen?

Malcolm Wilson:
I think we are probably where we would expect to be, in terms of where we are in the championship. I think some of the performances on events, certainly in the last two events, haven't been what we really hoped for. We have done a few changes to the car to suit Mads better so hopefully he can have a bit better pace here than on the last two. Ott has been doing some good times, especially this morning and of course, Eric in Argentina, after the disastrous start he had, it was important for him to get the experience and finish the event, which he did exactly as requested. So at least he is now coming to an event he has been to before, so hopefully we can see a little bit more pace from him on this event.

Q:
Eric had a tough start to the season but made it through Argentina without the use of Rally 2, what is your expectation of him here? When will the potential you've seen in him be realised?

Malcolm Wilson:
I think we have to be realistic. This is his 13th or 14th WRC event, so he has got very limited experience. It will be interesting to see how he goes here, because he has been here before but for me, I will be happy if he finishes between sixth and eighth. That would be a good result for me.

Q:
Mads has had great success at this event previously in a Fiesta. Can he find the pace to achieve a podium result here?

Malcolm Wilson:
I would like to think so. Hopefully, he can challenge for that position. As I said, we have made quite a few changes so hopefully he will see the benefit of them.

Q:
Andreas, you had a definite strategy in Argentina which was to get through the event and not Rally 2 - what is your plan for this event and will we see you challenging at the front again?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
I had a bit of a careful approach coming in to Argentina. If you look at the last couple of years, there is a lot of things happening there so I took a careful approach and we ended-up in third, which was OK. Points on the board for sure. But coming in to Rally Portugal, I want to be a bit more aggressive - I want to go fast from the beginning and not wait for the result to come to me - I want to be up there fighting. For sure, the approach is different. I am not saying we are going to go crazy, flat-out attack but we will try to have a good pace. We were third here last year and it's an event I like - I enjoy it and after a good recce, I feel really confident with my pace notes, the road and I feel I know them pretty well to go fast. So we will give it a go - a bit more of a go than we did in Argentina.

Q:
The route is almost identical to last year, where the whole team secured a great result with a 1-2-3. How high is your confidence? What condition are the stages in? Do these stages suit you?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
I don't think I have seen these stages in better shape. Of course, we had some bad weather before the recce and the surface is a bit soft but still, it looks beautiful and I can't wait to drive. It will be interesting to see how much it will cut up for the second loop. But I am sure it will be good. I really enjoyed the recce and the roads look really nice.

Q:
What's the key to getting it right here in Portugal? What strategy do you have?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
It's all in the preparation before coming here: really studying the on-boards, to see where we lose time compared to the best times. So I think I have a pretty clear idea of what I need to be doing to put in some good stage times. I feel very prepared and so does Anders, my co-driver and we are ready to fight.