After 18 months away from world rallying, 20-year-old Russian star Evgeny Novikov has returned to the World Rally Championship on this week's Rally Mexico.
Q. What have you been doing since we last saw you?
Evgeny Novikov: I was doing Russian Championship last year, driving a Group N car – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. I also did some testing, but that's all. This was not so many rallies, only six in the championship.
Q. How did you get on?
EN: Most of them I won, but sometimes there was some technical problems, so the points were not so good.
Q. Why did you stop competing in the WRC?
EN: First of all, the reason was financial and also, I needed some time out just to relax a little bit.
Q. There was a lot of pressure on you in 2009, you were finishing fifth on WRC rounds and people were talking about you as a future champion...
EN: There was a lot of pressure, yes. Being in the Citroen [Junior Team] was pressure, but I didn't think about this. If I had thought too much about this then nothing good would happen and it's the same now.
I hope it's true that I will be a world champion in some years, but last year I did need the time to relax. I don't feel so different when I have come back, I feel fresh and like I have more power from myself. I had to take some time out of the championship and now I'm back.
Q. Did you miss the WRC last year?
EN: Yes, of course. It was not so good not driving a World Rally Car, but one year is not so much time.
Q. Do you expect to stay in the WRC for many years now?
EN: I don't know. I have the deal for six rallies right now and maybe two more – France and Germany – but the deal is only for this year. What about next year? I don't know. I hope it will be more events, maybe a full program, but I don't know.
Q. What do you think of the Fiesta RS WRC?
EN: It's a good car, a big difference from the previous [World Rally Car] I drove. You can have a lot of fun with this car. There are some pluses and minuses with the car though, it's my opinion that the car is a little bit more nervous to drive and the gearbox is not so fast as the car before. It's harder to drive.
Q. How much testing have you done?
EN: Nothing. Zero. Shakedown was the first time I drove the car and I did about 30 kilometers.
Q. What's possible for you this year?
EN: This rally for sure I will try and finish the rally. It's my first time in Mexico and this is the first time in the car. Of course, on some events I will try and push some more, the rallies I did in 2009, like Sardinia or Greece or something like that, but first we have to get used to the car.
Q. And finally, tell me more about the incident that made you a YouTube sensation – your infamous jump in Rally Finland in 2009. It's a while ago now, but what did you think when you took off?
EN: I thought that I just wished the car would land on the middle of the road and not on the spectators, there were a lot of people at the side of the road and I couldn't see anything about where the car was going – I was looking at the sky.
I wasn't scared or anything like that, I was just thinking about the landing and I didn't want to finish the rally on this stage here. The car landed perfectly.