ERC ACROPOLIS RALLY POST-EVENT PRESS CONFERENCE

 

Media Centre, Service Park, Lamia, 16h50, Sunday 8 May 2016

 

Present:
Ralfs Sirmacis/Arturs Šimins, Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5, first place
Lambros Athanassoulas/Elias Panagiotounis, Lascaris Foundation Team Greece ŠKODA Fabia R5, second place
Jaromír Tarabus/Daniel Trunkát, T&T Czech National Team ŠKODA Fabia R5, third place

Q:    
Ralfs, 21 years old, there’s a lot firsts today: your first weekend in an R5 car, first time on the Acropolis Rally, and your first win. Two or three hours later, what does it feel like?

RS:
It feels nice! It’s really nice when you’re on your debut and you win the rally. I think this rally is one of the most difficult in the world so yeah, I’m really happy.

Q:
You said sat there on Friday afternoon that you were here to win, and that if you didn’t have didn’t have that dream or aim, what was the point. I remember the look on Lambros’ and Alexey Lukyanuk’s face when you said that. You have actually gone and done that. Everyone has to believe in themselves, but did you really, really think it was possible to win this rally?

RS:
Everything is possible! If you really want something then you need to go to this point.

Q:
The thing that amazed me for someone so young was how you managed the whole situation all weekend. You looked after the tyres yesterday, even when you had a puncture, even when you had a spin, you were so calm, so relaxed, and it was the more experienced people who were making mistakes. How did you manage to do that?

RS:
We have a great team, and the engineer took opportunities with the tyres. I think it’s a great idea because today we had 10 new tyres and we had good tyres on every stage.

Q:
Let’s move across the guy who’s guided you through it, Arturs. Obviously birthday, victory, does it get much better than that on a day like today?

AS:
I could say something but that’s not for the press conference! It’s really a great day, I’m having my birthday today and the best gift Ralfs can give me is the win in this ERC rally. No doubt about it that we came here to win. We knew that we’re less experienced than the other guys but I think after this rally we’re going to feel really confident on gravel and they’re going to take us seriously in the Azores.

Q:
Something I noticed all weekend was how calm you seemed to be. Ralfs was very calm but you seemed you be just managing the calmness in that car. Was there any tension or any stress at any time?

AS:
I’m the older one, I have to be more calm. If I’m going to stress out, he’s going to stress out and we’re going to do a mistake. We let our tensions go by dancing around or singing songs or stuff like that and that helps us, but today it was funny when I asked him before the last stage ‘are you stressed out’ and he answered ‘yes I am but not for the rally, because it’s your birthday today!’. So there’s a lot of tension inside but we’re good friends and there’s no problem fighting with them.

Q:
There was a lot of pressure earlier on in the event, Lukyanuk kept coming back no matter what you did. Were you worried about that threat from Lukyanuk?

AS:
Of course that worried, but as Ralfs said, our team had a really great strategy for the tyres, so we knew Lukyanuk only had seven new tyres for today because he had a puncture, and we knew that on the second loop we were going to be much faster than him. Unfortunately, we’re not happy about him damaging the car, we would feel better if it had been a good fight and we had won then.

Q:
We’ll move to the row behind and our second place, only just second place. It doesn’t get any closer apart from a dead heat. Lambros, 0.1 of a second and it was all really calm and collected until that final stage. Just talk us through what happened.

