11 April 2013
Q&A: Sven Smeets, Volkswagen WRC team manager
Sven Smeets: Portugal is a real drivers' rally. The closing Power Stage is also over 52 kilometres long. That is extraordinary in itself, and means that the drivers must really earn the extra world championship points
Volkswagen Motorsport WRC team manager, Sven Smeets looks ahead to Rally de Portugal where the team will line-up with three Polo R WRC cars for the first time...
Sven, what does it mean to the team, to line up with a third Polo R WRC from the Rally Portugal onward – from both a sporting and logistical point of view?
From a sporting point of view, it is obviously nice to see Andreas [Mikkelsen] back in a World Rally Car after a long break. He initially has different sporting goals to those of Sébastien [Ogier] and Jari-Matti [Latvala]. Portugal, in particular, is practically new territory for him. For Andreas, it will primarily be a matter of gaining experience and completing the rallies wherever possible. Where he feels more confident, he can also show what kind of speed he is capable of. For the team, a third car simply means more material and more work. We have to take more spare parts with us, including an additional spare engine and another gearbox. On top of that comes the equipment for another service place, as well as additional personnel: one engineer and three mechanics. Compared to the first two rallies in Europe, we are now travelling with another truck, which will mainly be loaded with material for Andreas and Mikko's Polo R WRC.
Why did Volkswagen not start the rally season with three Polo R WRCs right from the word go, rather than contest the first three rounds of the world championship with just two cars?
Because of the extra effort that comes with a third car. We wanted to give ourselves enough time to conscientiously run through all the processes involved in a rally weekend – and with a completely new car and, to a certain degree, new drivers. We also wanted to see how the Polo R WRC performed in competitive conditions. Had we discovered a major problem over the course of the first three rallies, we would then have had to solve it on three cars. It goes without saying that this would also have meant extra costs. When it boils down to it, we just wanted to give ourselves a little time to find our feet in the first three months of the season.
What will be the team's biggest challenge at the Rally Portugal?
That depends in no small part on the weather. In the past we have seen that the cars are given quite a tough ride at this rally when it rains. The route becomes very muddy and slippery. However, when it is dry and the roads are in good condition, we will experience a really good gravel rally in Portugal, at which it will all come down to the driver. It is a real drivers' rally. The closing Power Stage is also over 52 kilometres long. That is extraordinary in itself, and means that the drivers must really earn the extra world championship points.
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