What does it take to win this rally?
“It’s a very tough rally: I’ve won it twice and on each occasion you feel a real sense of achievement. You need a certain sensitivity to the changing weather and grip I think; it’s a very variable rally and if you can adapt well to different circumstances and make the right tyre choices then you are in a strong position to do well.”
As an Italian rally driver what does it mean to you to be taking part?
“Sanremo is very special, because as an Italian driver this is just a legendary event and all of our world championship history is here. It’s one of the most difficult rallies in Italy – maybe the most difficult actually – so it means a lot to me to be taking part. I’m really looking forward to it, as always.”
How will you prepare?
“Just in the usual way. It’s important to have a good recce and make sure that the pace notes are right but you can only prepare up to a certain point: a lot about Sanremo comes down to how the conditions are at the time. Then you just have to drive on your instincts, but if you study the route carefully you can have a good idea of how the conditions are likely to be.”
What are the major challenges?
“Probably the biggest challenge is the weather. You can have rain or fog or it could be completely dry – or maybe a combination of all three. In the region around Sanremo the weather is hard to predict, so you should expect everything. The night stage is always a huge challenge too: something seems to happen there every year.”
What's your best and worst Sanremo memory and why?
“My best memory was winning there for the second time in 2010 with the Peugeot 207. It was a very exciting rally where I had a lead of less than a second with three stages to go and we fought so hard to the end. My worst memory was 1997; we were actually leading in front of all the world championship regulars with the Renault Mégane, but then we had to retire after we cut a corner and something broke: it was incredibly disappointing.”
And finally, where would he recommend fans go to eat during the rally?
“There’s a special atmosphere at the Ristorante Dall’Ava in San Romolo: that’s essential for all rally fans. When I am in town, I normally eat at one of the restaurants near the port. They’re all good really: it’s very hard to eat badly in Sanremo!”