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GP Week : Issue 134
better, much more stable and we are now equal with the Skoda. The only thing that I needed was the confidence of the whole team, of myself and with the car on each rally to be able to beat them.” You spent a long time in your earlier years with Frenchman Nicolas Klinger as your co- driver, before you separated earlier this year and he went off to go rallying with Conrad Rautenbach in Africa. Did you learn many things from him? “Of course he had a lot of experience and he helped me. I think it was a good choice to start with him at the end of 2009 because he introduced me to a lot of people and he showed me how to work like a professional. “But then it went not so good. We had difficulty to work together because he lives more than 1000km far away. I decided after Monte Carlo this year to change the codriver and work with Nicolas Gilsoul, another Belgian. I think it was a good choice because we can work more closely together, and we see each other two or three times a week.” And of course you and the new Nicolas went on to win the famous Tour de Corse this year: “ Yes exactly. I think it was an incredible weekend for us. We couldn’t imagine we would on the pace of the top IRC drivers on this difficult type of rally, but from the start we were really fast, even though I did not feel I was pushing. “During the event things hotted up. We began to have pressure as Jan Kopecky was on the limit on the last day and I had to push really hard. In at the end we won and I was really happy.” The battles with the Skoda driver Jan Kopecky are becoming a feature of the season, culminating with the recent Mecsek Rally in Hungary, when Kopecky pipped Thierry to victory by just 0.8 second. Are you more happy on asphalt or do you like gravel? “I like gravel because it is good fun but I know that my pace is not as good as on asphalt, so I think for the future I need to make more gravel rallies, at least to learn.” Where do you think your career is going? How do you see the future? “For the moment I think I am going quite well in the IRC championship and I need to stay there to learn more about the way to win a rally. Maybe to finish first, we don’t need to be first on the first day; learn how to do a whole rally; don’t take all the cuts, avoid punctures. All this matters. “I always want to show my pace but now I think it is time to start to learn how to manage the rally and then maybe get a good start for the next year in the IRC and try to end up champion. For the moment I am happy that I have a lot of people around me who believe in me and they help me. It is always big pressure but I try to do my best.” Is it good to have come from a small country like Belgium? “Difficult to say, but even though it is quite small, I think Belgium is quite interesting because people love the rally, they want to support their driver, so I think for me it is an advantage.” Would you have so many opportunities if you were French? “Maybe, but I think from the commercial side, Belgium does not have the money of some other countries. Peugeot Belgium however manage good value with the money that they have. They make a lot of publicity for me, I try to do my best for them and for the moment everything is going well.” And the future – you want to drive a World Rally Car? “Yes of course. I think the dream for all drivers is to be in a World Rally Car, to be in the World Rally Championship, but it takes a long way to go there. For the moment I think IamonagoodwaybutIneedofcourse to continue like this, to win more rallies, to impress the people from the WRC. I feel that I ought to be there in two years..” WRC INSIGHT >> 43