Cyprus Rally post-event press conference.

Posted: 7th November 2011 by admin in IRC
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The Cyprus Rally winning crew and Intercontinental Rally Challenge champions Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene, runner-up Jan Kopecký, third-placed Patrik Sandell, IRC Production Cup champion Toshi Arai and IRC 2WD Cup champion Jean-Michel Raoux attended the post-event press conference in Pafos this evening. A full transcript follows.Cyprus Rally post-event press conference

Question to Andreas Mikkelsen
Congratulations to all of you on what has been a tough and unpredictable 2 days of rallying. Andreas, if we can start with you. The 2011 IRC champion… And the youngest ever driver to take the IRC title. How does it feel?

AM: “It’s hard to describe with words. It’s been a long weekend. After Juho went off everything was possible. We had a fight with Thierry but when he had his problems things were a little bit easier for us. Then it was Nasser and Jan. In one way we got it go a little bit easy when the others had their problems, but especially on the last three stages I must say when we got the puncture I must say for sure Jan is going to take the title but then he also had a puncture. And the last two stages I heard so much noise, which I’d never heard before in the car. I was thinking of all the problems that we can have. It was two long stages and crossing that finish line on the last two stages was something special. I was crying like but when you have worked so hard for something for five years now after I quit my alpine skiing to try and be really good in rallying and to be on top here in the IRC. It was a very special moment for the whole team. We’ve been working really hard this year so I’m very happy it happened here.”

Question to Andreas Mikkeslen
It has been a tough rally. Juho had problems yesterday. Thierry went out… Nasser went out… did that boost your confidence?

AM: “When we had a little gap it’s always hard to keep the concentration level at 100 per cent. But we managed to do that in a good way. As I said crossing the finish line it was after three of the longest stages of my life. It was special.”

Question to Andreas Mikkelsen
You effectively dominated this event from the start. What would you say is the key to success in Cyprus?

AM: “Well it’s definitely possible to go faster than we have done but at the risk of breaking the car. We found a good balance between going fast and saving the car at the same time. That is the key to success here in Cyprus.”

Question to Andreas Mikkelsen
How did the mixed surface nature of the event affect your drive?

AM: “It was actually very, very fun. I really enjoyed it. To have Tarmac and gravel on the same stage and doing Tarmac on gravel tyres was fun. You can slide a little bit so I really enjoyed it.”

Question to Andreas Mikkelsen
What’s next for you and your career?

AM: “I don’t know, apart from a big dinner. Of course there will be some more IRC events next year but I don’t really know more than that.”

Question to Ola Fløene
Turning now to Ola, you must be over the moon. How are you feeling right now?

OF: “Me?! I’m okay. More or less the same as Andreas said. Passing the last flying finish was special although I didn’t realise what was going on. I had my timecard in my hand and I was so scared to do any mistake. Then on the podium when the Norwegian national anthem was playing I turned to Andreas and said ‘now I can feel it’. But still I haven’t realised what has happened. I need to get a little more time.”

Question to Ola Fløene
You were first on the road this morning. How did that impact your drive?

OF: “It was okay. I was a little bit worried that the gravel would be a little bit loose but Nasser was going behind us so it would be quite equal. We sent a lot of friends into the forest to take some splits into the car. They tried to send some SMS but they couldn’t because the telephone connection was not good up there. But we had a small idea what was going on. Especially after the regroup when we were starting at number 10 and Nasser was in front of us that was a very big help to us.”

Question to Jan Kopecký
Turning to Jan. Second place in what has been a tough rally. Obviously you must be disappointed not to have won the title, but are you otherwise satisfied with your performance here?

JK: “I have to say this rally was nice first time for us. It was quite tricky for us because in our country we don’t have gravel roads and only three gravel rallies this year so it’s not so much. To compete against these boys who grew up on gravel it’s always very difficult. Okay we tried to do our best, we made no mistake and only one puncture because a big rock was lying in the line. Okay, we are disappointed but I have to say during the whole year we did a great job so thanks a lot to ŠKODA. We didn’t score enough points so finally we are second and that’s it.”

