Media Centre, Slovakia Ring, 13h00, Saturday 14 July
Pepe Oriola, Team OSCARO by Campos Racing, first position
Jean-Karl Vernay, Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team, second position
Gabriele Tarquini, BRC Racing Team, third position
Mato Homola, DG Sport Compétition, leading local driver
Pepe, congratulations on your first victory and on becoming winner number 10 in WTCR OSCARO. Just talk us through the race, which looked to be fantastically exciting.
Yes, I had a good start. It was hot into the first corner, but Jean-Karl and I have known each other a long time and have raced together for two years. I was confident he would not touch me, but you never know! After that I just tried to follow Comte. I thought he would be quicker, but I could attack after the first lap after some mistakes he made. And then in the lead I tried not to make any mistakes, which at this track is difficult because the braking points are really hard to pick up. Then we had the safety car and the restart. I knew it would be really important because the only place Jean-Karl would be able to overtake me was the first sector and if he would keep close to me on the restart I knew I would really suffer after Turn 2. So I did my best to open up as much of a gap as I could before the last corner, and it worked. I am really happy for the team and for Cupra. It’s a good happy birthday for me too which was on Monday, so I’m really happy with that.
You’ve spoke before about being in one of the older cars in the series, but you’ve shown the pace of the Cupra this weekend. What can you put that down to?
Well, you know my contract was signed just three or four weeks before the start of the season when all the rest of the teams were doing testing in the winter. We know that Audi had development tests, Hyundai almost two years of testing, the guys from Honda were testing and I was at home still waiting to sign my contract. So step by step we are getting there, finding new things on the tyres, on the springs, on everywhere. Also the competition is helping as well. All these things together are making good points and now the points I got when I was really slow in the first three races, when I benefited from luck and got some good points, now those points are really helpful for the fight for the championship which is my main goal for the year.
Jean-Karl, your consistency continues in WTCR OSCARO with more points and a very good race as well.
Yes, I had a great start. I was close to overtaking Pepe but it was kind of risky so I stayed behind. On the second lap I overtook Comte on the outside which I think was a pretty good move. I’m really happy about the race, the car was really consistent, the team worked very hard last night to make some changes for a consistent car with all the weight we have and it worked. We just used the positive points of the car. I knew I was not making any mistakes in sector 2 and it would have been difficult for Gabriele to overtake me. That was the key: no mistakes. I’m really happy and really proud of all my guys, the sponsors and Audi of course. We are doing the best work of the others and this is something we can be really proud of. We have good qualifying to do and a good Race 2 and 3 before taking some holidays!
Gabriele, you had a very good qualifying yesterday, but not the victory today. What happened?
The start wasn’t really, really good, I was close to stopping the engine. I’m very lucky to have lost only five positions I think, I recovered one at the first corner with I think Ehrlacher. I was able to overtake Comte in the initial few laps and I was quite far away from the two guys in front of me, and before the safety car I was quite sure that just to finish the race without any risks. The safety car gave me another chance, I closed the gap and I was pushing very hard to stay just behind the two guys in front of me, but I didn’t have any possibility to overtake Jean-Karl because he drove very well, no mistakes, so it was quite tricky and too risky. No chance.
Mato, not the high of the victory last time out, but a good result in front of your home fans. Would you agree?
No. I had a good start. In Turn 3 [someone] ran into me and for the whole race my car was understeering like hell, all the time. The car was not so good as in qualifying and the other car in our team was behaving really differently, so we were struggling a lot. We need to find something to change on the car in order to be faster because it was really bad in this race.
Questions from the floor:
Q (Medhi Casaurang-Vergez, AUTOhebdo, France):
You have been driving this car in TCR for many years. Is it a big advantage to know this car by heart?
I think to know the car is about the miles you have done As I told you before, I’m one of the guys who did less testing before the start of the season. I know the car, but I don’t know the tyres and that is the most important thing in this series because you have to do your maximum on just one lap to qualify at the front because we are all really close. If you don’t qualify at the front you can forget about the weekend. I know the car really well, but I don’t know most of the tracks before getting to each. This is the first one I know and Zandvoort. I know the car, but I don’t the tyres and the tracks – so it’s fifty-fifty, let’s say.
Q (Damian Meaden, Touringcars.net, United Kingdom):
Question for Gabriele: how important was it to recover after that poor start, especially as you have closed the championship right up again with Yvan Muller.
It was a good chance for me because I was the only Hyundai in the first positions on the grid. I didn’t think about the championship. I want to start as good as I can and win the race, but unfortunately my start wasn’t really good. After I tried to stay away from the trouble. As I approached the first corner I was the slowest car and normally the faster car comes from behind and it’s normal that you can be in an accident quite easily. Fortunately, it was not [the case]. I tried not to stay inside, to go outside to avoid problems and afterwards I didn’t get any possibility to gain positions, except the Comte position because in the race out of the car four he was the slowest car, so we could build a gap to the PEUGEOT.
Q (Vladimir Anastasovski, Brzkrug, Macedonia):
Jean-Karl, you have driven in TCR and TCR Europe. What are the benefits of that experience?
Of course, I am spending more time in the car so it’s good. It’s also a good possibility to improve the car, as we are not testing a lot. There are only positive points. It’s my 11th or 12th weekend of racing this year. It is starting to be long and I need a little break to stay really focused. But it’s only positive points and also another possibility to win another championship, which is something I like. The main positive thing is we are able to test more on the car.
Q (Vladimir Anastasovski, Brzkrug, Macedonia):
Is it important to test or race?
It depends. I think I have enough experience that I don’t have to race as much as I can. I would prefer to test more because we are quite, I won’t say far away compared to the other cars, but we have to work and understand more. That would be even better if we had more testing than racing. I’m really happy to be a part of a close championship which is good for our sponsors, for Audi and try to give all I can every weekend and do a professional job to win as much as I can.
More on OSCARO: wtcr.oscaro.com