ERC Jannerrallye post-event press conference

Robert Kubica/Maciej Szczepaniak, Vaclav Pech/Petr Uhel and Raimund Baumschlager attended the post-event press conference for round one of the FIA European Rally Championship. Question to Robert KubicaCongratulations Robert on a stunning victory on the opening round of the ERC. What does this result mean to you on what was effectively an extended test session?RK: “For sure it’s very nice to be here as a winner but our priority was a bit different. It was to get as much experience and information from this rally in order to prepare for Monte-Carlo. I did participate in some ERC events last year but somehow I was a bit unlucky with too many mistakes. But practically I always used the ERC rallies as training for me and it was a bit the same here. Okay, this weekend we were a bit more lucky because in the end in such difficult conditions everybody had a few moments on the stages. For sure it’s helping that there are often big fields so you can quite easily come back. For sure this weekend has been one of the toughest motorsport weekends of my career because I came here with a new car, a new co-driver into a new rally and completely new conditions – weather conditions, road conditions I never experienced. You can imagine when you get already one new thing it’s difficult. When you put them together it has been a very tough two days.”

Question to Robert KubicaCan you explain your tyre choice for the final stage and talk us through your drive on the stage?RK: “I have no experience to be honest. I did see a few things yesterday and today on the stages. The only real tyre test we did was in France last week when it was raining, so similar conditions. But then I added here the Tarmac was more slippery, I was often aquaplaning in the loop before on slicks, we were driving in the night and there would be a lot of mud and my choice would be for snow tyres because we have no wet tyre. But we couldn’t use four tyres because we would be out of the tyre limit for the rally so we decided to put two stud tyres and two snow tyres and it worked out very well. But it hasn’t been an easy stage because there was a lot of fog and I clipped one of the wood sticks and one of the additional lights went out of the support cover and turned into my face. I knew there was fast section and I was trying to switch it off. But the first thing I started searching the button like it was the Citroën but then I realised I’m not any more in Citroën, I am in a Fiesta and then I don’t hear the last pacenotes from Maciej. I saw there was a field, after three times he repeated I hear it but it was too late and we had a big moment and I apologise because it was not nice. It shouldn’t happen but it’s better these things come out now than during the season. We will need to fix because when we are driving in the night I have the buttons on the steering wheel and I couldn’t see anything so we have to do some modifications to help with this. It has been a difficult stage but somehow after two kilometres I knew I had a big advantage so I was just hoping to bring the car to the finish. I was pretty confident the gap would be big enough and so it was the case.”

Question to Robert KubicaYour winning margin could have been even higher had it not been for your puncture on Saturday and the jumpstart penalty today. What actually happened on stage 12?RK: “As I say I used this rally as kind of a training. Of course I don’t puncture on purpose or do a jumpstart on purpose. I need to practice. To be honest the puncture of yesterday was very unlucky. I didn’t see anything, just hear a click but very soft. Then I watched the onboard footage in the evening and you cannot see anything, there was no stone. Any cuts you have big stones and nothing happens but probably we just clipped something and cut the tyre. Today, okay, a jumpstart I was a bit annoying myself. Of course the car is completely different and the way the starting procedure is done is different. Every time I get to the start I was delaying the start. To be honest when you are an F1 driver you cannot delay the start because you will be dead. In rally it doesn’t matter half a second but in my mentality every bit counts especially as we were in the fight with Václav. I knew what I had to do and I did change but it worked out too well and I did a jumpstart by two-tenths and got a penalty.”

Question to Robert KubicaWe’re only five days in to the New Year and you’re already a winner. What can you achieve this season based on the experience you’ve gained this weekend?RK: “It’s always good. There was only one year in my career that I have not been on the podium in 2007 so starting by being on the podium and winning the rally is always nice but we have to keep our feet on the ground. This year will be a big challenge participating in the WRC with the top drivers and the new rallies coming. I have never been in Monte-Carlo apart from the recce in 2010 but I didn’t start the rally. I didn’t drive on snow so maybe Marcus [Grönholm, present] can give me some advice for Swedish Rally. It was a great opportunity to come here but it really will be a tough and long season. I am here to learn and use this opportunity as much as I can and hopefully the learning process one day will end up and I use my skills together with experience fundamental in rallying. You need time to learn and do the rallies and discover the stages. It takes a lot of time but I am motivated to work and then we will see.”

