17 JULY 2016

ERC RALLY ESTONIA POST-EVENT PRESS CONFERENCE

Atlantis Conference Centre, Narva mnt.2, Tartu, 17h45, Sunday 17 July 2016

Present:
Ralfs Sirmacis/Māris Kulšs, Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5, first place
Jarek Baran, LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5, second place (Kajetan Kajetanowicz unavailable)
Rainer Aus/Simo Koskinen, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, third place
Miko-Ove Niinemäe/Martin Valter, Peugeot 208 R2, first place ERC Junior

Q:
Ralfs, congratulations on a great win…

RS:
I think it’s great to win but I’m a bit sad about how it happened, I want to win in battle, not because Lukyanuk crashed. I tried to keep pushing though and keep on the pressure and maybe that’s the reason why he crashed. We kept the pressure on and we ended up with the win. So I’m happy.

Q:
You said you could win: now you have…

RS:
That means I take my own advice! So this is good.

Q:
Māris, you’re not new to co-driving for Ralfs, so how is it to win here?

MK:
An amazing feeling. I’m feeling great. It’s been two years since we competed together and now we’ve won. So now with the R5 car we have a 100% record.

Q:
Kajto is at the airport as he has a TV slot. How was it for you Jarek?

JB:
Well, from our experience we know that the points are given at the finish and we know that the guys around us have a really good rhythm and speed. We had a lot of problems at the finish of the first day and we had to do without the power steering over the last two stages. I had to do the handbrake myself on the last stage and we made a small training on the road section to prepare for it, so it’s not easy. We started not in the correct way and then the distance to the front was too big. The only thing we could do was stay smart. Even if we drove perfectly we could still do nothing about the guys around us. Kajto and me know the capabilities of a Group N car as we have been in there driving them ourselves. But it was good in the end. And I wanted to say one thing, which is a big credit to rally director Urmo Aava. This was the most perfect podium I have ever seen at the finish. It was like Formula 1. To be there at the finish, flying over Tartu on the catwalk, was an amazing experience. It didn’t matter if you were first or second or third: the important thing was to be there.

Q:
Co-drivers are organised, was it a nightmare when you left service at midday and found the road blocked?

JB:
Definitely I have some white hairs on my head from yesterday. There were so many small problems and different things going on. Black Friday I guess! Now we switch to Tarmac. The championship is heading to Rzeszow for the first time but we know just how hard it is, and Barum is one of the hardest rallies that’s out there.

Q:
Rainer, you had a tricky end to the event, how did this occur?

RA:
Something happened. There was a big stone on the road and the rear differential broke. I didn’t know exactly what to do but I changed some settings on the differential and then we could see that we could keep driving. It was a dramatic finish but I’m happy to be here on the podium again now.

Q:
You need so much speed and commitment in a Group N car…

RA:
The car is heavy and there are some places where you must take the risk. The feeling inside the car is quite scary sometimes. Anyway we enjoyed it and the feeling was OK. We didn’t make any big mistakes and that’s why we are here now. We finished 16 stages and this is the end of the rally. Some cars in front of us retired; we didn’t.

Q:
Everyone thinks the rally is over after 16 stages but then you have to get to the podium…

SK:
It was quite difficult for me as when we drove to the podium and parc fermé I had a cool down: I couldn’t do anything more to help but it was nervous. We needed to be focussed all the time and do what we needed to do; the job is not finished after SS16 as you say. Now it’s an amazing feeling. I was wondering how I would react, so I concluded that first I will drink the champagne and then see what I can do. And we made it!

Q:
Miko, finally, the top result on home territory…

MN:
Last year we weren’t as competitive as we were now. This time we felt really confident. We pushed and I knew we had a bit more speed in me than before. It felt quite easy so that was great.

Q:
You looked so committed!

MN:
You can’t let the speed drop at all as then it takes too long to get the speed back. We tried to take the widest line we could; sometimes we followed Alex Lukyanuk’s lines as those were the widest!

Q:
You looked like you had a lot of local fans….

MN:
Yes, it’s an amazing feeling. I had so many friends coming over to watch who usually don’t bother to come to rallies, so this time it was great to see them all here cheering.

Q:
You even seemed lost for words at the end.

MN:
In the middle of the last stage there were Estonian fans clapping and that gave me goose bumps right in the middle of the stage. Coming from that emotion, it was hard to get anything out.

Q:
Martin, what did you think of the rally?

MV:
It was a very well organised event and the organisers have done the best job making it happen. We really enjoyed it.

Q:
And how about your relationship with Miko?

MV:
I’m really a bit committed to it as he reminds me a lot of myself when I was his age so it gives me a clue as to what is going on in his head when I need to know this. So it’s a great partnership.

Q:
Finally Ralfs, did you really honestly believe you could win here?

RS:
I knew it would be hard to win, as I knew that Alexey and the others would be so fast. To be honest in the first loops I was a little bit scared of the speed but then in the second loop with more knowledge of the roads I can go flat out.  At that point I could see that we were very close to Alexey on speed and this gave me more confidence.

Q:
So you’re doing the gravel rounds of ERC, how about some Tarmac rounds?

RS:
Tarmac is for next year, one thing at a time!

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

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