LA:
We started the final stage about 35 second difference between the two of us but as we were waiting for our time in the control, there was a delayed car, a Group N Mitsubishi that just passed and started at the same time as the ŠKODA Fabia of Raul Jeets. So immediately we knew that something was wrong with his car and he was already late, two or three, I don’t know how many minutes. So when we got to the start, we asked for a three-minute gap, we knew that in 35 kilometres, and we were going to push, it was possible to catch him with a two-minute gap, or catch his dust. So we asked for a three-minute gap. The organisers allowed us but then after 10 kilometres when we did the hairpin left and started on gravel again after the first part of Elatia, we just got up behind him. I could see him two or three corners after that, I couldn’t get any closer because the minute we were going a little bit fast, we couldn’t see anything, you will see from the onboard that the visibility was clearly zero. So we shouldn’t risk our rally, we said we’re going to settle for third. Just don’t translate what we said in Greek please on the onboard! Then suddenly after eight kilometres following him on his rhythm and slowly for us, he was on the left of the road, most probably just stopped with an engine problem or a car problem, he didn’t just stop to let us by, he just stopped because of his problem. Then I just started pushing a little bit more and I thought that it won’t be much but OK, let’s try, I will push like hell and see if we can make it. We come to the finish, we take our time and I just started crying, I was feeling angry and all the pressure, and I thought that we had lost it. Then the phone rings from my team and says ‘0.1, you are second guys, good job’. It was incredible and it was a strange feeling, all the emotions, but we are here and we are very happy for it.

Q:
It was incredible emotions. Second overall, you do have to come back in 2017 because I can see a bit of a rhythm going on here. Three, two… one?

LA:
If it’s like that we should start next year, just come at the end and get our first place. No, it’s not like that, it’s a really difficult rally. As you’ve seen, all of the guys had problems, we had problems also. We didn’t manage the tyres well, we made mistakes, I made mistakes. But this is rally. Yesterday we just backed off when we were not feeling good with the car. That was a wise decision because another mistake and we wouldn’t be here. So we backed off and finally this paid off. We are here and we are second. It’s really great.

Q:
Last year we only saw you once, which was the Acropolis Rally towards the end of last season. Are we going to see you again in the European Rally Championship? You knew that question was coming so don’t smile!

LA:
This is the same question from 2007 I think when I’m doing the Acropolis Rally. It’s only one rally per year, Acropolis Rally with all these tensions for everybody, asking to get good results without any practice, without any knowledge of the car. But I don’t know. All the years are passing by and we’re not having a full programme. I wish I could have a full programme, even though I’m 40 now, just for the fun of it. But OK, it’s great even to do one rally per year.

Q:
Elias, let’s talk about that final stage, particularly at the stop time. Your driver asked me to work out whether you’d done enough. I’m no good at maths, that’s your job. Did you work it out or were you kind of like ‘I’m not sure we’ve done this’?

EP:
Yes, after the Group N, Lambros said ‘fast, fast, fast’ and I’m afraid to go out of the stage, but when we finished the stage, Lambros crying because he wants the second, with me no problem because third is very good because the Acropolis Rally is a very big rally. But Pavlos the manager called us and said second and everything was OK. And Lambros stopped crying!

Q:
The Acropolis Rally is very famous, very big tradition, have you enjoyed this event this year, the move from Loutraki up into Lamia, have you enjoyed that?

EP:
Yes, a lot. But with Lambros, we only ran together 10 days before. The first time it’s sometimes difficult.

Q:
Jaromír, you were very gracious when I spoke to you there. You said at the stop line, whether you’re second or third, you are very happy with your podium on the famous Acropolis Rally.

JT:
Yeah, after the last stage we were really happy. Now we’re really happy because it’s one of the famous rallies. OK we enjoyed the whole weekend. Yesterday was better for us, we had good speed, we were really happy. This morning wasn’t good for us, we have not good feeling with my pacenotes. It’s fair because what was happening on the last stage because Lambros was really fast. We are happy.

Q:
Obviously on the Circuit of Ireland you slipped off the road on the final stage. You had some dust also in the final stage, were you thinking of the Circuit of Ireland, ‘I cannot make any mistake, I need to finish’?

JT:
Yeah we had dust too and at first we thought maybe it was Lambros’ problem. It’s not so easy to go fast and not make a mistake. Then it was a Mitsubishi and OK, we must still push, but OK, 0.1 seconds, I think this is fair. Really this is fair because our speed today was worse.

Q:
Daniel, a similar question about the pressure and the stress and how the Acropolis Rally, as we said it’s famous for being tough, challenging, rough, what is it like from the co-driver’s side? All those rocks, you can’t see them coming, at least the driver’s looking, your head’s down reading the pacenotes. How challenging is it for a co-driver?

