Drivers: Evgeniy Vertunov (Subaru Impreza WRX STi), Chris West (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX)

Press conference:

Q:
You are the 2007 Russian Rally Champion - it's your first full year within the PWRC; have you been pleased with your performance so far?

Evgeniy Vertunov:
Not really. In Greece and Turkey I know my results could be better. I made a few little mistakes. After that I had only sixth place in both races. I know I could be better.

Q:
Has the competition been tougher than you expected?

EV:
Yes it's tougher. To compare with last year, there are more drivers who are going really fast.

Q:
Your best result was fourth in Japan last year - can you better that here in New Zealand?

EV:
For this rally my aim is to be on the podium. I know it will be hard to do. The roads are almost the same as when I was here in 2007. I hope I can fight for the podium.

Q:
How do these stages compare to the ones you have at home?

EV:
We don't have anything like this. It's hard to compare it with anything.

Q:
How was the test on Monday?

EV:
Good. Here we will drive the new car. In Greece and Turkey I drive N12 car, but here it's N14. It will be good for these roads - it's not so hot or rough as Greece and Turkey.

Q:
Is there any news on next year for you?

EV:
Now I focus on this year. After this rally we will decide what we do next. This rally is very important for me.

Q:
Chris you have a wild card entry for the PWRC here in New Zealand. It's a great opportunity for you to pit yourself against the rest of the production field...

Chris West:
Absolutely. Both Hayden [Paddon] and myself have been fortunate enough to represent New Zealand on the home WRC event. It's up to us to turn it into the result it deserves. We're looking forward to the event. It's a great spectacle be part of and it's also a round of our home Championship.

Q:
There is always a battle to be the top New Zealander; could that be you this year or will Richard Mason make it three in a row?

CW:
I think it's not unstoppable. Richard is strong here, he puts a lot of focus and resource into it. We have been in the same position in 2006, but retired, and last year we stayed out of the Championship and we came to put some miles of testing in on the car, ready for this year. I hope it's third time lucky for us. We've got some good machinery, some good gear. I hope it's our year, but let's wait and see.

Q:
The winter has been quite bad here, how has that affected the stages?

CW:
I'm sorry to have to say this, but I think it's going to be the roughest rally we've seen for some time. That's down to the weather. It's really softened up tomorrow and Sunday. Even though it's sunny, there's going to be a lot of stones exposed because the roads are quite soft. Saturday's stages are in good shape, though. Okay, they're soft, but they should be good for those drivers further down the field. Put it this way, I wouldn't want to be running number one with all of that gravel around.

Q:
Do you think it's going to be one of toughest events?

CW:
The road conditions are not as smooth as in the past, as I said. There is a lot of exposed stone and conditions overall are rougher than we've seen in years.

Q:
You tested on Monday, how did it go? Are you happy with the set-up?

CW:
That was the first opportunity for us to run on the Pirelli control tyre. We had a good balance and set-up for the tyres in our championships. We put that [control] tyre on, okay it's changed some of the characteristics, but the balance of the car is still there. There's not as much tyre wear or grip, but overall it was a good opportunity to have a look.

Q:
Who are you comparing yourself against?

CW:
Obviously, Hayden and Richard. For ourselves, we want to go out there and do the best job we can. The Championship is very important, but there's also an opportunity to get on the podium. We'll say we're going for top Kiwi and that'll bring the result in the home Championship and the result at home.

Q:
Is there any possibility of a bigger PWRC programme for you next year?

CW:
Not at this stage. We're fortunate to be here. We need to make the most of that and what comes of that in the future only time will tell. If we can do it justice, who know what might come out of the woodwork.

Q:
It's not just the PWRC you'll be competing in, this event is also a round of the New Zealand Rally Championship - there's a lot of pressure on you here...

CW:
It's included in the national championship. We have points on hand for Friday and Saturday's legs. It's important to achieve maximum points to put us in overall contention at the end of the year.