Factory Volvo team Polestar Cyan Racing will enter its second season in the FIA World Touring Car Championship in 2017 with Thed Björk again forming part of the driver line-up. Swede Björk, 36, discusses Polestar’s title hopes, his new team-mates and what’s changed from 2016.
A new season and a revamped driver line-up. Just how important is 2017 for you and Polestar Cyan Racing?
“It’s a lot more important because the first year was a learning season but now we are coming with a different view and we really want to beat the others.”
How much does that ramp up the pressure?
“A lot. I got the whole of last year to drive without pressure and now they ramp up the pressure – but they also are giving us a lot more testing and things like this. So, it’s back to normal like I am used to. If you are going to win the championship you always have to perform. And what I can do is try to perform as good as I can and get some help from my team-mates, and then the whole team can go faster. So it’s a good feeling.”
Is it fair to say you are more prepared for a season of racing than ever before?
“This is absolutely correct. A lot more work has been put in to prepare and we know the tracks, so definitely, a lot more preparations have been done.”
What changes have been made to the Volvo S60 Polestar TC1 for 2017?
“In general terms it’s the same basic car but there have been some small adjustments, I would say many small adjustments. With the experience we got from last year on all the different tracks we are trying now to put together what can be good on this track, what can be good on that track. It’s different things, no big thing has changed.”
But were there key areas where you were looking for significant changes to be made?
“At some tracks we were definitely looking for more traction to gain against the others and to be able to be fast where the others were fast. Last year, when we arrived in the season, we did not know where the other cars would be fast and that we have learned. Now we try to be better.”
What difference will a three-car team make?
“When you have three cars you have a lot more to do for the mechanics and for the team, but it’s also building you a stronger team that goes for the title. In the world championship three is the number you need for doing the WTCC MAC3 [team time trial]. It feels great and there is a good team spirit already. I have got to know Nicky more and more each day we drive together. Also, Néstor is a really good guy. I will try to learn everything they know to be faster than them!”
From what was an all-Swedish team before how will the dynamic change?
“It changes a lot but I believe the team is ready for this, it feels like we can get experience from everywhere, put it down and just work with it. It feels good, but it’s definitely different.”
Honda will be a big rival in 2017. What do you make of the testing they have been doing and their likely performance level?
“If we saw the Honda is testing we have been testing as well, but it’s hard to say what they have done and they don’t know what we’ve done. They’re a big competitor because they have so much experience and they have some good drivers, and that’s why our team is trying to pitch in knowledge from different categories to compete against them. More than that I don’t know. We will know much more in Marrakech.”
With three very competitive drivers in the same team there’s always the risk of on-track contact and disputes. How do you plan to handle those situations if they arise?
“For example, in Marrakech last year with Nicky, I have been racing all my life and when he hit me I don’t get angry, I just try to restart, continue driving, because if I finish I get some points. When I saw the braking tracks from his car on the next lap I thought if I had done these marks I would be apologising to the other driver – and that’s exactly what happened. He came and apologised, so it depends on the situation. I have so much experience that if they try to do something with me I will know what they’ve done and just have some good feeling they won’t do it [again]. We will have a good game plan from the beginning and try to follow that. If you see the other Honda drivers, everybody is so professional. If you get hit, well, everybody can do a mistake. I think if it’s happening in our team we will talk about it. I am very calm now but I think it can be like this and that is the key to the championship if we can do this.”
It will be your first season doing the WTCC MAC3 team time trial. Excited by the prospect?
“Really excited. It adds to the weekend what we are doing to get more points for the manufacturers. Also, it feels like we do the start and it’s like warming up for the real race. In the start it’s chaos, but it feels like a good weekend to do this: training, qualifying, MAC3 and the races, so I really look forward to it.”
A quick word on Néstor who, like you, is now a Gothenburg resident. What tips do you have for him?
“He can call me any time he wants. We are 15 or 20 minutes apart, just a short drive. I think he’s a little bit cold now but when we start to get to April and May he will really start to enjoy Sweden because the weather changes and it’s fantastic.”
Finally, if you won’t win the WTCC title this year who will?
“If I don’t win it Nicky will win it. And if I don’t win it and Nicky doesn’t win it then it will be Bebu [Girolami].”
WTCC Press Office
Photo Jean Michel Le Meur / DPPI