Question to Maciej SzczepaniakCongratulations Maciej. How good was Robert’s performance on this rally?MS: “The result says everything. First as Robert says there were different priorities for him, especially just to test for Monte. Okay the weather helped us because we had ice and snow, dry Tarmac and finally rain so we tried all the conditions. Of course if you are talking about a driver of this level the performance is always there. I can say nothing more.”Question to Maciej Szczepaniak

Robert said before the rally that he’s yet to finalise his co-driver for the rest of the season. How much do you want the job full time based on this result?RK: “I am a professional co-driver in the WRC for many years. To have the opportunity to do a full programme at that level is of course a big challenge but I realise I need to be able to deliver the highest performance possible. If I have a chance I will try to do it. The most important is to have the partnership that works and can bring results. Nationality is the second priority.”

Question to Václav PechCongratulations Václav on second place and top Czech championship points. But how disappointed are you not to have won having led starting the final stage? Did your tyre choice for the final stage make the difference?VP: “The problem on the last stage was not the tyre choice but I drove too much safely, that was the problem. Of course I am a little bit disappointed at the moment losing victory here but on the other hand I have a good set of points for the Czech championship and second place is not bad.”Looking back on the rally, what were the highlights for you?VP: “The whole rally was demanding and the stages quite hard. The rally was well organised from my point of view and at least four guys were fighting for first place, not only me but Kajto Kajetanowicz as well. Today was a good fight, we don’t give up because we want to catch first place of course. The conditions today were much easier and a bit better to read the lines on the road. We pushed to the maximum today and we had confidence and built a bit of an advantage thanks to the penalty Robert had and finally, unfortunately, we made a mistake with the tyre choice and some mental problems as well.”

Question to Petr UhelHow tough were the conditions on this event – can you describe some of the difficulties you encountered?PU: “It was a pretty demanding rally. The conditions were pretty tough and making the tyre choice for the different loops was difficult with studded tyres and slick tyres. We also had to change the pacenotes for the different tyres and conditions. But as Václav has already said today was a bit easier situation.”

Question to Petr UhelYou might not have won but this is a good way to start the defence of your Czech title. How confident are you of winning the championship?PU: “Of course we wanted to take maximum points for the Czech championship here and we managed to do that. We have a three-month gap before the next event and we will do the maximum preparation possible for the next rounds.”Question to Raimund Baumschlager

You led for a while but it wasn’t quite to be. What went wrong for you?RB: “It was a big surprise to finish stage number one second, just one second behind the stage winner. I felt very well because the tyres worked very well, the studs worked very well and the whole week was good. We made a very good tyre choice for the second loop, we were the only ones without studs so it was possible to take the lead. It was really good driving I guess for my age – I am 54 now! But everything went well. For sure today I tried to push really hard from the beginning but after three really big moments I recognised it was not possible to fight against these two boys and I start to slow down a little bit. We didn’t have the softest tyres we needed and this was not easy to handle but I was happy to be always on the road. Sometimes we had some big slides and I don’t know why. It was in the middle of the corner and the rear was gone but we managed this very well. But for me the very important point was the last stage, the Power Stage, because in the Austrian championship we get extra points. I kept four good tyres for this one and with a little bit of luck we took two points out, which is very important against Beppo Harrach, Andreas Aigner and all these guys.”Question to Raimund Baumschlager

Marcus Grönholm, who is working here as an expert TV commentator for Eurosport, admires you for still being quick aged 54. How long to plan to keep on going being quick?RB: “A minimum 10 years! A lot of youngsters in Austria tell me to stop driving but I say you should always be happy I am here and there is a level. You should try to beat me and not stop me. I still have fun and I am willing to risk and if people saw me and saw how foggy it was they knew I must be taking risks. I don’t know how long I will go on, it will depend on how long I have good eyes, this is very important. The health is the question because my sponsors will continue with me as long as I continue. They promised me this.”

Question to Raimund BaumschlagerWith mud, rain, snow and ice was this the most difficult Jännerrallye you’ve experienced?RB: “No, the Jännerrallye is always difficult. The most difficult was two years ago and also last year on the first day when we had narrow studded tyres then cut tyres and on the second day we had heavy rain and a lot of aquaplaning. This year was a bit difficult with more or less slicks. It’s always good to have a good competition, this is what I like. If you just drive against not so professional drivers then for sure you don’t have the fun and will not be better in the next season. You have to measure yourself against the best guys and have fun at the highest level and congratulations to Robert. Many people said he would not be here but I am pleased he is.”*Klaus Wicha was unable to attend for personal reasons