READ the transcript of the official FIA pre-event media conference held before the start of Guanajuato Rally Mexico in Mexico City. Attending were WRC Priority 1 drivers Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota), Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport), Dani Sordo (Hyundai) and Kris Meeke (Citroën). Representing WRC2 were Benito Guerra (Motorsport Italia) and Eric Camilli (M-Sport).

Q:
Jari-Matti, you lead the championship as we head into Rally Mexico after a great win in Sweden. Did you expect the season to have gone so well for you so far?

J-ML:
It’s nice to be leading the championship. We were also leading at this stage in 2014 when we came to Mexico and we were first on the road.  Sébastien [Ogier] won and we were second. Now we have new cars and it will be exciting on the gravel and interesting to see the performance level of the cars.

Q:
Have you tested the Yaris at altitude to mimic the effects this rally has? How well did the testing go?
J-ML:
To abide by the regulations, we tested in Spain, in southern Spain, and were able to find places up to 2000 metres. But, at this time of year, you have different temperatures in Europe. Saying that, I am happy with the car.

Q:
What can you hope for here? Is a win possible with your road position?
J-ML:
Initially, there is a lot of endurance. There are new sections, some are very twisty and challenging and there are some very nice parts and some narrow sections as well. For the championship, getting the points is important. We went to Monte and wanted a top six finish and were second and, in Sweden, I did not expect to win. Thierry Neuville was the fastest, but things changed. I must say it was a very unique situation in Sweden. It was a really nice feeling. Now we have a new rally and I must concentrate. I am happy with the way the team is working.

Q:
Seb, with two rallies already completed with the M-Sport team and more testing had, do you feel you have fully adapted to the Fiesta WRC now?
SO:
I think we had a challenge at the start of the season with the new car and the new team and now we are second in the championship behind Jari. I actually prefer to be behind, at least for the first day. I still need some time to get the maximum from the Fiesta. Saying that, we have still been two times on the podium and we know it’s going to be a hard challenge this weekend. To win, first you have to be at the end on this one. We see what we can do.

Q:
Mexico offers a unique challenge to the drivers, the combination of altitude and heat. Is there a certain strategy you have for this event?
SO:
If you want to win rallies, you need to be consistent and not make a mistake. You do not have time to think what to do, you just push. I think to win is difficult with me and Jari at the front. It will be difficult to match the speed of the guys behind. We will see. We see what we can do when we start with the long stage. It is not easy to start with a good rhythm.

Q:
What are your thoughts about the event starting in the middle of Mexico City?
SO:
I am sure there are a lot of positives to see so many people. Mexico City will be great tonight. There is proof of that in the last years at any motor sport event – look at Formula One as an example. There will be a great atmosphere and it will be unique. But it is a very long day and a lot logistically to come here. We are all interested to see what happens.

Q:
Dani, you have competed at many Rally Mexico events over the years, and you have seen it evolve. How much do you enjoy the event and the atmosphere it brings?
DS:
It’s nice to be in Mexico. The roads are very nice and we are always made to feel very welcome on the stages. The first passes through stages and the road will clean a lot. The roads are tricky and really narrow in places this year.

Q:
Do you feel the i20 will do well here at altitude? What has been the feedback from the altitude test sessions?
DS:
I think it will be the same for everyone. Of course, we will see now. For me, it is okay in this car.

Q:
Kris, it’s been a difficult start to the season for you, will we see fortunes change here in Mexico?
KM:
I hope so. Mexico is a relatively new event for me. I have only done the event two times. I have to concentrate and I guess the speed will come with the road position. I am just trying to get a clean weekend and see what happens.

Q:
What was the feeling like at shakedown yesterday? Do you think that you have the chance to be fighting back at the sharp end again?
KM:
It is difficult to know. I don’t read too much into it. The roads on the stages are similar, but I set my shakedown times early and yesterday it was a bit humid. It will be a difficult rally, hot and slippery. We need to cope with the conditions.

Q:
Rally Mexico offers many challenges aside from the altitude, what do you feel the most difficult aspects of the event are?
KM:
The stages are deceptively tricky. There are lots of hidden bridge parapets and stones. It is narrow at times and fast in places. At altitude, obviously the engine power affects everyone. This rally is a big test for the engineer on the cars.  Everything needs to be perfect. We have to try and manage our pace.

FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present: Benito Guerra (Motorsport Italia), Eric Camilli (M-Sport)

Q:
Benito, great to see you back in WRC 2 and, of course, at your home event. How are you feeling?
BG:
Thanks, it’s fantastic we are in Mexico City. I am so happy to be here and on the first time to race here in the WRC. We have F1 in Mexico City and the World Endurance Championship, Formula E and now WRC. These are four of the most important events in motor sport.  I want to start as soon as possible.

Q:
We have some strong drivers within WRC 2 here, how do you rate your chances?
BG:
I started my physical training a few months ago and we had a test for the first time, but the car was damaged, so we had a test this Monday. I feel confident with this car and am looking forward to the rally. There is strong competition here, with Eric [Camilli] and the other WRC 2 drivers. It is sure to be a strong competition. I am quite happy. I think it’s going to be a good championship for me. I need to be on a good pace.  Eric was fast on the shakedown, but it was a good shakedown for me as well. It was my first time in the R5 car. I have a lot to learn.

Q:
This may not be a one-off appearance – there is more to come from you this year?
BG:
We are very close to signing a major deal. I hope to be here this year and maybe doing several more events.

Q:
Eric, you have made the switch from the WRC to WRC 2 this year. Tell us about that?
EC:
It’s good for me to come back, so I try to learn. I must remember that I am only in Mexico for the second time. We will see what happens.

Q:
The Mexican gravel stages take place at altitude. What are your thoughts on that?
EC:
Mexico is the first gravel rally of the season and I know we need to be careful. I want to be fast, but I also want to preserve the car.

Q:
Do you think you can win here this weekend?
EC:
Of course, I will try to win WRC 2 in this race. I really like gravel rallies. So, okay, for tonight it should be special. We will have a bit of a show and we expect many spectators.

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