FIA European Rally Championship 2018: Round 1 of 8, Azores Airlines Rallye, 22-24 March
Media Centre, Ponta Delgada, 12h30, Thursday 22 March (streamed live at www.azoresrallye.com)
Chris Ingram, Toksport WRT
Fabian Kreim, ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland
Tom Kristensson, ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team
Catie Munnings, Saintéloc Junior Team
Laurent Pellier, PEUGEOT Rally Academy
Let’s begin with the 2017 Azores winner and last season’s vice champion Bruno Magalhaes from Portugal. Bruno, welcome and great to have you back. Fully recovered after your crash in Latvia and ready to go?
I am fine now. I broke two vertebrae when I crashed in Latvia but everything is okay and I am happy what I have done this morning because the time was good and it’s good to get again the best confidence behind the wheel so I think I did a good job.
You’re a three-time winner here. What do you need to do to thrive and survive?
This rally is very specific as you know. It’s very narrow, slippery in some parts so normally you fight second by second and you don’t have big gaps in the stages. But it’s very easy to puncture here because the road is very narrow and it’s very easy to make a mistake, especially the downhill parts. So you need to be very consistent and fast of course.
Let’s turn next the double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel from Germany. Having achieved so much success, how much pressure are you under and what do you have to prove?
To be honest I don’t feel too much pressure this year because the last two years were really good with back-to-back titles in ERC Junior. I think I’ve proved to everybody I can drive really fast and achieve good results. This year is a new experience with the PEUGEOT 208 T16 but I am really looking forward to this race and the races to come.
And tell us a bit about your new car and your programme for 2018?
To be honest the preparation was not so much. We tested first on Monday in the the test and this was my first ever time on gravel in the car so today is the second one. But I am feeling quite happy with the car. the driving the placement of the car was everything quite satisfying for me and I am quite optimistic we can do a good performance this year on the Azores Airlines Rallye. For the rest of the season we will see. I have a really good programme with PEUGEOT Germany for the German championship so I can do a lot of rallies in this car, develop my own skills and my driving style. I am optimistic this season can also be quite good.
Turning next to Chris Ingram from Great Britain, the 2017 ERC Junior Under 27 champion, a massive opportunity for you?
It’s massive. I’ve been working towards getting in a top-spec car ever since I was in a pram. It’s just incredible to finally have the chance. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of money to find to do it but I have finally managed to take the step and it’s the perfect place to make my debut.
It’s a rally you know well but how hard is it?
Definitely one of the toughest but I’ve got a good record. I won the ERC Juniors twice and finished second twice. If I can translate that to a four-wheel-drive car it will go well but the difference is massive so I need to keep it on the road definitely.
Now from a driver who knows this rally to a driver that’s competing here for the first time, from Germany and representing ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland, it’s Fabian Kreim. Fabian, the German champion, tell us about your recent gravel experience?
I drove the APRC in 2016 and I got a lot of experience there and now it’s my first full season in the ERC so I will try to get more experience on gravel. For sure my favourite surface is Tarmac but now we are here we will try to stay on the road.
Now a German driver won the ERC Junior U28 title in 2017. What do you have to do to repeat that achievement?
I try it, for sure. My last rally on gravel was in December in 2016 in India so that was a long time ago.
Turning next to Laurent Pellier from France it’s a new car and a new rally for you, what’s your plan for this weekend and the season ahead?
All is new for us so we need to discover our car, the PEUGEOT 208 T16. We are already happy to be here but before QS we didn’t know our speed. Now we just want to go at the end of the rally and we will see.
Tell us about the PEUGEOT Rally Academy and the help they give you?
For sure we are in very good conditions and have the experience of the PEUGEOT Rally Academy behind us so all is good for us.
Coming to Tom Kristensson from Sweden of the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team. You’ve spoken about your dreams coming true with this chance, just explain how important it is for you?
It’s actually really hard to explain. It’s like a dream come true and I’m really happy to do this season with this amazing team and this amazing car. There are still some small things to improve but it’s going very well and I’m really looking forward.
Your team is unbeaten in ERC Junior for the last three seasons - is that pressure or motivation?
No, it’s just to do the job. It’s as simple as that.
And finally, coming to Catie Munnings from Great Britain, chasing success in ERC Junior Under 27 and the ERC Ladies’ Trophy. A tough start here last year but what’s the objective and the plan?
Last year here I learned a lot of lessons about keeping a lid on it and staying quite calm on a rally. It’s deinifely to be at the finish because there were a lot of accidents last year in the ERC Junior Under 27 category. That’s definitely going to be the focus for me to get the car to the end because I really need to get the kilometres under my belt because I haven’t got a lot and I crashed quite early last year. It’s important for me to develop my speed gradually and get a good feeling with Anna in the car.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen you competing so what have you been up to?
I’ve been really busy, always trying to find the money to drive like most drivers. But I’ve also been working in Sweden for a couple of months at an ice driving school. That was something completely different but I think I’ve already started to notice the skills we’ve developed out there on car control because it really transfers to gravel so I’m really excited to have a play with that this weekend.