Q&A: Jean-Pierre Nicolas

How do the Azores compare to all the other rallies you have been to?

“It might be in the middle of the Atlantic – halfway between Europe and New York – but the Azores is really worth the trip. I’ve been to so many rallies throughout my career, as a driver, team boss and more recently with the European Rally Championship, that it’s almost impossible to count them. But Rallye Acores is definitely one of the most beautiful.”

What do you like most about it?

“The scenery is what makes it stunning. Everywhere you look, the countryside is very green and volcanic, which is why it is made for TV. If you look at just one thing, make sure you see the Sete Cidades stage, where the cars drive along the top of a volcano crater…”

What is your role in the ERC?

“In my role as general co-ordinator of the European Rally Championship, I look after the relationship between competitors, teams, and events. I make sure I drive every stage of every event before the start and that’s still one of my favourite parts of the job. It also makes sure that you really appreciate the challenges that the drivers will experience.”

What’s the most challenging aspect to the rally?

“In the Azores, the main thing is that there is very inconsistent grip, especially when it is wet. But it’s not rough gravel: it’s quite easy on the cars. It’s a real drivers’ event where you need a good, clean driving style. And it’s wet quite a lot of the time because the weather keeps on changing. Getting the tyre choice right is really hard, almost like Monte Carlo.”

What do you most closely associate with the rally?

“This event so often comes down to a fight to the end. It’s almost impossible to predict a result: in 2010 for example it all went down to the final stage, with any one of three drivers capable of winning the rally. And that for me is the really strong thing about the European Rally Championship: at the start of each rally you can have so many drivers in contention for victory, which you don’t always get elsewhere.”

What else do you enjoy about the Azores?

“I love eating fish – maybe it’s because I come from Marseille, in the south of France – and there are some fantastic fish restaurants in the Azores. Or if you wanted to try something really local, you could always start off with some mashed red peppers and cheese. It sounds unusual, but it’s really good…”