DT:
It’s a big challenge. Now it’s fantastic to be here because Acropolis is one of the famous rallies in the world, and the pressure is big for drivers and co-drivers definitely, all the weekend. But on the other side, if you can see, it’s about a dream, definitely.

Q:
On the final stage, when you start to see the car with the dust, do you have to calm Jaromír down, or is he just quite calm anyway? Was there some pressure in there with the dust?

DT:
Definitely, it’s not easy, because we don’t see nothing and maybe for three or four kilometres. Fortunately the Mitsubishi I think saw us and we can go behind him and maybe four kilometres from the finish we had a little bit of a moment and I’m afraid about our result because in Ireland on the last stage we were out and it was my mistake, now it was very difficult for me. But now it’s OK and it will be a party, definitely.

Q:
I think there will be a big party with all six of you, but let’s just come back finally to our rally winner. Last year you were in ERC Junior and the move up to the ERC1 category, it just proves how strong the ERC Junior category is, that you can come from that, that experience you gained from that championship, to bring it into the big category and to win this rally.

RS:
Now we drive with the R5 in the ERC, the biggest competition class. I drive many years with front-wheel drive cars, it’s about three or four years, and only then I came to the ERC Junior Championship and you can see that I’m not the fastest in Junior, there was one driver faster than me. He’s now driving an R5 car but in WRC and I’m driving now in ERC. So yeah, before you start driving an R5 car you need to do one championship or maybe two championships in ERC Junior.

Q:
The talk is you’re going to do the gravel rallies in that car. The plan to do all of them and then you said maybe one Tarmac. With this victory and everyone else having mistakes and problems, if you do five or six rallies and go very well, you only need to do a couple more and maybe there is a championship challenge. What is the plan?

RS:
We will now drive the Azores Rallye and as planned drive the gravel rallies, but maybe if we can get some sponsors then we can drive some Tarmac rallies.

 

For high resolution photos click here

Ralfs Sirmacis is the big winner of the SEAJETS 2016 Acropolis Rally, one of the most demanding in the recent years. The 21-year-old Latvian is the youngest driver who has ever won in Greece and second youngest to have ever won an ERC event; he did not break that record for just about three months. In his first appearance in an R5 car, Sirmacis was fast throughout the whole Rally, scoring top times in cold blood; that is why this is a clearly fair result.

Second on the podium are local heroes Lambros Athanassoulas-Elias Panayiotounis and their Skoda Fabia R5, fact that thrilled the numerous Greek spectators in the Lamia National Trade Fair area, where the Service Park was set up. The Greek driver had a podium finish in last year’s Acropolis as well, so this time he finds himself one step higher. His strategy throughout the rally was wisely planned; the car was protected by the crew at all times, while keeping a steadily fast pace close to that of the leading crews. It was only in the last stage that they found themselves in risk of losing the 2nd place, when Peter Ranga, who entered the stage before Lambros, faced problems with his Mitsubishi Lancer. The Greek driver caught up with him 15 km before the end of the stage and was forced to drive in his dust for about 8 km, spending a critical amount of time, but not enough to throw him to the 3rd place; in the end, the Greeks prevailed over Tarabus-Trunkat for just 0.1 sec! Later in the evening, the Clerk of the Course deducted 32 sec from the time of SS12 for car Athanassoulas after detailed examination of visual evidence (video) and the electronic tracking data that proved that Ranga obstructed him for a long distance and permit him to overtake.

Back to the Czech driver, he did not manage to keep a pace as fast as Athanassoulas’ through the day; what he did manage was to climb on the podium, taking advantage of Alexey Lukyanuk’s troubles, and get valuable championship points. Lukyanuk was on top of the classification by the end of Day 1, but lost a lot of time in SS7, when he had a puncture. As if this was not bad enough, he also hurt his Fiesta’s suspension in SS9, fact that officially buried his hopes for a good result. Luck did not work in favour of the Russian driver; the turbo of his engine failed some time later during the day, and that is why reaching the finish line should be considered a success.

