FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st Ott Tänak (EST), Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
1st Martin Järveoja (EST), Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
2nd Thierry Neuville (BEL), Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team
2nd Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL), Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team
3rd Sébastien Ogier (FRA), Citroën Total World Rally Team
3rd Julien Ingrassia (FRA), Citroën Total World Rally Team
Kaj Lindström (FIN), Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
Ott, congratulations on a fantastic win. You said at the finish that this was one of the hardest wins in your career. Now the dust as settled, do you still think that?
Yes, this is definitely one of the hardest wins I have taken. There have been plenty of hard weekends but to win this rally the way we did was tough. First of all, on Friday, it was looking promising. We had a good position from where we started. It was not so bad. On Saturday morning, after a couple of kilometres, we broke a brake line and had no brakes. After this, it became quite complicated but I was still happy to come to service leading the rally. The afternoon was still interesting. We had other issues and somehow managed to bring the car back in the lead. Today, the roads were much smoother and we could fight for the position.
Considering your road position, you set some incredible times?
I would say that, during the recce, we expected a difficult opening day. It looked loose and looked tough for all the event. The road position looked to be crucial. In the end, I started the first stage and had a good feeling in the car, the balance was there and it was working. I was happy.
On the Power Stage today, it appeared that you were faster that Sébastien Ogier. Did you slow towards the end?
It was a long story. The Power Stage was a long one. At first, we were thinking about the strategy a little and we thought that every point would be important at the end of the year. We were going to be three ahead of Seb without the Power Stage points. I thought that I should be faster than him. The plan was to collect as many points as possible but Kris made his mistake and that changed everything. Seb was on the podium and we were on the same level on points. I knew I needed to be a bit slower to avoid opening the road in Sardinia. Then Thierry got in between us and I lost another point.
Martin, it was a great weekend for you and Ott, how are you feeling?
To be honest, it is a miracle that we are on the middle step of the podium. Today was good. All day we’ve been smooth and we could drive as fast as we could.
You had brake and damper issues, but Ott plays those issues down at the end of the stages. What are your thoughts?
It is always stressful if the car is not running normally. In these conditions, you do not know how long it will last. Ott did not slow down – we are here.
Thierry, second place but after the accident on Rally Chile, you must take great confidence from this result?
It is true. Coming here after that big crash in Chile, even we did not know what was going to happen. It felt all was okay and there was no fear. I did the testing and the speed was good. On the first stage, I was too cautious because I suppose I did not want to stop again in the stage. It was very narrow and I dropped eleven seconds. That was quite a surprise. We sorted it quickly, made some changes to the settings and, by the third stage, we were in a good rhythm quickly. It would not have changed the result anyway. Ott was all the time faster than us. He would have had the upper hand. I was on the edge all the time, but I am proud of second place.
You appeared to be struggling to catch Kris Meeke?
I nearly gave up on the third stage this morning. I thought that Kris was doing a great rally, I have to say. He was fourth on the road on Friday as well and was doing a good job. I slowed down a little bit, changed the settings to try something for Sardinia and it was working. We pushed a little bit more and then we found ourselves with a cushion of 7.5 seconds after his problem. It proved that, if you want to at the front you, you should never give up. The goal on the Power Stage was to take maximum points but we missed it out by 9/10th of a second. It was okay.
Hyundai used a lot of tactics this weekend. Do you feel that they worked to your advantage?
From my point of view, it was nothing new. It helped a lot to optimise my chances but I will stress that we did nothing that is forbidden. We tried to stay together as a team and tried to take what we could. Second place and four points on the Power Stage is a good result.
Nicolas, what is your feeling now after this result and Rally Chile?
First of all, after Chile, I took time to recover properly and skipped the pre-event test that took place two or four days after being back home. I felt jet lag and tired. It was a good choice. I was excited to be back in the car and the feeling was good on the start line of the first stage.
Sébastien, third position at the end of Rally Portugal but there were tactics here from Hyundai and from Ott. And you lead the championship heading to Sardinia. What are you feeling?
A lot of things happened. I feel happy, though, right now. I expected it to be a tough weekend. Portugal was drier than I have ever never seen it here. My start position was complicated but we fought the whole weekend and I am happy for the points. Progress made at the pre-event test was confirmed and we have made a step in the right direction, although it was not easy to see.
Most of the time, we were running early on the stage. I was first on the road on Friday and then early on the following days. I had a good Power Stage in comparable conditions to the others. If someone had told me I could take 20 points away from here, I would have signed for less than that. I would have taken 15 maybe. A bit of a negative is that I will be opening the road in Sardinia. No driver wants to do that but that is how it is.
