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MUNDIAL - WTCR - MAIS NOTICIAS DE SEPANG

Sexta, 13 Dezembro 2019 17:37 | Actualizado em Sábado, 16 Outubro 2021 04:42

WTCR Malaysia pre-event press conference transcript


Mitchell Cheah, Jérémy Guarnoni, Norbert Michelisz and Hafizh Syahrin attended the pre-event press conference at WTCR Race of Malaysia. A transcript follows.

FIA WTCR Race of Malaysia
WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO 2019
Deciding rounds 28-30 of 30, Sepang International Circuit, 12-15 December

Press Conference Room, Sepang International Circuit, 12 December

In attendance:
Mitchell Cheah, Hyundai Team Engstler
Jérémy Guarnoni, Webike SRC Kawasaki France
Norbert Michelisz, BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse
Hafizh Syahrin, Hyundai Team Engstler

Q:
You’ve said you wanted to treat this weekend no different to any other weekend, now we are actually here though, do you still feel the same?

NM:
Quite strangely I managed to keep the strategy. I feel quite relaxed and, honestly, I don’t know where this is coming from. I remember two years ago I was before the season finale I was stressed and the championship was my first thought in the morning. But so far I don’t know…. the only thing I feel is confidence and calmness coming from inside.  To be honest my only goal is to focus on myself and to get the most out of myself.

Q:
But we’ve never seen you quite so calm and self-assured as we have done during the last few weeks…

NM:
Yeah, but it would be nice to control these things because I don’t know why this is happening. I am sure this is good for my performance, it’s good for the weekend. I am curious to see tomorrow, the last five minutes before qualifying starts, if I manage to keep the same mindset. Like I said, I really think positive, I feel positive, confident and I hope this lasts throughout the race weekend.

Q:
You touched on Qatar from 2017. What did you learn from that weekend that you’ve taken into this weekend?

NM:
It was a bit different because I had a very good shot at the world championship but I was the hunter going into the last weekend. I was some points behind but now it’s bit the opposite and I’m the one being hunted. And for me this has always helped and I’ve always liked to be in this position.

Q:
Interesting because most people would say the opposite?

NM:
Yeah because it has pros and cons. The pros side of course is you have a small margin in terms of points but then you are under more pressure because you are in the front, you are the one that can lose and fall back. The others, Esteban, Yvan and Thed, are the ones having the possibility to gain a position. But in the end, I don’t mind to have a bit of pressure because this always helped me to perform at my peak. Thinking back to my first races in Hungary they were a huge amount of pressure, the races in Japan up until two years ago. Somehow these were the weekends, that on average, I was scoring the most race wins, the most pole positions and I kind of have the same feeling here and I don’t mind to have the extra pressure.

Q:
Who do you think is your biggest threat?

NM:
It’s a very difficult question. If I look at the dynamics of the last three or four race weekends I see Lynk & Co and Yvan, especially, as a very big threat. And the same goes to Thed. He has the advantage of being a bit behind in the points but I know him quite well, he is capable of scoring 70-point race weekends like he did in Marrakech, for example. And the same goes to Yvan. He did an amazing Macau weekend, an amazing China weekend. And, of course, last but not least I probably know Esteban the most of the three contenders. He was my team-mate for the last three races of 2017, he’s an amazing driver. He has an amazing speed and he has an amazing instinct and overview about things that are happening on the track. And for me he has a very good all-round package with the car. Every driver has a bit of good and bad things beside him and, to be honest, it’s very difficult to point at either Esteban or Yvan. They have a very similar chance of getting the title and I think, in general, all the three of us have probably the same chance.

Q:
We’re double-heading this weekend at the Sepang International Circuit with the FIM Endurance World Championship. Jérémy Guarnoni, you are the current champion and that weekend in Suzuka was incredible because nobody knew what was going to happen and it really came down to those final laps, didn’t it?

JG:
Yes, yes, it was an incredible weekend. In every race the car or on two wheels, until the chequered flag is down many things can happen and that’s what happened in Suzuka because we were losing the title for only one position and finally Suzuki broke the engine maybe 10 or 15 minutes from the end. Emotionally I was happy, bad, happy… it was a hard weekend but with a happy end. But for me it’s strange because it’s the first the season that we have restarted now and we have a race in December. We have the title but in the same year we have to fight again but it’s only two months and for me it’s like we don’t have the title, we are the pretender.

Q:
How confident are you for this next season?

JG:
Yes, I feel confident because my team-mates and also the bike is working really good. The Bol D’or was also quite good but, unfortunately, we crashed on oil and many factory teams crashed so it started really bad. But to the end, to the last race in Suzuka, anything can happen so we have to stay calm and score the best points we can.

Q:
What’s it like for the guys from the EWC running as part of the same double-header with WTCR?

