Fri 17 May 2024

ERC Take Five with Hermann Neubauer

Hermann Neubauer made a long-awaited return to FIA European Rally Championship action on Rally Islas Canarias earlier this month, sharing a Kresta Racing Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 with co-driver Bernhard Ettel. This is what the 35-year-old double Austrian champion had to say about his ERC comeback and his plans to tackle more rounds this season.

Having not competed in the ERC since 2018 you were back in action on Rally Islas Canarias. But where have you been and what have you been up to?
“It’s been busy, busy. I have a company at home, I have a family, two kids, I’m married but it’s been a long time since I was last in the European championship, 2018 was my last event. I’m really happy I’m back here but it’s really difficult coming back with only two times recce. In our local championship we know the stages and every corner but here everything is new so I have to lower my expectations a bit. But I’m so happy to be here and it’s a pleasure to be going on the stages again.”  

Nineteenth at the finish in a very competitive field, how would you assess your comeback? “The first day was really difficult, the second day was much more fun and I really enjoyed it. In some places I was far from the limit but I know where the time loss is. For sure I could go quicker by half a second but I didn’t want to crash or anything like that and the times were not bad. If I finished 15th or 22nd it didn’t matter because I was having so much fun in the car, learning a lot. I learned a lot about the line and correct corner speed. Maybe I was not completely correct on the set-up on the first day because I change a few things and the second day was much more easy to drive. But I have to find my way what is fitting me for the stages and I’m quite close. The roads were just so enjoyable, amazing.”

Was Rally Islas Canarias a one-off ERC return or are further appearances possible?
“Yeah for sure. I will come to Barum Czech Rally Zlín because my team, Kresta Racing, are located there and also I think about one or two more. I have no ambition for the national title [in Austria] this year so I will do something different, maybe I will go to a gravel event or another Tarmac event, like Rome or Wales. But for sure maybe one or two events more.”  

Since making your ERC debut in 2012 you have won two Austrian titles with the first in 2016 ending a long period of dominance by Raimund Baumschlager. How good was that?
“It was a long time that Raimund was winning all the titles and we beat him, but I think my best year was 2017 when we go with the old Ford Fiesta WRC and Raimund was going with the Volkswagen Polo WRC. It was really an incredible fight until the last stage. The gap before the last stage of the championship was 0.8sec and it was really thrilling. Okay we lose this title but for me and Raimund it was one of the hardest fights in our lives. And also last year with Simon [Wagner], the gap before the last stage was 2.0sec. It means the national championship is good and the level is really high. When I look at Simon in the ERC, he’s fighting for the top positions so I know I can also be there with much more time in the car. But I have a different life now. My family and my business are more important but I enjoy to be back.”

You were a long-term Ford driver but you’ve recently switched to Škoda power. How is life behind the wheel of your Fabia RS Rally2?
“With this car and this team, Kresta Racing, maybe I have one of the best teams in this championship, so I am really pleased to have Roman on my side and I know he has a huge knowledge and it helps me a lot. It was the third time in this car and I still have to adapt my driving style to it but it suits me a lot and I feel good. The difference is you have to be more smooth and more clean with the Škoda. When you come from the Ford this is not easy because with the Ford you can always drive really hard and push like hell but with the Fabia you have to be a bit more clean. Having Roman on my side is very important. He’s one of the most experienced guys in setting up such a car, but he cannot help me to drive the car. I know I have a perfect car. But when I have a problem I can call him and he will give me the perfect information. This is really a huge help. And Bernhard is back again co-driving. I was driving in the last years with some different co-drivers but now he’s back again, we know each other very well and this is a nice relationship.”

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM