IRC Cyprus post-event press conference
With Al-Attiyah, Feghali and Prokop
Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini, winners of the 12th and final round of the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the FxPro Cyprus Rally, joined runners-up Roger Feghali and Joseph Matar and third-placed crew Martin Prokop and Jan Tománek at the post-event press conference in Limassol yesterday evening.
Q: Nasser, if we can start off with you. You become the first Arab winner of an IRC event and it’s your first win on an IRC event. How does it feel?
A: “Yeah, I am really quite happy about the win. We did a good job this weekend. We had a few problems but you know the rally was very tough so I’m really quite happy and I’m looking forward to tomorrow which is really going to be quite an interesting day.”
Q: We’ll talk about tomorrow a bit later on because that’s an interesting point. Giovanni, if I can go over to you. On the first day of this rally of course, you were first on the road. Did that give you many problems?
A: “Yes, starting as the first car wasn’t easy because in these sort of conditions with mixed tarmac and gravel you don’t know what exactly is the perfect line and so sometimes we found some difficult places. But we knew this and we were ready for this. Today we were second and it was a little bit better, but yesterday we made a very good day if we don’t consider the problem with the puncture.”
Q: Thank you. Nasser, how about today… Giovanni spoke about your problems yesterday, but today you also had a lot of pressure from Martin and the others. The gaps were quite small.
A: “Yes actually we had a bad choice of tyres in the morning. It was the wrong decision, but after Martin had the problem in the long stage and it was difficult for us with the dust but the gap is coming very close between me and Roger, but we fixed everything on the last three laps and we have good tyres and we change a little bit the set up and it was a great run.”
Q: Thank you very much Nasser. We’ll talk to you again a bit later on, but let’s go over to Roger now. Congratulations Roger – a fantastic second place, particularly since you didn’t really know this car or this surface.
A: “Actually I know the surface because I did this rally in 2008 and 2009, but for sure this year it’s a little bit different because it’s mixed surface. It’s my second rally in this car and first on gravel so everything was new.”
Q: How did you react to these challenges? Was it a tricky rally for you this time?
A: “Yes, for sure. I was expecting it to be a bit tough but it was too tough yesterday! Tyres weren’t working very well and there were problems with set up. I’m so proud to have my small team working on the car and trying to fight against those big teams – big budget teams, if you can say. But we found it really difficult yesterday to set up the car and everything but today luckily we got 50 per cent of our problems behind us. We changed tyres and they gave good feeling and yes, it was a good day today.”
Q: Thank you very much. Let’s have a quick word with Joseph your co-driver. You had a problem for most of the rally – was it a bent suspension arm? How big was this problem?
A: “Yes it started back in the spectator stage [the Lemesos Super Special Stage] and we didn’t have a replacement part so we had to carry on and just hope that nothing would get worse. So we were stage by stage every time controlling the damage and hoping not to have a failure.”
Q: How much did this problem affect you? Was it a big worry?
A: “Technically yes because every time the car was jumping … the chassis was moving so the geometry was changing and it affects the car on the corners and it wasn’t so easy to handle the car.”
Q: Thank you. If we can go back to Roger. Roger, it is your first taste of the IRC. What do you think of this series and do you think you’ll be back in the future?
A: “Normally I’ve been following the series on Eurosport and live online and I’m so lucky and so happy to be on this event and being live on Eurosport and getting calls from my family was very nice… so for sure I have to be back again.”
Q: Roger, we definitely all look forward to seeing you back again. If we talk now to Martin. Martin, many congratulations. Are you happy to be third, or are you more disappointed not to be first?
A: “I think you cannot be happy with 3rd position after you are leading! It was a nice rally but I hoped to win – it was very close … We really needed to win because all season we were close to winning some rallies but we didn’t and it’s now one year since my last win so I need some new ones. I need some new inputs for that! I’m not so happy with this. Yeah, it’s nice that we are on the podium, but we fought quite hard for the victory so I’m not so happy.”
Q: Thank you. If we can move to Jan. Jan, when you’ve been running at the front and you have a problem like the one you experienced, how difficult is it to find the motivation to fight back?