About the other tactics, there is nothing to say, you can’t say you cannot do it.. My chances were getting even smaller but I kept pushing and doing my job and I ended up on the podium. I have no problem with tactics. We can thank Dani Sordo much more though. I mean, other tactics were supposed to happen and he refused them. He is a great gentleman. Andrea Adamo asked him to stop in the stage and check in in front of Meeke. And he refused to do it….
Did you feel that your tyre strategy worked for the Power Stage?
Eleven seconds is not much. My strategy was not to give up straight away today. We mentioned two cars in front that went behind me from the start and that made it an even bigger step for us. My team-mates had a crash and we started in an even more distant position from the others. I did not want to take more risks. Then I decided to push on the Power Stage and it was a great idea. And then I received the present to be here with you from Kris.
Did you ever contemplate clocking in late a time control this afternoon to change the result?
Not for any second. I might have lost one or two points but you never know. We don’t want to drop any points. They are hard to get.
Julien, tell us about the weekend.
I think Seb did a good summary. We had tough conditions and we will face another major challenge in Sardinia. We are in for some great fights, as long as the fights are going in a normal regular way and everyone can enjoy it – you, us and the spectators. The season is going to be the same as last year. Last year, we were fighting to the last stage of the last rally – let’s see if it continues in this way. The other rallies like Finland and Germany are quite different now and it will be very interesting.
Kaj, can you please talk about the performance of Ott and Martin this weekend?
I told them at the end of the first day how impressive their driving has been. Seeing Ott’s times from that road position compared to the guys in front was remarkable. I saw the splits from Ott and my first reaction was that the road is cleaning. I was surprised and then, after Friday, he was himself in his own pace.
It was a dramatic rally. Toyota were 1-2-3 at the end of Friday and then 1-2 at the start of today. Were you shell-shocked by the events that unfolded?
Too much happened. For the weekend, I am disappointed for Jari-Matti (Latvala), he was doing very well. Ott was trying to give me a heart attack when we saw that his tracker went yellow on SS13 and then Kris had his problems today, which are very unfortunate. I am happy with the win, of course. Ott and Martin did a good job but it is also disappointing from the other side.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Antonio José Rodrigues, Agency LUSA (PRT)
Ott, what will you feel if you lose the championship by one point on the last race of the year?
If I lose by one point, it will mean that I have not done a good season, that I am still slow.
Reiner Kuhn, Motorsport Aktuell (DEU)
What are the drivers’ views on the gaps given by the rally officials for the dust?
I think we should be listened to. It is quite clear there was a lot of dust. It was the right decision to have four-minute gaps. Obviously, it would have been better for me to have two minutes, I would have won the rally. Driving in dust is not safe. Us drivers should have more power to estimate when it is needed.
Why put dust as the risk if every team agrees? Why would you want to drive one stage in the dust before you increase the gaps?
I agree with them both, it is very clear.
FIA WRC 2 PRO CHAMPIONSHIP
Kalle Rovanperä (FIN), Škoda Motorsport
Jonne Halttunen (FIN), Škoda Motorsport
Kalle, a great FIA WRC 2 Pro win. How tough was it out there?
It was quite a tough event, I have to say. It really went quite well. We only had one puncture and did not lose too much time, I think we had a good drive with no mistakes.
It was the debut of the Škoda Fabia R5 Evo. How do you rate the new car?
The new car feels really good. We have been testing a lot and I think we made good preparations and good tests. We also found some improvements like always. The car was perfect here. For me, it was quite easy to drive, I enjoyed the stages and we had good notes.
Jonne, congratulations. It was a brilliant winning combination with the new car?
It was quite a clean run and the speed was high. There were no driving mistakes and the car was super. It was not an easy rally but a clean one. The second loop for the WRC 2 cars was rough. We had to take it easy.
FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP
Pierre-Louis Loubet (FRA)
Vincent Landais (FRA)
Pierre-Louis, congratulations on the FIA WRC 2 win. But the lead changed a lot during the weekend…
I am very happy after what happened in the rally and with the dust. It was really nice to be in this position. The second pass was so difficult with all the rocks and, to finish in a good position, you had to be careful and try to manage everything. Now we go to Sardinia, Finland and Germany, and then I hope to Wales and Spain – I am not sure for the moment.
Vincent, was it a challenging rally from your side?
It was difficult. We had to find the right pace and be clever and fast at the right time. We knew when to be fast and had a smart pace and the notes were okay. The stages yesterday and today we knew from before. Just the dust made it a bit difficult.
There were small gaps over the weekend but you had a good lead today?
This morning, it was easier because we had a big gap. We still had to be focused. When you are starting with a big gap, you can easily make a mistake.