6 MAY 2016

ERC ACROPOLIS RALLY PRE-EVENT PRESS CONFERENCE

Media Centre, Service Park, Lamia, 15h00, Friday 6 May 2016

Present:
Alexey Lukyanuk, Ford Fiesta R5
Lambros Athanassoulas, Lascaris Foundation Team Greece ŠKODA Fabia R5
Ralfs Sirmacis, Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5

Q:
Alexey, it’s the first time we’ve seen you since your win in the Canaries, you missed the Circuit of Ireland. Is everything back up to speed, your confidence is back after that crash?

AL:
My confidence is good. This crash in Ireland actually was very, very, I must say, unforced error. It was more about circumstances and OK, I don’t accept my fault in this situation. Ten more centimetres of Tarmac and it was OK, but it was too narrow and in the end it’s like this. This is OK on the gravel, it’s all new as we haven’t been on gravel for half a year. We have more experience with the R5 car on Tarmac but with gravel we don’t have a lot of experience. Of course it’s my favourite surface but at the moment I feel Tarmac better than gravel.

Q:
You’ve just been showing me your last two corners on the Qualifying Stage, very out of shape. For Alexey Lukyanuk that’s probably quite normal but are you happy with the setup?

AL:
Yes, I think we’ll change the setup because actually I did some steps before the last run. In some places it was better but in the end it was really tricky and I was thinking that I was about to lose control of the car and go into the bushes, but finally I managed to save it. Of course we lost some time and now we should find out what was wrong with the setup, I need to go and analyse all the data and I hope I will find out.

Q:
There’s a new co-driver name on the window this weekend because Alexey Arnautov is recuperating back home. Is he well? Is he fit? Will he be back soon?

AL:
He’s well, it’s just a decision not to damage his back even more. He’s moving, he’s working, now he’s on holiday in Italy. I miss him of course. It’s not so easy to do such a tough rally with a new co-driver. The notes are extremely important here, maybe more important than somewhere else because everything is so twisty and a lot of blind corners and very tight corners with no room for mistakes. We try to do our best to find a good cooperation inside the car but some issues definitely happen and may happen in future so we should take care about it.

Q:
We’ll move across to the local superstar, Lambros Athanassoulas, the Greek superstar this weekend. Lambros, third place overall last year, you’re back in the ŠKODA Fabia R5 again. It’s a different car but at least you’ve had a couple of rallies to get used to it. What are your hopes this weekend?

LA:
As always we hope to do the full rally, all the stages, without any problems, and try to fight for the podium as we did last year. Last year the rally ended three stages before the finish so we could have been in the fight for another three stages, but let’s hope for the weather to be sunny. At the first stage yesterday we saw some muddy parts and we’ll have a great time if it’s dry.

Q:
The Acropolis Rally is one of the most famous rallies in the world and it has a famous reputation for being tough, difficult, hard. We’re going to some very famous stages this year, moving from Loutraki up to Lamia, what can you tell us about those stages?

LA:
Actually here in Greece we love the stages. It was I think 2005 that I did my first Acropolis Rally on these stages. They’re really fast in some parts, especially Amfissa. We call it now Amfissa but it’s well known as Karoutes, one of the great stages. You’re going to like it for sure tomorrow. It’s a really, really nice feeling to be back on these stages. Even though I am from Loutraki, the place here is great and the stages are beautiful so I like them a lot.

Q:
Obviously when you’re in an ERC1 car like the ŠKODA Fabia R5, the top step of the podium is what everyone wants to achieve. It’s 21 years since a Greek won the Acropolis Rally. All those fans on the stages will be cheering you on, what difference does that make to you in the car?

LA:
We can’t think about it when we’re driving, we just think to go as fast as we can and stay on the road. So whatever’s going to come will come. We have to be careful. It’s a difficult and rough rally in some places, especially the small stage tomorrow is a bit rough, and there are tricky corners as Alexey said. You don’t have room for error. Some tight ones, some stones everywhere. So if you make a small mistake, let’s say this 10 centimetres that he said on Tarmac, can make the difference with a big rock, so we have to be a little bit careful, and not to drive 100 per cent. You listen hey?

AL:
Thank you master!

Q:
OK, well we have the two masters, one of Greek roads and our winner earlier in the season. The youngster on the other end, last but not least in this press conference, Ralfs Sirmacis. Ralfs, your first time in the ŠKODA Fabia R5 on the ERC. You’ve done some of the rallies before in ERC Junior, what is it like taking the step from ERC Junior to the main category in ERC1?

RS:
The car is very amazing. It’s much better than front-wheel drive. It’s very good acceleration and I like that I can drive in corners and slide, it’s very nice. And the suspension is very nice, you can jump very big jumps, it’s nice.

Q:
When you came to the end of the Qualifying Stage, third quickest in the stage, were you surprised by that when you saw the time? Or was that what you thought would happen?

RS:
The stage is something like the roads what we have in Latvia and that sort of road I can drive fast, but tomorrow is roads in hills, it’s very narrow and it’s very scary for me driving, but I’ll try to do the best and compete for the win.

Q:
You’re bidding for the win? Look at these two next to you! You believe with the pace and the confidence, 60 kilometres of mileage in that car up to now, you want to fight for the win, not just to get points?

RS:
If I don’t want to win then I don’t have a reason to be here, but if I don’t win I need the best result.

Q:
It’s so good to see youngsters coming in from the ERC Junior Championship. Are you surprised more drivers have not come from the Juniors and up into ERC1?

RS:
Yeah, the previous year’s winner Emil Bergkvist is now driving in WRC2, but other drivers stay in front-wheel drive cars. Some drivers changed car from the Peugeot to the Opel.

Q:
And how many times are you hoping to drive this car, is it on the gravel rallies?

RS:
I think this year we’ll drive all the gravel rallies, and maybe we’ll drive one Tarmac rally.

Q:
Just back to Alexey, obviously a win in the first round, a non-start in the second round. Going for the win again, you’ve got to stop Kajetanowicz really haven’t you? He’s just starting to get away in the points with that position he got in Ireland?

AL:
OK, he’s European Rally Champion, so it’s not so easy to apply pressure to him and to keep him behind. He’s quite consistent on each surface and OK, we will do our best, but at the moment the situation is not that bad because to be honest in Ireland it was not an easy rally for me to achieve a good result and score a lot of points, so we have seven rallies to be scored for the championship so we can miss a few events and still be in the fight. Of course if you get points on each rally it’s good but we’re going to see what happens through the year.

ENDS
Press enquiries:
Anthony Peacock, media@fiaerc.com
Television enquiries: Antonios Argyropoulos, antonios@discovery.com   
Drivers and teams: Jean-Baptiste_Ley@discovery.com

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