WTCC NA CHINA

 

POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

FIA WTCC Race of China, 13-15 October 2017
FIA World Touring Car Championship 2017: Rounds 13 and 14 of 20

Press Conference Room, Ningbo International Speedpark, 17h00, 14 October

Present:
Néstor Girolami, Polestar Cyan Racing, first position
Norbert Michelisz, Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, second position
Thed Björk, Polestar Cyan Racing, third position
Rob Huff, ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, WTCC Trophy first position
Alexander Murdzevski Schedvin, Team Volvo Polestar, WTCC MAC3 winner representative

Q:
Turning first to Néstor Girolami, your maiden DHL Pole Position Award in the WTCC makes you the 26th different driver to qualify on pole position in the FIA World Touring Car Championship, the sixth this season and the first Argentine since José María López qualified on pole here in China in September 2016. Congratulations on this fantastic achievement now please talk us through your lap and how you’re feeling right now?

NG:
First of all, I want to congratulate all of the team for the good job again. This has been a really, really tough year for me especially after we had a really bad weekend in Argentina at my local track. After that we were working so hard and we did a shakedown here in China and the team did a fantastic job and a lot of work has gone into this weekend. When I drove the car in the wet conditions in Free Practice 1 it was just fantastic. I just kept driving and tried to improve for myself. It was a really challenging weekend for all all of us because it was a new track in wet conditions but after Q2 I felt quite a bit nervous because the weather was changing quite a lot and it started to rain. I was P2 in Q2 and this meant I had to wait a little bit to do Q3. Then the rain stopped a little bit and we could do a fantastic and good lap for my first pole position. I am really happy and also for the team.

Q:
You won’t know this but when you crossed the line and took pole position the reaction from your team was incredible, so much support for you. What does that mean to you and what did you achieve over the summer to transform your fortunes?

NG:
Not only me, all the team did a good job, also Yvan [Muller].

TB:
And living in Sweden eating the food!

NG:
Yes, the Swedish meatballs! This shakedown was quite good and I didn’t feel any vibration so I was expecting this kind of result. Not pole position but something good. I knew this race would not be easy. We had 70 kilos and Rob Huff 50 kilos and it’s a very, very tight circuit, really narrow. For traction it’s not so good for us. But we improved a lot during the summer and it’s really nice to be in pole position at this track.

Q:
Turning next to your Team Principal, Alexander Murdzevski Schedvin, the representative of Polestar Cyan Racing, the winner of WTCC MAC3 for the sixth time this season. Talk us through the team performance Alexander please because again the Volvo Polestar team has been on top here?

AMS:
We have done this achievement before but I don’t think I’ve been as proud and happy as I am right now because we have the longest and widest car and this is a very difficult track. If anybody saw us at Morocco and Hungaroring we can sometimes struggle in the wet. More or less after being on top in the practice sessions and qualifying it’s a fantastic achievement. Extremely up and down during qualifying. Regardless of if we were in it or not I don’t think TV viewers have had this much suspense watching a qualifying session for a very long time so I’m really happy.

Q:
And a word on the man seated to your left because for a time this season his confidence seemed to be low and he just wasn’t getting the results we know he could achieve. What have you said to him over the summer and how have you given him this boost we saw today?

AMS:
When you are developing a car all the drivers are working very hard as a team. We knew Néstor had it in him and we knew when we came to the events in Asia he would have it in him. He’s had good times and bad times and we just had to suck it up. We had a really bad weekend in Argentina but not the results or the points so we we’ve just got to put our heads down and keep pushing and hopefully we can be ahead tomorrow.

Q:
Turning to Norbert Michelisz, the fastest Honda driver in qualifying. For a while it looked like it was going to be your third pole of the season. Talk us through qualifying and those difficult conditions?

NM:
To be honest it has been the most difficult weekend for me. The track is quite challenging and you saw these circumstances were quite challenging as well. We tried to improve the car because the free practice sessions were, for me, not ideal and I was not really happy with the car balance. I did qualifying using fresh tyres and everything started to go well. I had the confidence in Q3 but I knew it was all about not doing a mistake so maybe I could have attacked a bit more. But even finishing on the front row is good for the Main Race tomorrow and I hope Volvo will not be wider enough to stay in front after the start. But on a circuit like this a lot will depend on how we do the starts.

Q:
The result of qualifying is obviously good for your championship challenge and you’ve got a new team-mate for this weekend in Gabriele Tarquini. How do you think he has performed and how can he help you in tomorrow’s races?

NM:
He’s a rookie so it’s all about helping him! Everybody knows Gabriele. He was part of the family for a long time. He knows the car inside out. Maybe he wasn’t there for the last two years but he’s a guy who is always talking with the engineers, looking in to every small detail. And you see from the first moment he was there in terms of performance. If you look at the races tomorrow, he has the speed and experience to be there. I expect a podium finish, even a bit more.

Q:
Turning next to Thed Björk, you celebration when Néstor crossed the line was probably the most enthusiastic of all. Talk to us about Néstor’s rise this weekend and your own qualifying?

TB:
It feels really great. I was with the team in Marrakech last year and that was not nice. Everyone is working really hard putting a great car together like Néstor said. Just after FP1 we felt ‘yes, here we are’ and we could just keep going fast and find the small things we wanted. On a new circuit we have to learn but it was more about working on the details and that was really good. I’ve been six seconds off the pace a couple of times last year and this is completely different. But also to see Néstor take his first pole he really deserves it. He’s a super-fast guy and I’m really proud of him. He spends his time in Sweden, he really wants this result and now he’s got it. There’s a lot of relief and I really like working with him, he’s a really nice guy.

Q:
Turning next to Rob Huff, fastest in the WTCC Trophy. Now it’s a very busy weekend for you and we’ve calculated that it’s 10 times you will be in track between your WTCC and China Touring Car Championship commitments. How are you feeling right now after a bit of an up-and-down day: victory in the CTCC but perhaps not the outright pole you wanted in the WTCC?

RH:
It’s been a busy weekend and I probably feel a lot better than I should do to be honest. The conditions have definitely helped me this weekend. It’s not too hot and driving the cars in the wet is not too demanding at all. I feel great, good results in the CTCC earlier today. We probably missed out just a bit in qualifying for the WTCC, we’ve shown good pace all day but we just went slightly in the wrong direction when it mattered in qualifying. I’m first in WTCC Trophy and I’ve got two [overall] points in the bag. But I’m going to share the love with Volvo today – well done Néstor because if this guy didn’t have bad luck he’d have no luck at all. He’s had an awful season all through gremlins and bad luck and almost nothing to do with his own fault. So to turn it round and be on the pole position is very well deserved.

Q:
You probably know this track better than all the others based on the amount of laps you’ve covered so what do you think of the prospects for tomorrow’s races?

RH:
We did the China Touring Car Championship earlier, we started on pole, led, got a drive-through penalty but still won so I’m feeling confident. There are some overtaking places for sure. It’s a tricky track with very difficult conditions and it seems like conditions tomorrow will be even worse than they are today. We don’t want them too bad that we can’t race, we want to put a show on because we’re all fighting for a championship and we need these races. It’s going to be difficult but I don’t think I really have an advantage.

 

WTCC Nestor Girolami-JPG WTCC Norbert Michelisz Alexander Murdzevski Schedvin Nestor Giorlami and Thed Bjork-JPG WTCC Thed Bjork and Rob Huff-JPG
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