WRC

Bulgaria Rally: Pre-event press conference

Present: Per-Gunnar Andersson, Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team Petter Solberg, Petter Solberg World Rally Team Olivier Quesnel, Citroen Total World Rally Team Kimi Raikkonen, Citroen Junior Team Karl Kruuda, FIA Junior World Rally...

Present:
Per-Gunnar Andersson, Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Petter Solberg, Petter Solberg World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Kimi Raikkonen, Citroen Junior Team
Karl Kruuda, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Hans Weijs, FIA Junior World Rally Championship

Q: P-G, we see you compete with the Stobart team this weekend in a Ford Focus RS WRC 08, how are you feeling about the prospect?

P-GA: First of all I am happy to be back in the WRC in a WRC car and also in a competitive car. In the past year I was in the Suzuki team and it was a new car and I had to try all things from scratch, but now we have a good base to start from. I'm pretty happy about the handling of the car and the performance. I think it's more up to me to do the right thing and to get the feeling of it and get back into the rhythm of tarmac.

Q: How do you balance things; you want to go fast, you want to impress the team. The team wants you to score points. How do you get that balance right?

P-GA: I don't try to push and make any top times because I don't have the experience and the speed to set top times on tarmac, but I think it's best to start off at a decent pace and to build up the speed gradually. I don't care so much about the positions, I'm keen to make average-good stage times and not be too far off.

Q: I hear you had a little run-in with a truck on the recce; what happened?

P-GA: It was fine. It's just yesterday; I met a truck on the wrong side of the road. I didn't manage to escape everything, it was a small dent.

Q: Petter just after Portugal it was announced that your co-driver of 11 years, Phil Mills, would be retiring -- was it a shock for you and how did you react?

PS: It is very sad what happened after Portugal, but first of all we have to respect Phil for his decision. If somebody feels he has lost a bit of passion and motivation to do things at 110% then I think the most professional thing to do is stop. I've been with the same guy in the car for 11 years though, and we do have a lot of history. Afterwards I got approximately 45 e-mails and calls from co-drivers from all around the world and I've picked someone from that. It was not easy. We then had a small test with some co-drivers and I ended up with Chris, who I was very impressed with. He did all the right things from the first minute he came.

Q: What kind of things, Petter? What kind of qualities were you looking for?

PS: Well, I was looking for a person with a calm personality, good at writing and delivering pace notes, changing pace notes at high speed. He is very focused and motivated and as long as people have that motivation, I'm working with them. We have done with the testing now and did a lot of runs on the shakedown today and we are getting better and better all the time. I'm quite impressed actually.

Q: You were the fastest at shakedown, so something is working well.

PS: Yes, we are working well together; we've tried a lot of things today. We also tried some different tyres and, yes, I'm very happy -- things have been working well.

Q: It's the first tarmac event of the season -- how are you feeling ahead of this event?

PS: They're very good stages here. It's quite tricky compared with Spain and Corsica. The surface changes all the time and there are a lot of corners and it is difficult to see the apex. But I think pace notes are going to be a very important factor here and if you have good pace notes I think we will do well. We did well in Spain last year and I think we can fight properly. We just need to get in a good rhythm with the new co-driver and the stages and then we take it from there.

Q: You can see the weather playing a factor this weekend. We did see some rain. That could change some things...

PS: Yes, but let's see tomorrow. If it's raining, it's raining, if it's dry, it's dry. It doesn't matter, does it? We have to go flat out if we're going to be at the top. No worries.

Q: What about the Championship itself; what's the plan for the rest of the rallies ahead and what's your plan for the rest of the Championship?

PS: Well, we have had a very good year so far, some good results and for the rest of the rallies we'll have proper testing, we'll go absolutely maximum to win rallies, and hopefully I'll be at the top of the Championship. It's what my plan is. I think we have a good chance.

Q: With four tarmac events to come, how confident do you feel that the Driver's Championship is on course for Sebastien Loeb?

OQ: We have an objective to get the title for the manufacturer and for the driver. And of course for the drivers it should be Sebastien Loeb. I think he is in a good position. I hope for him it will be good at the end. And we will do our best to manage it and to do this.

Q: You have said in the past, when we were in Portugal, that you would like to see Sordo, Loeb and Ogier with you next year. Would that mean that you want a three-car team?

OQ: We will see. But actually it depends if the three drivers want to stay. But if they want to, we will have them together maybe in the M1 (Manufacturer) team or M2 (WRC Team) team, we will see. But actually it's too early to speak about that.

Q: You said before that Sebastien (Loeb) has yet to sign a contract for next year. Are you any further down the road with getting him to sign or do we not yet know whether he will be back or not?

OQ: I am doing business and I am not used to speaking. So I will tell you at the end when it will be done.

Q: We have seen the first information and images of the new Citroen DS3 R3; how is development coming along?

OQ: We will speak about this car at the end of the year.

Q: Kimi, this will be your first WRC round on tarmac and it seems the expectation for you to do well is quite high after so many years on the tarmac of F1 -- but rally is a totally different discipline and indeed different tarmac. What are your thoughts on the weekend ahead?

