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GP Week : Issue 156
36 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: RALLY >>> INTERVIEW ideas and that is important but they do not want to adapt the rally to their ideas. I would like to see Mini still here next year, after all they have done to keep the homologation alive, I think they want to do something in the future. I don’t know if the future will be next year (2013) or the year after (2014. Other wise it is difficult to understand why they did all this work to keep the homologation and rearrange the team and things like that.” What is the ideal number of manufacturers in the championship? Of course, as many as possible! But a championship like you will have next year with three major manufacturers is good. Maybe if you can have five this would be ideal situation. But when you have a championship with three different manufacturers you are able to have some more stories it will be good. Where should manufacturers stand in the organisation of the sport? How do you think the manufacturers should work in the decision making process? The main decisions for the championship need to be shared between the manufacturers, the FIA and the organisers but everybody need to be on the same level of professionalism. That’s my idea. Manufacturers commit a lot of money and are working at the very high level and I think it has to be the same for everybody else involved in the championship. We as manufacturers make the cars and bring the drivers who make the show, so it is important that we are involved in what goes on. The championship is of no interest to us if the sport is going in another direction and the organising countries are not interested without the manufacturers involved. If that happens, it would be the end of the championship. The FIA boldly introduces many new concepts in rallying, but are they all good? Basically if the idea is to introduce novelties which provide stories – we are happy, so long as the ideas are reasonable ones. The FIA talk about adding endurance, but what do they mean by endurance? If endurance means 700 or 800km total stage distance, I don’t think it is a good idea. I think if you take Argentina as an example, we were happy with increased stage distance because it could be fitted into the same time frame. It was the normal format only that we did some more kilometres. We are in favour of a mixture of formats of events. To have the traditional rallies in Europe who are doing between 300-400km total stage distance with a format that we know, Thursday through to Sunday is fine. To have some rallies that are obviously a little bit different elsewhere and if we can have contact with more people, then why not? But for sure not 700 or 800km ... the cars are not made for this. Here in Greece “endurance” takes the form of stage distance of 170km between major service, then in New Zealand it’s 210km between major service. Do you like the idea of endurance in that way? For sure we never really liked the idea of remote service, but if it brings the rally to new people, makes some stories, helps explore new regions, I say why not. If the extra routes do not go to new people, why go there? That is my thought.” Night stages are sensible or not ? We are basically in favour of it, but the question is security. But night stages have to be well managed. There are two different situations, gravel and tarmac. We’ve seen night-time gravel stages create problems of dust, which is difficult to manage. But on tarmac it is no problem in the night, like we did in Monte Carlo.” And mixed surface stages? They do not bring extra interest. They create more problems than they solve. Are you happy with the running order selection system? Yes we are happy with the system that drivers can choose their position. I think it is a good system, but why on Rally GB must the selection be two days before the stages? There has been a rumour for some time that Citroen (the company) put pressure on the FIA to go back to this reverse seeding in order to make Loeb happy to stay in the team. Is that correct? It is the first time I’ve heard that! I have spoken about this with FIA – never has Sebastien spoke to me about this. Maybe it was before I came to the work. Anyway, we and Sebastien are very happy with the system we have now. It brings something also on the Thursday, some excitement and we are very happy with it. Sebastien Loeb. You are the boss of the greatest rally driver there has ever been in the world. What do you think of him? The most amazing thing is how he has kept his motivation since 2003, since I have known him, which was the first time he was involved for a full world championship. He still has the same motivation and the same passion. He is not a loser, always wants to win, still has motivation to work like he is doing in tests and before the events. He is a great professional and I think everybody knows it. He has all the different qualities that you can find in the drivers. Seb has it all. Do you think Citroen could ever have been successful in this level in rallying without him? For sure I think it would have been different for Citroen if Seb was not there. It is the story that Sebastien and Citroen grew together in the last years. Even last year when the new cars were coming he was still in front and the name of the company was still growing . That is why Sebastien is a real ambassador for the brand and will still be an ambassador for a long time.”