In preparation for joining the Stobart Ford World Rally Team on next week's Rally Bulgaria, P-G Andersson tested the Ford Focus RS WRC in France yesterday. He offered his thoughts ahead of his return to the World Rally Championship's top flight.
Q. What was the car like?
P-G Andersson: It was very, very good. We were on a fast road for maybe three or four hours and we did around 170 kilometers [105 miles] which was really useful. We took the base setup from Jari-Matti [Latvala] and from Mikko [Hirvonen] and we used this, it really helped get me in the right direction.
Q. What was the best thing about the test?
PGA: Just getting in the car and driving on that kind of road. It's been around two years since I drove on asphalt the last time and I need to get back into that style of driving.
Q. How does asphalt driving differ from gravel?
PGA: It's mainly about the braking, that's what I needed to get into yesterday. Obviously, you brake much later and there's so much more grip under braking, it's about getting used to that. And then there's the positioning of the car on the road: you enter and exit the corner in different places when you're driving on asphalt and gravel.
Q. And, to make matters worse, your last time on asphalt was in the Suzuki SX4 WRC – hardly a classic asphalt rally car...
PGA: I know. Comparing the Suzuki with the Ford is impossible, they are so different. Sometimes on the bumpy and abrasive asphalt, like on the Monte Carlo stages around Valence, the Suzuki was not so bad, but when we came to somewhere like Catalunya it was tough.
Q. Can you see now why you were behind the Fords when you were in the SX4?
PGA: Completely. They are two different cars. The Ford is a real tarmac car, you feel that as soon as you sit in it and start to drive on the stages. We always thought that if we could be anywhere near the last of the Ford customer cars then we were going really well – now we can see why.
Q. What kind of result do you think is possible in Bulgaria?
PGA: I really don't know. I'm not sure I could have picked a worse event – have you seen the World Rally Cars there? There are something like nine of them, five Citroen C4 WRCs, which, let's face it, are quite good on asphalt, and four Fords with guys like Mikko and Jari-Matti in them! It's going to be very hard work. We will have to see what is possible, try to build up from the start. And, of course, we have to see what the stages are going to be like.
Q. What sort of stages would you prefer?
PGA: Something quite bumpy and twisty – like the roads in the Ardeche region. I think they will suit me the best.