A: “Well, you know, this event was good motivation!”
Q: If we go back to Martin. Now Martin this wasn’t your first experience in the IRC – you’ve already been at home in the Czech Republic. Two very different events – Cyprus and Czech Republic – how did they compare?
“Yeah, I cannot compare with the Czech Rally because it was my home rally … this was something new for me. I can compare with world championship… I try to compare because I have to choose the championship for next year so yeah, it was nice, but as I said for me for future it’s a problem and the factory team is starting in the championship and it’s a problem for a private driver like me to compete with a team … so this event was perfect because here was a private driver like Nasser … so it was nice to compete here in another championship. It can be good for the future. The level of this race was perfect so we enjoyed it overall.”
Q: Have you reached a decision Martin about what you will do next year? Have you got any ideas?
A: “I have to think a little more about this. For sure you know I’ll think about a few IRC events … if they are in Europe, it’s no problem for me.”
Q: Thank you very much indeed Martin and we hope of course that you will come. If we just hand back quickly to our event winner Nasser. Now Nasser, you know what you are doing tomorrow, as does everyone else. We’ll come to that in a moment. But you also have a chance to lift the Middle East title I think. You still have one rally to go this season.
A: “Yes we still have the Dubai race. We’ll try our best to win the race there. You know this year we did a few races in the Middle East – four races of seven – and I am happy to be second place again and everything is possible you know. It is quite difficult also – it is desert and we will have a good chance to try and win the race.”
Q: Do you think we will see you again in the IRC next year?
A: “Yes, absolutely. Because I compete in Argentina – I was really disappointed in Argentina, not with my team but it was a wrong decision we move to another team and it was completely a disaster for us, but I come back again to my old team and I’m quite happy now. I think for us next year we will do about four or five races in the IRC. I hope that we will also be here in Cyprus because really you know it is also close for us and we can also compete in IRC in Cyprus.”
Q: Thank you very much Nasser. Now, a question for all drivers, but I’ll come to you first Nasser. Tomorrow. A new day. A new competition. What do you think about the Golden Stage Rally?
A: “Yeah, you know I think it’s a good idea for the rally and for all the sponsors. It will be live on television. It’s really something special for everybody and I’m sure there will be a lot of spectators. I hope all the drivers stay on the road you know [laughs]!”
Q: Roger, it’s a new concept... what do you think about it?
A: “Years ago they did it in the WRC to give some extra points to drivers and now extra few thousands for the drivers so it’s good! Let’s see... it’s good for the spectators and we’ll see lots of people on the roads tomorrow I’m sure.”
Q: What do you think are your chances of going home 150,000 euros richer?
A: “It’s that much?! I mean, this thing will not affect our budget... we just paid a lot of money to be here to do the rally so it’s not about money, but it’s good.”
Q: Thank you Roger. Finally let’s ask Martin. Martin, so big event tomorrow... does that mean no party tonight?
A: “Ah yeah… it means we can’t make a big party. We can make a party, but not really a big one like usual! … We can see tomorrow if it was clever to make this fight because for us it’s very nice to fight for the money but you will see how the drivers will be changed totally – no respect… they won’t care about their lives, I think they will fight for the money! Everyone will drive differently so we’ll see, but I think we’ll see maximum speed tomorrow from all of us.
Q: So Martin, if you win... what will you spend the money on?
A: [Laughter]… “My team are very tired after a long season so I think I will make something to them. Take them to the mountains or something. They really need it. We will see.”
Q: Nasser, obviously this was very much a 50/50 split between asphalt and gravel. How was it to drive on asphalt on the gravel tyre and how did you decide which compound to use?”
A: “Nasser: Yes, it’s not easy but it’s really a lot of fun you know because with the gravel tyres you must be really careful on asphalt because the temperature goes very high very quick and you have to be careful always when we come to asphalt, but when we came to gravel we pushed. I think it’s a good idea you know because it’s less heavy to change tarmac specs and after to change to gravel specs. Last year Cyprus was one day tarmac and one day gravel. But you know, it’s fun.”