They said what? Drivers get ready for WTCC Race of China

They said what? Drivers get ready for WTCC Race of China
By FIA WTCC

22/09/2016 at 15:07

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Drivers Thed Björk, José María López, Norbert Michelisz, Yvan Muller and Hugo Valente were present at the pre-event press conference for FIA WTCC Race of China in Shanghai today. This is what they had to say.

wtcc-race-of-china-pre-event-press-conference-image

wtcc-race-of-china-pre-event-press-conference-imageFIA WTCC

Q:
Welcome to China Thed and for what is your second visit to Shanghai. How significant is this event for Volvo Polestar?

TB:
It’s great to be here. Like François said, this is a big event for Volvo and Geely. It feels like our home track so obviously it’s very important. We have some very important guests coming and hopefully it can be our best race of the year.

Q:
You have a new/old team-mate for this weekend. What does Fredrik Ekblom bring to the Volvo Polestar attack?

TB:
Fredrik is so motivated to come back after letting some races go to the other drivers. He’s really motivated and it will be good for the team to get him back and to see what he has been learning during testing. It feels like we’re back together again and together we’ll push to do the best we can. It feels also good to be back in Shanghai. It’s a track I know from before so I hope this will make a bit of difference for the result because we can get a good set-up but faster.

Q:
Thank you Thed and turning to Norbert Michelisz representing Honda in the WTCC. Thed was using the word motivated then and speaking of motivated, given what you achieved in Japan, how much of a boost was that result for you?

NM:
It’s nice to be back in China first of all. It was a huge boost. I was pressurising myself a little too much this year wanting to get a race win and finally I have one. Even though it’s been a few weeks I am still highly confident, I feel this extra confidence boost. I am really looking forward to this event here in Shanghai. We know it’s not the best circuit for us but we can be confident because we’ve had many race wins this season and the main focus is to win again after Japan.

Q:
And the Hondas will be 20 kilograms lighter here than they were in Japan. What does that mean for the potential result?

NM:
It’s not a lot different. We had 60 kilograms in Argentina and we’ve run a similar weight at previous events and we were competitive because in Argentina I was second in qualifying. In Budapest, Rob was closer to them [Citroën] than in any race. The only difference is now the other cars will be on zero kilos and the LADAs will be 50 kilos less. Suddenly it means it’s three more cars that can be ahead so you have to take care to maximise the potential you have in qualifying and to get ahead of all these three cars.

Q:
Thank you Norbi and we’ll turn next to a driver who, like you, is locked in a seven-way battle for second place in the championship. Welcome Yvan Muller but let’s start with the bombshell from just a few hours ago and the announcement that your glittering career in the WTCC would be ending at the end of the current season…

YM:
Absolutely. Good afternoon first of all. I just made a press release to announce I would stop with the WTCC at the end of the season. I still have two races to go so I will still be focused to finish second in the championship for Citroën.

Q:
No driver has been more successful than you, you’ve won more races, set more pole positions and fastest laps, led more laps and won more world titles – four in total – than any other driver. It’s a very difficult question but what have been some of your highlights during the last 11 years?

YM:
There were many highlights and I’ve won many races. But I would say the highest highlight was 2008 when I won my first title, that was a very special moment for sure.

Q:
And what’s next, will you be putting your feet up and enjoying your retirement or are you planning something to keep you busy?

YM:
I will be busy that’s for sure but at the moment I have no plan and I don’t want a plan. I just want to spend the winter to enjoy, to spend time with my family and just to go riding with my bicycle.

Q:
Thank you Yvan, it’s been an honour and a privilege to have watched you competing in the WTCC for so long. And turning next to your fellow Frenchman Hugo Valente, it’s zero success ballast for the factory LADAs in Shanghai. What can you achieve as a result of this?

HV:
First of all, hello everybody and congratulations to Pechito for his third title in Japan. I’ve just learned the news about Yvan and congratulations to you too Yvan for all your career and best of luck for the future. It’s the first time since early June we have been at zero kilos and it’s a big job for us. It will help with the performance for sure. We hope to have a car in Q3 and on the podium in both races. We have to maximise the performance and get the set-up and for sure it will be a big change to what we had in the past two or three races when we have been struggling with the weight. It’s very exciting to be here and we’re looking forward to this weekend. We’re confident we’ll get a good performance on this track, especially without the success ballast.

Q:
Now you became a father of course during the Japan weekend. We won’t ask you about the sleepless nights and nappy changes Hugo but instead about your plans for next year and what the possibilities are for you then?

HV:
Yes, as you mentioned I became a father two weeks ago now and thanks to LADA who have been really great with me. They let me arrive in Japan the latest possible and left as soon as possible and they allowed me to have a special schedule during that weekend. For next year I don’t know. We will see how the end of this season goes. So far it’s been a bit disappointing for me compared to the last two seasons. As I said we have zero kilos for this race and we should be able to make a better performance. From my side I hope to be with LADA again next year.

Q:
Thank you Hugo and finally let’s welcome the provisional FIA World Touring Car champion for 2016, José María López. Congratulations, obviously, for that achievement. What have the last few weeks been like for you? Have your feet touched the ground?

JML:
Hello everyone. For sure it’s provisional but for sure we know we’re not going to Thailand. But it’s been amazing. It’s something very difficult to achieve but I have been lucky to part of an amazing team with amazing team-mates. I’m really happy and I am now looking forward to this weekend. The season is not over, it doesn't mean I can relax. I still have to help the team to secure the Manufacturers’ championship, which is the main objective this weekend. Shanghai for us is very important as François said and it’s very important to do well. We are happy to be here.

Q:
You’re three wins away from equalling your 10-wins-in-one-season record. Is that the plan for this weekend – push flat out for victories or is there another objective – perhaps helping Yvan to second place in the championship?

JML:
When you start the season you never start the season trying to get another record of winning more races. For me it’s been a very, very exciting year. The main objective was to try to win the championship of course. Now the main thing is to get the constructors’ championship and – I don’t think he needs it – but if I could and I have the chance to help Yvan get second place in the championship I will do it. But we will see. The races are always different and you never know when you are in the situation when you can help your team-mate. But that’s the same for Yvan. He’s been very strong in every race. But let’s hope we have a good weekend and secure the main objective of winning the Manufacturers’ championship.

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