Bruno Thiry returned to competitive action for Skoda Motorsport on last weekend's Monte Carlo Rally and wasted no time scoring a point for the Czech marque in the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers.

Having finished fourth on his previous WRC outing for Skoda Motorsport in Britain at the tail end of 1999, the 38-year-old Belgian maintained his one hundred per cent scoring record in Monte Carlo with sixth place among the official factory entries.

Thiry now believes that, with more experience behind the wheel of the Skoda Octavia WRC, he can become an increasingly competitive force in future rounds of the 2001 World Rally Championship...

Q: What were the particular challenges facing you during the last weekend's tricky Monte Carlo Rally?

Thiry: "The biggest challenge I faced was trying to find an ideal chassis set-up for my car. I had tested the Octavia before the start of the season but the ever-changing conditions during the event made life particularly difficult as I didn't have enough experience in the car on roads coated with snow and ice. To be honest, though we made some progress during the three days, I was never really confident in the set-up and that's a major stumbling block on an event like the Monte."

"However, I know that Octavia WRC is renowned to be a thoroughly well balanced and very controllable car and I'm sure I'll be able to demonstrate its full potential on coming rounds of the championship. We still have an entire season ahead of us during which I will have a many opportunities to produce some even more competitive showings."

Q: How much has the Skoda Octavia WRC and Skoda Motorsport team changed since you made your debut for the team back in 1999?

Thiry: "There has been a big evolution not only in the car but also in the team and its overall level of organization. That said, there's still a family feel and the friendly mentality and attitude of those involved have remained. The mechanics are very focused and they worked impressively in Monte Carlo. Now with Armin (Schwarz) finishing fourth and both cars scoring points, I'm sure the team's achievement in Monte Carlo will be a great motivation for us all during the rest of the season."

Q: Based on the team's impressive results in Monte Carlo, are you now expecting further success during the remainder of 2001?

Thiry: "Everything is possible. Although one can never predict what's going to happen in this sport, I certainly hope we will achieve similar results in the future. For the moment, our main objective must be to find even more speed. Clearly with have made some substantial progress with the Octavia WRC, but we must remember this improvement was displayed on roads with very mixed conditions where a driver's skills and tyre choice are key ingredients to success. I don't think it's going to be easy for anyone to score points regularly in 2001 - the competition is getting tougher and tougher and the margins for error are becoming slimmer and slimmer."

Bruno Thiry's next appearance for Skoda Motorsport comes on the Swedish Rally in early February. The unique winter rally staged on frozen roads in sub-zero conditions remains a highly specialist event that has never been won by a driver from outside Scandinavia.

Although the Octavia WRC will be making its first ever appearance in Sweden, Thiry has contested the event twice before finishing sixth in 1995 and eighth in 1998.