Kajetan Kajetanowicz was also unlucky during the SEAJETS 2016 Acropolis Rally, being obliged to carry the burden of the mistake he made in SS1, when he rolled. The defending Champion was faster than everybody else during both days, as he won 8 special stages; 5 out of 6 in Day 2, fact that earned him valuable championship points.

Consequently, Raul Jeets took his chance to climb to the 4th place of the final standings in his first Rally with a Skoda Fabia R5, marking the first “1-2-3-4” for the Czech firm in ERC with this car. Polish driver Wojciech Chuchala was finally 5th in his Subaru Impreza, winning the ERC2 category for the third time in three Rallies this year. In ERC3, Murat Bostanci triumphed in a Ford Fiesta R2 and he enthusiastically stated that he would like to participate again in the Acropolis Rally next year in a R5 car, so that he can claim victory overall!

From the organising point of view, the Acropolis Rally’s return to Central Greece was without doubt a success story. Many spectators came to watch the crews in the special stages which have helped this event build its world-class reputation in the past. The attendance of the spectators was huge in the Service Park area as well, where the prize giving ceremony was held. The presence of local administration representatives, who helped a great deal hosting this event, should be noted here, as well as that of representatives of the sponsors; especially the founder of SEAJETS, Mr Marios Iliopoulos, who awarded the top 3 crews with ferryboat ticket vouchers worth in total 600,000 euro.

This concludes the SEAJETS 2016 Acropolis Rally. Was it the best in the recent years? Maybe, until the next!

 

For high resolution pictures, click here

SERVICE FLASH

 

Date: 8 May
Day: 2        Flash No: 17
Service: E


1    KAJETANOWICZ Kajetan - BARAN Jaroslaw    FORD Fiesta R5
“We were in hell and now we are in heaven. We did it! I love this Rally because I love big fights. Even if you have problems, you always have to push and never give up. Even if there is a small chance you have to try. I am happy to be here and that we took some extra points for being fastest during Day 2”.

2    LUKYANUK Alexey - KAPUSTIN Roman    FORD Fiesta R5
“I feel like shit. In each and every gravel Rally we struggle with issues in the car and towards the end I made some mistakes, too. When we passed again this afternoon from the place that we broke the suspension this morning, I observed the spot and it was like many others. I am really disappointed because we had the potential to win. Maybe next time”.

3    TARABUS Jaromir - TRUNKAT Daniel        SKODA Fabia R5
“I feel really happy to finish on the podium of the Acropolis Rally. We didn’t have a good morning and the last stage we had that drama with Lambros, because we also drove blindfolded by dust for 2-3 km or so. We didn’t know our position but it would have been far from his, because he was better than us today. Still, I am very happy for the podium; this is my best result on gravel”.

6    JEETS Raul - TOOM Andrus        SKODA Fabia R5
“It is a superb feeling finishing this Rally, which is very hard. This is the most difficult Rally I have ever done. The car was super, we had no problems. We are happy because this is our best ERC result and we stayed close to the podium”.

8    KASPERCZYK Tomasz - SYTY Damian        FORD Fiesta R5
“It was a crazy and very hard weekend. We are happy and proud to finish this Rally. It was a big school for me, I learned a lot during the weekend. 7th place is a very good result; our next Rally will be in Azores”.

9    ATHANASSOULAS Lambros - ZAKCHEOS Nikolaos    SKODA Fabia R5
“This Rally gave us amazing feelings, especially in the last stage. Finally me did it and finished in the 2nd place. We wanted this result very much and we proved throughout the Rally that we are fast enough to accomplish that. In the last stage we were very upset, but we remained calm, pushed as much as we could and we managed to achieve our goal”.

10    KOLTUN Jaroslav - PLESKOT Ireneusz        FORD Fiesta R5
“In the last stage we had a puncture and had to change the tyre. I like the Rally, we had no problems apart from three punctures. Our next Rally will be in Azores”.

11    SIRMACIS Ralfs - SIMINS Arturs        SKODA Fabia R5
“I felt like the last special stage would never end. We are very happy. I have no words; to win a Rally at your debut in an R5 car is just an amazing feeling. We are very happy”.