JG:
We make also a race in Slovakia and it was quite fun because I love also four wheels and think it’s a really good idea and also the championship where they do this four wheels and two so it’s amazing for the fans and also for us riders to see the four-wheel drivers.

Q:
So it didn’t cross your mind to do the same thing that Hafizh is doing this weekend?

JG:
I heard that in the paddock that he does both events and I thought ‘wow, this guy is crazy!’. But it’s cool, it’s cool.

Q:
So with Hafizh in mind, let’s hear from him as he prepares to drive for Hyundai Team Engstler. But first Hafizh, how did this come about?

HS:
For me, first of all, I didn’t make this decision to race on two and four wheels on the same weekend, I decided to take the opportunity to race the car and this I would like to thank SIC [Sepang International Circuit] to Mr Razlan for giving me this opportunity and I am very happy the first time I jumped into the car last Monday. I decided to race these two championships in the same weekend a few months ago before they announced the racing here. It will be tough for me but I like to do these crazy things in my life. Also, I like to try new things. To be better in your life you need to try new things in your life. I try four wheels, I never drive before but this is the first championship I will participate with these world champion drivers inside, seven or something like this. I will be nervous for sure but I will try to be ready and confident step by step.

Q:
You had a fantastic qualifying session this morning on the bikes. Obviously you have a lot of track knowledge on the bikes, but how much knowledge can you transfer over onto the two wheels?

HS:
I can say the bike is more faster than the car but the car coming to the braking is more faster than the bike because we are braking around 200 metres but the car brake around 100. The motorbike arrives at 290kph in the straights but we brake at 200 and reduce completely but the car is still going quickly when we need to brake. This makes me think if the car can stop or not, but I am very lucky to have Luka Engstler and also Mitchell [Cheah] to teach me to use the brake like you kick the ball or something like this. I managed to stop the car not on the gravel but on the track and I didn’t make any mistake at the moment so I am very happy. The corner is quite a similar a line but the car needs to be pushed a little bit because on the bike when you are sideways you can turn, but in the car if you are sideways and try to turn you go into the gravel. I will try to learn from the champions who are participating this weekend. For sure I saw some line and I will try to do it the same or at least similar. If I can be in the middle of the pack for the race then I will be happy to finish the race.

Q:
Turning to Mitchell Cheah, you won here earlier this season so you have fantastic experience around this circuit?

MC:
I have been driving around this circuit for five years but even though I know this track more than any other track I have ever driven before, but for me this is first time in the Hyundai and I am still trying to find better lines and ways to attack the corners that’s going make me faster. Even with that amount of track knowledge I am still finding ways to try to improve myself.

Q:
How difficult has it been adapting to this car because the first time you got into it was Monday night?

MC:
It was more like a culture shock for me when I first got into the car, just a lot more smoother and easier to drive. But at the same time it requires a lot of physical work on the body to get it right and master the car. I am still taking some time but hopefully I will see in Free Practice how far off I am compared to the full-season guys.

Q:
Luca Engstler said he was quietly confident in you because neither of you needed a track walk, you are just oozing confidence?

MC:
First of all, I have to thank the team, Team Engstler, for all the help they have given so far. They have done the perfect job to give us the best possible car to drive and give us more confident in the car instead of being worried. Hopefully everything will be good because so far it’s been quite positive after the wildcard test and we will see tomorrow after the qualifying and practice.

Q:
Earlier this year you raced against Gabriele Tarquini in an ADAC TCR Germany race. You might not know this but he said you were very much an up and coming star?

MC:
I raced with Tarquini back in June at the A1 Ring and for me that round was probably the best round I had in the TCR Germany series. I finished second overall which was my maiden podium in TCR Germany. It was a good race for me because the BoP helped the car I was driving before, the Volkswagen. It was good fun and a good experience to race alongside Tarquini. Before I raced I was quite nervous to race against him.

Q:
Speaking of Gabriele, if we could come back to Norbi finally, Yvan has Thed Björk as his secret weapon and Gabriele will most definitely be your secret weapon. At what point is he going to be deployed?

NM:
I don’t know. I honestly hope this is going to be a very clean race weekend. I have the feeling that all the title contenders if they extract the most out of themselves they don’t need any assistance from the outside. But, to be very honest with you, and I said this from the very first moment this season, I am really happy to have Gabriele as a team-mat because he is the person I learned form the most. Okay he has the most experience but he’s a very good guy in terms of giving you competition but always being transparent. I could always approach him from the first moment if I had any questions about the car, the lines, how to approach people. These kind of things help the driver to build the confidence. This weekend probably team-mates can play a big role but I still think that it’s more or less about myself and my performance in the qualifying and the races. In the end I rely more on team-mates in terms of sharing data and understanding where I can improve in terms of driving. I am sure if we meet each other on track, if I am behind Gabriele I don’t expect him to make life difficult for me. This is something very nice to expect from a driver like Gabriele.


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