The FIA World Rally Championship event winner is making his return to the European championship on Rally Hungary. This is what this Pirelli-equipped Topp-Cars Rally Team driver said ahead of last night’s opening superspecial.
What’s brought you back to the FIA European Rally Championship and also to Rally Hungary?
“Well obviously I’m very happy just to be competing again. It’s such a great feeling to enter rally. I’ve been doing a lot of testing this year but when Topp-Cars Rally Team contacted me and asked me if I wanted to do Rally Hungary. Obviously I was very happy and really happy to be back competing and I’m very glad we made it happen. We had a great test this week and the team feels really good, nice people and we’re ready to give it a go this weekend.”
You’ve done the recce so what do you think? A big challenge ahead or can it be enjoyable?
“It’s a huge challenge that lies ahead of us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Tarmac rally with this amount of mud and gravel on the stages. This is very particular for this rally. I remember doing a rally in Hungary almost 10 years ago now but it was in a different area in Pécs and this is very different type of nature, different types of stages. But it’s a good challenge and the same for everyone. We tested on completely dry but some weeks ago I tested for Ypres when we also had a lot of mud and gravel on the road so I think I should be confident driving in these sections. It’s really hard to know the grip levels and how hard you can push. Obviously when we did the recce it was some days before when we arrived and some of the places have dried up but to predict these kinds of surface change since the recce will be very difficult and I think day one will really tell the outcome of the rally.”
What’s your aim this weekend?
“My aim is very clear, I come here to try to win. I know the competition will be really tough and it’s a new rally for us, which adds to the difficulties of coming here. But I feel really good in the Škoda and I obviously have a long history with Škoda. Already on the test the car felt really, really nice, I felt comfortable and I was able to push straight away. If I can have this feeling during the rally then I will feel quite confident that I can fight at the top. If not I will be quite disappointed with myself. But we will give it a go and let’s see where we are.”
Which stage will be key to the rally?
“If there is a big gap to the front before the last day, Sunday, it’s really tough because the Sunday stages are a bit more easy. They’re really fast and it’s hard to make a big difference. I do believe Saturday’s stages will be crucial and staying away from punctures will also be important when you look last year how much happened. But stages two and three are pretty different because you have a lot of muddy sections, especially stage three because it’s quite a long stage as well. Stage four is new to everyone and there you can make a gap and do something different. Stage five I guess will be close between everyone so I will say stages two, three and four.”
Your old co-driver Ola Fløene is back in the car rather than Anders Jæger. Why?
“It’s like going 10 years back to the ERC and IRC, back with Ola and back with the Škoda. Anders is having a kid or his wife is having a kid, luckily, not him! So he wants to stay at home which is very understandable and I’m sure that will be a special feeling. I’m very happy to have Ola back on board. We know each other very well from before. We know our systems and already on the first test it was like we’d never been away from each other. Things are working well and I’m confident we can deliver a good result together.”