16    TIBOR Erdi Junior - GYORGY Papp        MITSUBISHI Lancer EVO X
“The Rally is not easy. Two years ago we retired in the last stage. This year we got a puncture and had to change the tyre in the last stage once again. This cost us the second position in our category, but the main thing is that we finished the Rally on the podium”.

17    CHUCHALA Wojciech - DYMURSKI Daniel    SUBARU Impreza WRX STI
“Finishing the Rally was our aim and we managed it. I am very happy. This was our third win out of three Rallies in ERC2 this season; it has been more than perfect.”

19    JACQUET RIOS Jose Luis - VARGAS PEOA Hernan    MITSUBISHI Lancer EVO X
“Finishing second in our category in this Rally is a dream come true. The last stage was really hard and when we saw Ranga I felt very strange; it was not until then that I understood that this would be my best career result”.

20    BOSTANCI Murat - VATANSEVER Onur    FORD Fiesta R2
“We are really happy. We had a very hard week, because we had problems starting from the recce. I am really happy to be here, winning ERC3 category. This is a classic Acropolis Rally, where you have to be both fast and clever. We want to continue like this; our next Rally will be Ypres”.

22    BESSENYEY Zoltan - BERENDI David        RENAULT Clio RS
“Today was much harder than yesterday. The gap between Bostanci and us was too big and we had to protect our car. We are very happy, because we proved that we can drive fast on gravel Rallies. We are now first at the standings of our category and this is good for all of us: the team, the fans, the sponsors and, of course, David (Berendi)”.

23    FILIP Alexandru - IANCU Bogdan    RENAULT Clio RS
“I am very happy. We finished one of the roughest rallies in Europe. This was our first time in this car, so we were not very confident at the begging, but we tried to get used to it during the Rally. It was all about finishing. Our next event will be in Poland”.

STAGE FLASH


Date: 8 May
Day: 2        Flash No: 16
Special Stage 12: Elatia/Karya 2
Length: 33.86 km
Weather: Cloudy, 11o C
Road conditions: Smooth and rough gravel


1    KAJETANOWICZ Kajetan - BARAN Jaroslaw    FORD Fiesta R5
“It was really tough Rally for us. After the start we had a big problem. But we are here and gain some important points and I am happy for my team and the spectators. We have a big battle with Alexey and that’s good for everybody”.

2    LUKYANUK Alexey - KAPUSTIN Roman    FORD Fiesta R5
“Tough weekend for us. I was flat out now and there was no problem! Bad luck this weekend for us. Anyway, it was a good experience for us. We tried to push and achieved a lot”.

3    TARABUS Jaromir - TRUNKAT Daniel        SKODA Fabia R5
“We lost time in the 1st and 2nd section. We are very happy with podium; our first in Greece”.

6    JEETS Raul - TOOM Andrus        SKODA Fabia R5
“Good Rally, with new car. We made no mistakes. We are very happy to be here”.

8    KASPERCZYK Tomasz - SYTY Damian        FORD Fiesta R5
“This stage was crazy. I was braking all the time and my brakes are burning”.

9    ATHANASSOULAS Lambros - PANAGIOTOUNIS Elias    SKODA Fabia R5
“For 15 kilometers we had a car in front of us and we couldn’t pass and lost time”.

11    SIRMACIS Ralfs - SIMINS Arturs        SKODA Fabia R5
“I try to do my best. I am really happy. Dreams come true!”

17    CHUCHALA Wojciech - DYMURSKI Daniel    SUBARU Impreza WRX STI
“It was very tough weekend; the hardest rally. Acropolis Rally is very difficult. We had a lot of fun and it was a great Rally”.

COMMENTS
Ralfs Sirmacis is the winner of the SEAJETS 2016 Acropolis Rally. The 21 years old Latvian is the youngest winner in Acropolis’ history. Lambros Athanassoulas managed to finish 2nd ahead of Jaromir Tarabus, by just 0.1 sec! The Greek driver suffered for 8 km by the dust of Peter Ranga. Kajetan Kajetanowicz, managed to score another stage win.



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