FIA European Rally Championship 2018: Round 3 of 8
EKO Acropolis Rally, 1-3 June
PRE-EVENT PRESS CONFERENCE
Alexey Lukyanuk, Russian Performance Motorsport
Grzegorz Grzyb, Rufa Sport
Q: Turning to Alexey Lukyanuk, winner of the first two rounds of the ERC in 2018. What’s your strategy going to be this week – push flat out for a third win or settle for some points?
AL: We should collect some good points here so definitely we should not take too many risks but we should fight for the victory.
Q: You missed this event last year and had a different co-driver in 2016 – how much of a disadvantage has that been during your preparations?
AL: Actually not because the stages are almost new for everyone and for us also. My pacenote system has slightly changed since the last year we were here so some corners, for example, on the qualifying was two years ‘6’ but now it’s like ‘4’ so we make new pacenotes, it’s like a new rally for us. But we have some of experience of how the stages can be so this should help us.
Q: What is the difference between a ‘6’ and a ‘4’ in your pacenotes?
AL: A ‘6’ is almost a hairpin and ‘4’ is a square corner so I see the road a bit different now. It’s like some evolution in pacenotes and the road reading. It’s the same for everyone, it takes time, but I think we’re doing a good job so far and it should be okay.
Q: Turning next to Grzegorz Grzyb and perhaps one of the busiest drivers in the ERC – we make this your third rally in as many weeks! Two events on asphalt and twice finishing second – it’s now back to gravel so what’s your target for this rally?
GG: I don’t know for sure. We drive so mauch as you say but the last rally we lose, we are second but when I finish this rally in second I will be very, very happy. But I know the competition is very stong with many, many good divers and good teams. Okay I don’t drive on gravel conditions. My last rally [on gravel] was last year in Greece. Now in Monday I do a short test and I must have competition with so good drivers. But for it’s a good possibility to drive here and it’s very good to drive with him [Lukyanuk].
Q: There’s a different team running your car – what’s the reason for the change, how has it affected you?
GG: As I say I don’t have many experience in gravel. Everythig is for me new. The team is new but I drive with Eurosol in two rallies last year and I know very good these guys. My engineers and everybody helps me. I have a good feeling and we try to drive very fast and a little bit clever and we see what happens.
Q: Turning next to Amittrajit Ghosh and a warm welcome to the ERC. For those who don’t know you so well can you tell us a bit about your career to date and your plan for this season?
AG: I’ve been rallying in India for about 10 years now. I started in single-seaters and I won the championship in India I took part in. But I started in rallying in 2007 because I always loved rally more and my parents used to rally as well. But we have been lucky because we have won a few championships along the way. It was always our aim to rally international. My team-mate back in India [Gaurav Gill] is an APRC champion and he now does WRC2 from Italy. We’ve always wanted to go internatonal as well and the ERC is always something I’ve looked at as a championship. I can learn a lot from it and that’s why I am here.
Q: It’s great to have you competing here but what has brought you to the ERC and to the Acropolis Rally?
AG: The main thing from what I have heard, from my team-mate who has done the Acropolis, is the roads are quite similar to some rallies we have in India, which is hot and rough. We also have some reference to what I have been learning and that’s why we choose the Acropolis.
Q: And from the recce what do you think of the stages here and the level of difficulty?
AG: It’s a difficult rally but you have to use your brains, especially in our [R2] car you can’t be attacking all of the time. But that’s exactly what we need to do on some rallies in India and I find what we have planned in India we can do here.
Q: Turning to another ERC rookie, Juuso Nordgren. We’ve read some comments from you praising the ERC’s level of promotion and competition. Now you are here, what do you think of this event following the recce?
JN: For sure it will be a tough competion because you have to find the golden line between pushing and managing the tyres and the car. So for sure experience is quite valuable here. This is only my sixth rally outside of Finland and getting the experience is the main target for us. But on the other hand we have good kilometres from Rally de Portugal and a good feeling so we should also be able to push if needed.
Q: From going around the service park there are a lot of drivers and co-drivers practicing tyre changes and from Portugal you’ve had some experience of that…
JN: Yeah, unfortunately, we had quite much practice for that in Portugal but I hope we don’t have to use that here.
Q: What are the chances of seeing you on other ERC events later in the year?
JN: I think it’s quite high. At the moment I can already say we drive in the Cyprus Rally but let’s see how the programme will be planned with ŠKODA. But for the moment I’m really happy for the programme for this year. I have a lot different surfaces and conditions and countries so it’s really valuable for getting experience.
Q: You’re only young but from doing the recce does the Acropolis Rally live up to what you thought it was going to be?
JN: Yes and no. I was expecting tough conditions but when you really saw them and drove through in a recce car it was some parts rougher than I expected. But it’s a really traditional and legendary event and that also brings a good atmosphere and it’s good to be here.
Q: Coming back to Alexey, how difficult is this rally for the cars on these rough roads?
AL: Actually the roads are not rough everywhere. We have some sections with stones, some rocks and stuff like that. But I would say 70 per cent of the rally is not that dangerous for the car so you can drive reasonably fast and enjoy it. We have really smooth and flat surface in places in the mountains. The top speed in some places will be really high. But of course managing the car… in places you don’t understand how you can drive because you see a rock placed on another rock and another one on top of it. It will move with each car and some big rocks like my head are in the road so you should drive with eyes wide open and expect the unexpected everywhere. In 2016 I remember we were passing one jump before a blind corner and we had an immediate puncture with no chance to avoid it. Sometimes it can happen, you cannot always be secure. Even if you drive slowly you can get a lot of troubles. Sometimes it’s a bout luck but we believe the force will be with us.