Question to Jan Kopecký
The event got underway with a Super Special Stage that fans and competitors seemed to enjoy. How important do you think it is to have ‘showcase’ events like this in modern rallying?

JK: “I have to say it’s very nice because if you see so many spectators it’s really nice. We have the same on Barum Rally where there was even more spectators. It’s really great fun.”

Question to Jan Kopecký
How did you find the mixed surface aspects of the event?

JK: “It’s nice because you need to think how to drive because the rhythm is changing and the grip is changing all the time. There are a few places when you need to be more careful not to destroy the tyres completely. It’s nice.”

Question to Patrik Sandell
Patrik, the final place on the podium… how hard has it been to get there this week?

PS: “It’s been a really tough season for us so ending up on the podium at the end I’m really happy with that. It was a great feeling for me to cross the finish line. But I was more hoping when I was there that Andreas would get there as well. I was really happy for him.”

Question to Patrik Sandell
Skoda has proven the dominant car on this event. Why do you think this is?

PS: “They have good cars, strong cars and especially here in Cyprus you need to have a strong car. Also you need to avoid some big rocks but overall it’s a good car.”

Question to Toshi Arai
Toshi, you have become the first driver to win the IRC Production Cup title. How does it feel?

TA: “I’m very pleased because we have new R4 category car and also a new tyre. In the first season the tyre is getting better and better and I am very pleased.”

Question to Toshi Arai
You have spent much of the season developing your R4 Subaru Impreza. How satisfied are you with the progress you have made?

TA: “There is still more development to come. There is still quite a big gap compared to the S2000 car but I have to find a good solution.”

Question to Toshi Arai
You’ve got lots of experience of international rallying – how does the level of competition in the IRC compare?

TA: “The IRC is good competition. Everybody is so fast, you have a good fight with the good young drivers. It’s very good for the future.”

Question to Jean-Michel Raoux
Jean-Michel, what a close finish between you and Stefano Albertini, winning the title by one point. What does this mean to you?

JMR: “For me it’s incredible. In Scotland the dream dropped off and we think it’s not possible to win with Albertini. In Sanremo he knows very well the road too and it was very difficult for me for the first time. When we came here in Cyprus we wanted absolutely to win. On the Super Special Stage in the town we took first place and we keep it for the whole rally. It was very nice for us.”

Question to Jean-Michel Raoux
After two difficult rallies in Sanremo and Scotland, how confident were you that you could win the title?

JMR: “In Sanremo it was not possible to win. In Scotland we wanted to take a lot of points and I drive very safely but we did not get the reward.”

Question to Jean-Michel Raoux
It’s been a tough rally for the four-wheel-drive cars. How hard was it for the two-wheel-drive cars?

JMR: “The two-wheel-drive car is very particular on this type of gravel in Cyprus. It was very, very hard for the car. With a little car the stones and everything is very difficult to find a way.”

Question to Jean-Michel Raoux
What’s the plan for next year – will you come back to defend your title?

JMR: “We don’t know for next year but I hope to be in IRC and why not with a more big car.”

Question to Andreas Mikkelsen
Turning back to Andreas, tomorrow is another day and another rally… the Golden Stage. You won last year’s inaugural event… You won here today… You must be feeling confident?

AM: “I’m not sure if we’re doing it tomorrow to be honest. This year the whole team has been working really hard, especially the mechanics. For them now to try to get the car ready for tomorrow and work six hours is too much to ask. I think now we should enjoy our win, have a good dinner and basically celebrate our victory and not take part tomorrow. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Question to Jan Kopecký
What are your thoughts about tomorrow’s Golden Stage?

JK: “It’s a very nice stage, there are some tricky parts but it’s one of the best stages.”

Question to Patrik Sandell
Patrik, any idea what you’ll spend the prize money on?

PS: “I will put the money on Patrik Sandell.”

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