Mikel Azcona, Yann Ehrlacher, Tiago Monteiro and Yvan Muller attended the press conference following Race 3 at WTCR Race of Portugal. A transcript follows.
FIA WTCR Race of Portugal
WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO 2019
Rounds 16, 17 and 18 of 30, Vila Real, 5-7 July
Media Centre, Circuito Internacional de Vila Real, 18h15, Sunday 7 July2019
Mike Azcona, PWR Racing, first position, Race 2
Tiago Monteiro, KCMG, first position, Race 3
Yvan Muller, Cyan Racing Lynk & Cosecond position, Race 3
Yann Erhlacher, Cyan Performance Lynk & Co, third position, Race 3
Mikel, your first WTCR race victory, what a fantastic achievement. Just explain how it felt to cross the line
Yes, my first win in a world championship. It’s an amazing feeling, I’ve never had this feeling. A good day for me, for the team, for CUPRA. I started the day very strong in qualifying, I did an amazing lap and during the race we improved the car. I was very confident with the track and with the car also. We did a good job through the weekend, step by step from from Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was a new track for me and a difficult one, and I won with my family, my people and my sponsors [here]. I am super-happy, I cannot believe this win.
Tiago, this has to be one of the proudest moments of your life. You have achieved so much just to get to this point. Just summarise your feelings right now.
Yes, first of all congrats to Mikel for his first win and congrats to these two guys here. Not only are they amazing friends, they are amazing drivers. A few years ago Yann was coming to the races when Yvan and I were team-mates when he was 10 or 12 years old, and now he is on the podium with us. It’s beautiful, really amazing. Another thing that I would like to say is how frustrating it must be for my team-mate Attila. He did a fantastic job in qualifying, a fantastic lap. I tried everything I could, I took all the risks, but he did a little bit better and he took the pole. Unfortunately, he had a mechanical failure, it’s so hard because it would have been his first win. I would have been happy of course with a second or a third here, but somebody is always protecting me here in Vila Real. I have so much support that you need this little star. He’s suffering, but he’ll have many opportunities, he’s a great talent and he’ll be very strong and hard to beat.
God knows how hard it was the last two years. Many doubts, many question marks: am I able to come back? Am I able to drive? Am I able to be back at a good level? And after the beginning of the season it’s been very hard. It started well in Marrakech, but since then it’s been very tough. But you know, in 22 years of racing I’ve been through low moments many times and this is what I love actually is to fight back. And to put it all together here, I mean it has very special, special meaning. Honda, KCMG, JAS, all the team has been working so hard and it’s been tough. Really, really tough. The effort today is from amazing team work and I’m really proud to have been a part of this family for seven years now. This is their victory as well. Of course the fans and the support here is unbelievable. The whole week, everywhere we go we we’re supported, not just me, I think every driver here. I am so lucky to have this opportunity to be here and have a race like this in my home country. I am really blessed, I can only thank everybody for this support. And a small note of course for the mechanic who passed away last night, which is a small nightmare so this victory is dedicated to him.
Yvan, a weekend of mixed emotions for you. Second place is an important result, but it pales into insignificance for what your team has been through. But Yvan, just explain your race day please and following Tiago home in that race.
Yeah, first of congratulations to Tiago, I’m very pleased about his comeback. We talk a lot together over the last two years and like he said, he didn’t know if he could come back and be capable to be fast. Today he showed that he can, unfortunately for us! It’s an emotional and special day for us. Firstly because I am on the podium today with Yann, which is the first time. He is my nephew and when I started racing he wasn’t even planned to be born and now he is on the podium with us. He will push us out soon, I think. But mainly because we lost our colleague and friend last night, one of our mechanics who passed away. I think the fact to be on the podium both of us, Yann and myself, it was the best answer of what happened. Last night at midnight we were still at the truck saying what do we do tomorrow, do we race or not? And finally the family of this young guy said ‘yes please, race and do a podium for him’. So I dedicate this to him.
And Yann, obviously an equally tough weekend for you and equally a very good performance from you in qualifying and the race today. Just explain what it means to you to be on the podium with these two gentlemen.
Of course, first of all congratulations to Tiago. He did a mega job and I’m really pleased to see him back on the top. I just told him when he won here in 2016 I was with the public watching the podium, so I’m really pleased to see him back. And as well, as Yvan has just said, really emotional for me family-wise because we share our first podium together in racing, so I’m really pleased to be able to live that kind of moment. We did a good weekend as a team, we did two podiums, good points for the championship, but the most important thing, as Yvan says as well, we lost a colleague, a friend yesterday evening. The team did a mega job and they are heroes because this guy give us a lot of power to do what we did today and the podiums from today are dedicated to Robert. This is really for him, and like Yvan my thoughts go to his family who are quite far away. Thanks to him and it is quite emotional.
Tiago, obviously having taken the lead from Attila, what was it like over those last few laps with the support from the crowd. It must have been an incredible feeling inside that car.
It was very tense and very emotional. It was very hard actually. Usually I’m OK until the last few corners, I don’t really think about it. But I have to say that this time with two laps to go I started to think about it. Is this going to happen? And you start to lose a bit of focus, you start to see all the flags, everybody standing up. I cannot look at that, I just focus on the road. But it was hard, especially because my team-mate retired with a mechanical failure. I had some issues in the beginning in the first two laps, so you never know what can happen. A lot of things go through your mind, but you just have to keep doing good work and see it to the end. But I have to say the last half lap was very, very emotional.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
João Carlos Costa (Eurosport Portugal): In Barcelona sometime you told me it was hard to leave the bed. Today you not only left the bed, you won. Tell us what is the feeling of that?
There’s not many people who know what we went through. Some close friends, all my doctors – actually most of them were here this weekend. It was physically, psychologically very hard, very llng, very insecure and unknown. So yes, many times you think why, why should I try this, it’s not going to work. But as I said on the podium I’ve been doing this for so long I want to fight, I want to try and I want to give everything until it is assured I can’t do it. So we gave it all, as I said, and I never gave up. I said that many times in the past in my career. We went through other hard moments in my career and we always come back. That is what we are made of. This is our passion, this is our life. I live for this. I question myself, for sure, a few times before coming back. But since I’m back, even though it’s been hard, I knew we were not far off and I knew I needed to get more rhythm and to know better this car, and work better with my team. I worked hard on myself to be a better driver, to come back a better driver. So never give up, this is really the main point and work hard. It might be difficult to come out of bed tomorrow morning.
António Rodrigues (Agência Lusa, Portugal): For all three, this is the last year of Vila Real’s contract. Do you wish for it to be renewed?
When you see the atmosphere that is here, of course we have to come back. It was quite amazing, amazing to see all the flags and the people were shouting during every lap. It was crazy and that is a fantastic atmosphere we don’t have very often. So there is no question we have to come back, but then there is also some things to improve, as there is always and it would be good to work on it.
For me it’s clear, we have to come back. If we could do a championship here it would be nice actually!
You want my opinion as well, because it is quite clear actually. When you see the country is behind its drivers, but also supporting all the other drivers and being united in an event like this, I mean we definitely have to come back next year.