FIA European Rally Championship 2017: Round 7 of 8
Rally di Roma Capitale, 14-17 September
Present (part one):
Tamara Molinaro, Opel Rallye Junior Team
Albert von Thurn und Taxis
Present (part two):
Bryan Bouffier, Gemini Clinic Rally Team
Kajetan Kajetanowicz, LOTOS Rally Team
Alexey Lukyanuk, Russian Performance Motorsport
It’s a big weekend for you with the ERC2 title getting closer. What would it mean to you to win this title?
I am not so young, I’m 51 but for me it's a great satisfaction to be here at this event and this press conference. It’s like a dream come true being so close to the title and this is another chance for me to get much more close to this final stage of my dream.
Giandomenico Basso has given you some advice about this event, what has he told you?
He gave me some advice but I cannot tell you, I keep them for me. I never tell anything because my rivals will listen and they are dangerous.
It’s your home event so how much confidence does that giving you?
I race in many other countries but not in Italy so it’s a special occasion for me and I am sure there will be some special emotion in the cockpit.
You’ve switched to an Italian co-driver recently so have you switched your pacenotes to English and how is the partnership working?
There is a long way to go to get the right relationship with the pacenotes, it’s quite strange but also very interesting from switching from English to Italian but the relationship is going quite well.
Your first season in the ERC. How pleased are you with your progress?
Very pleased to be honest. It’s been a very humble beginning and the competition is incredibly strong and rally sport on a European level has been a really sobering experience. I am making little steps, Bjorn is helping me a lot and you can see a little improvement from me already.
As a Rome resident what’s it like to be competing in your home city and where would you recommend going for dinner tonight?
There are many, many places in Rome to have a good evening. It’s incredible to be honest, quite remarkable. We made the decision to do the European championship before it was clear this event would be added to the calendar so the news for me was quite incredible.
You were unlucky in Czech Republic so how confident are you for this event based on what you have learned about the stages during the recce?
I know it’s always difficult to start confident but in the last two races I had good pace and this way I feel comfortable in my car. The stages are a little different here compared to the last two rallies with a lot of corners. I get a good feeling and a big motivation and it's nice to be here with a good mood and I am quite sure my motivation will be huge.
You did a rally in Poland last weekend. How did that go and did it help you in any way in terms of your preparations for this event?
It’s always good to spend time in the car and the more you drive the better it is but it was quite short because we had some trouble. But it’s always good to drive at a good pace even if the car is completely different and the stages are completely different. But like Kajto knows I like this country, I’m always in a good mood when I go there, in a good shape and it’s good to drive.
We normally expect to see you challenging for wins on rallies but we haven’t seen this on the last two events. You talk about a strategy and a plan. What is the strategy and the plan?
The best way to explain to explain my strategy is to see my place in the FIA European Rally Championship at this moment. Of course it’s not easy to drive fast and carefully and it’s hard to find a compromise. My plan is simple: to be a champion for the third time. Okay, I always want to win and be fast because I am a competitor but sometimes you have to be more careful and more careful is to be top three and top five is also hard because you have to take a risk if you want to be top five, you have to push. Any way I am happy with my results in the second part of the season but the target is always the same. We are fighting to be European champion, we had six rounds and six different winners and it shows how strong the championship is. We will see how it will be in two rounds to the end.
In your pre-event press release you said this rally would be a huge challenge. Why?
That was in my dream to be here to start the Italian stages. Now I am here my dream has come true. The stages are new for me but also the other guys. It’s hard to keep concentration. The stages are new and you have to push and this is a huge challenge but they are not exactly like I expect before, more bumpy a little like Barum Rally in some parts but I like them, I enjoy these stages and I hope we can be faster.
Sorry to have to ask but how are you physically and will this event be any easier for you than Zlín?
I hope I am fine but before Zlín I was also in a good physical condition but rally so demanding and it drains my power really fast hope recover well after previous rally and I hope I manage now. I think about 20 per cent but it’s enough to fight.
Today marks 10 years since Colin McRae’s passing. How much of an inspiration was he to you? And what are your greatest memories of watching him competing?
Colin is a person in rally we all respect and we underestimate what he done for many people, for many people in motorsport and for or me also. When I was not knowing anything about rally I started playing on my computer Colin McRae Rally and somehow I got fond of it. Colin was a great man, I saw a lot of films with him and it’s interesting how his career started on the limit, all the time using all the limit of the road and that’s really close to me. I have great memories of him and he was a great inspiration.
It’s a 23-point gap to Kajto. How do you rate your chances of winning the championship?
We still have chances to be champion because in rallying everything can happen very quickly. The first half of the season was very good for me. After the accident in Cyprus it destroyed a bit my budget and for the next events I knew I could not crash again. Now I am in Rome, it’s a good rally for us. It’s new for everybody and when the rally is new, I am more confident to fight at the front of the race. Maybe I can fight with these guys. I do this and try to make some extra pressure on Kajto then everything can happen. So I try to do this as much as possible.
You’ve done some rallies in Italy in the past but how does this event compare?
I made three times Sanremo Rallye. It was a great event as well. I like these stages. Okay maybe the second day is better for me because the first day the stages are a little bumpy and I am more confident when the roads are flat like the mountain stages you have in Canary Islands or Madeira for example. Maybe I can make a better score on this rally but if I was second in the championship then I would be completely happy because in the beginning my plan was to make one rally and now I am in the seventh rally so that’s great.