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GP Week : Issue 12
GPWEEK: Didier, you’re back … DIDIER AURIOL: I am nearly 50 years old, and it is strange to be back driving rally cars again! The problem is that you know that it isn’t going to be possible to fight with these young drivers. They have a lot of experience with these new cars, but you also know you are going to try your best. On the faster stretches, when you do not really exactly know how the car will react, you sense you are easing off a bit. But for me, it is nice to be back in an Italian team and also in an Italian car again, as well. I have very good memories of rallying in the old days with Italian teams. I am driving again in the Grifone team with whom I entered rallies in the nineties with Toyota. They are very good friends and some of the mechanics are people who used to work on my cars years ago. And in the service park I have seen a lot of senior mechanics that I remember when they were starting out in this work! What do you think about Super 2000? The normally aspirated Fiat Grande Punto that I am driving here is very different to the turbocharged cars that I have rallied before. I miss the power! When you do not have a reserve of power it does not feel so safe. I also really miss the torque that we used to have in turbocharged cars. I have to keep concentrating on doing the right gear shifting and keeping the car in high revs. To get the best out of these cars you have to drive very cleanly. It takes some adjustment. I keep wanting to drive in the same style as I used to do, and the problem for me is that I used to like driving a little bit sideways, which you could do with the extra power of the World Rally Cars. In these cars you have to brake nicely, not sideways, and that is not my natural style. The car itself is very nice, light to drive, and not so physical. When you get to the end of a stage, that’s that. You don’t need time physically to recover. Or, on second thoughts, maybe I am just not driving fast enough! Has the sport changed a lot in the last five years? The sport today is a different place to the one I was used to, you can tell that. Nowadays drivers have to bring sponsorship money with them, especially if they want to drive a WRC in the world championship, and I think that is not so nice for the spirit of rallying. Obviously young drivers have a greater chance to progress in S2000, because they do not need to bring quite so much money with them. There are a lot of very good drivers in S2000 who cannot manage to break into the WRC scene. What have you been doing in the last few years? A lot! Business-wise, I now have a hotel in Reunion and hope to open another back in France in my hometown Millau, which is now a very famous place because of the fantastic new bridge. For memories I still have my museum of rally cars. In sport I have the chance to do odd promotional rallies for fun. I have been rallying in places like Jamaica, and we have rallies coming in Madagascar and New Caledonia. I still have a Skoda Octavia World Rally Car which is use from time to time in French gravel championship events. I have also been helping the young driver Yoann Bonato in his career. Family wise, my son Robin is now 19 and has already become butterfly swimming champion in France. Is Robin going to follow in your footsteps? No, he is determined to become a fighter pilot. He has already learned to fly, and is studying hard to be able to join the Air Force. WRC INSIGHT >> 45