AUSTRALIAN Rally Champions Scott Pedder and co-driver Dale Moscatt have completed their very first stage of WRC2 action at Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
After answering questions at the official pre-event media conference (transcript below), Pedder’s time of 2m52.2s on the opening 3.36 kilometre Lousada Super Special Stage was just 5.5 seconds behind the hugely-experienced Dakar Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, who claimed the stage win.
It also was just 0.6s off RMC Motorsport teammate Nicolas Fuchs, the 2013 WRC Production Champion, and 0.3s off the pace of highly-regarded Frenchman Julian Maurin and Norwegian Anders Grondal.
“That wasn’t too bad, it was a nice clean start to the rally,” Pedder said at the stage finish.
“The stage itself was quite tricky, the World Rally Cars ahead of us had really cut the road up and it was very soft.
“I think what I’m finding is that my inexperience with this car really begins to show in those conditions.
“On the fast, open stages like we had in testing I can make up for that with good speed and pace notes. But on the very tight stuff, where you need to be super-precise, that’s where the other guys I’m up against who have far more experience in these cars are getting away from me.”
Earlier in the day Pedder completed the shakedown stage, the last chance for crews to prepare their cars before competition starts, making three timed runs.
For co-driver Moscatt it was another solid chance for Scott to familiarise himself with the Ford Fiesta R5 against competitors in identical cars.
“Unfortunately our first run wasn’t the best,” Moscatt said.
“With so many options on these cars we didn’t realise the car had the anti-lag turned off, I know Scott immediately thought the car had an engine problem. But we fixed that and the second and third runs were much better.”
The Shakedown stage challenged even the sport’s top drivers with Mads Ostberg rolling his factory Citroen earlier in the morning.
“Our times were much better on the second run. While on the third we made some adjustments to the rear of the car to try to give Scott a bit better feeling, and that seemed to make a positive step forwards,” Moscatt added.
Drivers are preparing for Friday’s first full day of competition, with six competitive stages waiting, including the 27.53km Ponte de Lima stage.
“That is actually the trickiest stage of the entire rally,” Moscatt said.
“It’s very tight, very twisty, and I think the longest straight is probably no more than 100 metres long. It’s going to be daunting for Scott, but it is also going to be the perfect test for him.
“If we can have a clean run through he’s certainly going to know what he’s up against in WRC2.”
Pedder agreed, saying the biggest challenge he foresees is the road conditions behind the outright World Rally Cars.
“They have a habit of pulling lots of big rocks out of the edges of the road and leaving them behind for cars like us.
“Today we were between half a second and a second off the pace of the fastest WRC2 cars. Tomorrow I’d like to close that gap a little. I’m confident if we can have a good run tomorrow there is a chance we can be inside the top 10 of the WRC2.
“By the end of the rally, with I’m sure people having problems, if we could finish in the top five that would be amazing!”
WRC2 Vodafone Rally de Portugal Results After SS1
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Matthieu Baumel (Ford Fiesta RRC) 2m46.7s
2. Jari Ketomaa / Kaj Lindstrom (Ford Fiesta R5) 2m47.0s
3. Pontus Tidemand / Emil Axelsson (Skoda Fabia R5) 2m48.2s
4. Karl Kruuda / Martin Järveoja (Peugeot 208 T16) 2.48.4s
5. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari / Marshall Clarke (Ford Fiesta RRC) 2m48.5s
15. Scott Pedder / Dale Moscatt (Ford Fiesta R5) 2m52.2s
SCOTT FRONTS WRC MEDIA
AFTER Shakedown, Scott Pedder was invited to front the WRC media at the regular pre-event press conference.
Here’s the transcript –
Q: Scott, you are a long way from home in Australia. First time for you in WRC 2 and a big challenge ahead. How much are you looking forward to competing in Europe?
SP: Very much so. I like this position – top step in the middle here [in the winner’s seat in the press conference] – it feels good. It’s a dream come true, I have been competing for a lot of years, only in Australia and Asia Pacific. To make the jump and come to Europe is fantastic. To be driving the Fiesta R5 is unbelievable. I’m just looking forward to it and look forward to a great weekend.
Q: You and co-driver Dale Moscatt are 2014 Australian Rally Champions, so it’s a successful pairing. Dale has WRC experience, how much has he been able to help you in terms of preparation?
SP: Very much. He’s done a season or two with Evgeny Novikov and he knows most of the rallies – okay, not this area, but he’s been a fantastic part of my career in the last few years. I don’t have the experience here, but hopefully we can find some speed and get there in the end.
Q: There are 30 competitors in WRC 2 here, how does it feel to compete against them and how do you rank yourself?
SP: We won’t beat them, we know that – on pace – for the first few events, we need to learn the car and get faster and faster. We need to be there at the end. This is a long event and we want to run in the middle of the pack and then maybe have some luck and snag a top five. Hopefully, that’s going to lead onto some better results in the end.
Q: Have there been any special preparations?
SP: Special preparations? Hmm, I’m Australian, so lots of beer, kangaroos! The rally maps website has been fantastic and helped us see a few stages on video. I’ve been doing this for quite a long time, so the preparation is standard.