Gus, you won in Mexico, first rally with the new car, great pace, great result. How did you feel driving the Fabia RS Rally2 in Mexico?
It was obviously the perfect start to the year for all of us and I think the best thing about the weekend for me in the Fabia, was that when we wanted to go fast, we could pull away from everyone. And then when we had the gap, all we had to do was manage it. And I felt like I had such a strong package in the car itself that I didn't need to push very hard to keep the gap opening behind me. So, that's something I've not had in my career and it's purely down to a good combination of car and driving.
Your drive looked very calm on onboard footage. It was very clean and focused driving, with no big angles. Almost like a weekend drive.
And that's exactly what I was just talking about. I could go a lot faster during the rally, I was probably at 70 - 80% of my speed, but I didn't need to go any faster because in Mexico it's just about as much getting the car to the end because it's very rough. It's very easy to get a puncture; it's very easy to destroy the car so. I was driving as slow as I could to make sure the gap was still growing behind me, and that was the plan – going into the weekend that we would drive what was directly behind us and nothing else. We didn't have to worry about Oliver. Oliver was showing obviously some very good speed, but he was a long way back and we didn't need to worry about him, so we just focused on doing our job.
How about new Fabia. Do you like the car? How do you feel behind the wheel?
Straight away on the very first test we scored with Škoda Motorsport back in March I believe it was the first thing I said to the engineers, that the car is just very, very easy to drive. And it almost felt like I wasn't driving very fast because it felt so easy. But when we checked the data, the speed was there. It was just the fact that the guys have done such a good job in developing the car that it almost feels quite effortless. And that gave me a lot of confidence going forward into Mexico that even driving at what felt like a very relaxed level, we were still fast.
You are really experienced with Rally1 cars. If you compare the Fabia to them, how much difference is there? Did you have to change your driving style somehow?
Well obviously, the main difference is the lack of power; currently we're on 300 and then with Rally1 we were at 550, so 250 horsepower down. That's the main difference for me. It felt like things were coming at me a lot slower now, so it was easy to process what was going on, but aside from that the general driving style is the same. Obviously, you have to focus on the exit a little bit more because you get punished more if you make a mistake and you lose your momentum in a Fabia. But one of the keys of making a very strong Rally2 car is making it easy to drive so you don't make mistakes if you can minimize the number of mistakes and minimize the number of times you lose that momentum. Which is so key, and that's what Škoda in the Fabia RS Rally2 have really achieved.
This is your second test with the Škoda Motorsport, how did you find working with the team and the engineers?
Yeah. Obviously, the first thing was there's a lot of engineers, so there's a lot of people to talk to and a lot of people means a lot of eyes looking at your data. But generally, it's just a very, very focused day. The team has very clearly set goals that they want to achieve during the day. I'm just here to drive the car and give my feedback on the car. I think they're experienced enough to know how to develop a good car. So, I just take my time in the car, enjoy it, and drive at a comfortable speed, something that I can replicate throughout the day. And then give my feedback, but so far it's been very good working with them and not necessarily a serious atmosphere, yet a very focused atmosphere.
Do you think it's an advantage when you're working with the team which is focused on developing only the Rally2 car?
Well, obviously if you have all eyes focused on the same program then obviously you can focus more effort. I would say that´s just the way it is. If a brand wants to look at two cars from different categories, you need to be able to give the same amount of focus in as it was before if you put into a team with one car. But for sure the team is doing a great job with the amount of support that they're giving the program and it's clearly seen in the results that they're getting.
This season in the WRC2 category is very competitive. A lot of quick drivers is there. So, what is your goal for this season?
The goal is first and foremost to win as many events as possible. That was clear from the outset. We're not looking at a long journey through the championship this year. I'm only looking at the event by event. And I feel that that creates a greater focus and a better chance of creating the outcome of becoming the world champion at the end of the year. But also, this is by far the most competitive year in the WRC2 history. There´s huge competition from multiple drivers in Citroen and the Hyundai, Adrian in the Ford and we have multiple drivers in Škoda cars. So, the competition is very, very high. It's about minimizing mistakes and maximizing points this year. We've achieved that very well in Mexico it was probably more under control than I expected it to be. I thought perhaps it would be a bit tighter, but if I'm being honest, I think the season will get a lot, lot tighter as it goes on. I think that will be probably the kind of the most relaxed rally because now we go to rallies which drivers have done a lot of times. So, the gaps will become smaller, and mistakes will be paid for with a higher price.
If you're speaking about the following rallies, what is your favourite surface?
I was born on race on tarmac with karting. That was kind of where I came from, but in terms of what I enjoy more, than I would say gravel. There is a more pleasure to driving on gravel, you can manipulate the car to do more things, it looks cool and feels better.