KR: I really try to do the best I can. It should be easier and more natural for me in tarmac. But still the other guys will go very fast. They have a lot of experience with their cars, but I do still feel more comfortable on tarmac than on gravel. We will do our best and see after tomorrow how we are going.

Q: You have prepared for this event by competing at a tarmac event in Italy -- how did you enjoy the experience, and has it given you more confidence for Bulgaria?

KR: It helped. It was the first time I competed with the car on tarmac. With the shakedown the previous day and the rally we have some experience. We tried two types of different tyres, there were some tricky conditions and it definitely helped. The test wasn't on roads like this but at least we tried many things and I think we improved the car a bit. Like I said, I think we have more or less done what we wanted so we just have to see how well we will do.

Q: Now that we are half-way through the season are you any closer to deciding on your future within rallying?

KR: For sure I'll let everybody know, when I make the decision. There are always options to do many things. I have to take the right one for myself.

Q: When would we expect this decision?

KR: When I know it...

Q: What do you think of the stages here in Bulgaria?

KR: I think they are quite nice. Some areas are pretty bumpy and have a bit of sand but I think they are probably better than many people expected. There are quite long and interesting stages and I was quite impressed.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Martin Holmes, Martin Holmes Rallying, UK

Q: In 12 days time the FIA will tell us how they will operate the tyre supply for next year. Is Citroen happy to see the end of the single supplier contract we have had for three years?

OQ: No, we are really frustrated because we understood for the next three years it should be a single manufacturer. We totally agree with that. It was confirmed in Portugal. And we heard now, one month later, it's open. And next year is in five months and we are making new cars. That means we have to work a lot, to spend a lot of money, but now it is done and as the door is open I don't know how we could go back. We are waiting to know how Pirelli and Michelin are. However we do regret not to have a single supplier.

Presnt: Karl Kruuda, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Hans Weijs, FIA Junior World Rally Championship

Q: Karl, it's been a good season so far for you - 2nd overall in the JWRC category last time out in Portugal -- you must be feeling quite confident?

KK: No. The confidence isn't the best because this is my first WRC event on tarmac and I haven't got experience. I only have one event and that was one week ago, but that was the only experience I have had, so I'm a little bit scared about the rally because it is difficult and it has a lot of things which are very tricky.

Q: How are you finding the Suzuki S1600?

KK: I'm really happy that I chose the Suzuki. It is easy to drive but still there are some tricky parts of it.

Q: What are your thoughts on the stages here?

KK: They are very slippery. The line is always different to what I thought the line would be and it is very hard for me to find the right line to go the quickest.

Q: So what is your approach going to be on Friday? Is it going to be a more cautious approach from you this weekend?

KK: Yes, I think I'm going to start with the cautious approach and stage by stage I think I'm going to increase the speed.

Q: I know it's early on, but everybody is always thinking about what's going to happen next year. Would you consider staying in the same type of car, the same Championship?

KK: I don't know anything yet. Everything is so far away that everything is open.

Q: Hans this is your second nominated JWRC event; after a retirement in Portugal is the objective now to get some good points on the board?

HW: Yes, of course, I hope to have a better result than in Portugal, we need it for the Championship. The Championship is so short. We have only five rallies to do, and the points gap is so big so we have to push this time.

Q: Do you think the Championship is now too far away because you've missed scoring points?

HW: No, no, everything can happen so you can be a champion at every rally. But it is difficult. We have some good drivers, good cars and I think it will be a good fight for the Championship.

Q: This is a new event for everyone, what will be your approach here, as there is also quite a strong field of drivers? It's going to be difficult, isn't it?

HW: Yes, because the stages are difficult, they are slippery, sometimes it is very wide then you go in a very narrow part and sometimes there is water coming from the hill and onto the road, so you have to be careful.

Q: We could get a lot more water from the sky this weekend. How much is it going to change things if we do get rain?

HW: Then it will be a surprising rally I think. It will be very difficult for sure because you cannot see on the tarmac, because in some places it is slippery. Yes, then you need to drive with your head.

Q: I know we're past the mid-point of the season and next year still seems quite far away, but have you thought about what you want to do 2011 season?

HW: Yes, for sure I want to come back, but let us first finish this year and we'll then look at next season. We first want to get a good result.

Q: You will be using the new Pirelli RX tyres this weekend -- what are your thoughts so far?

HW: Yes, we had the tires on one day. They are much better than the tyres before. When you are a few kilometres on the stage then the tyres are really working good. When you overheat the old Pirelli tyre, the tyre was not coming back. The new tyre is good. When you feel the tyre is losing grip you take the speed a little bit down. The tyre comes back and you can immediately go again.

Q: Finally, World Cup final on Sunday -- Holland v Spain. You are going to be keeping an eye on that...?

HW: I hope Holland wins twice: one win for us and one for the football team!

-source: fia

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Per-Gunnar Andersson , Hans Weijs , Olivier Quesnel , Karl Kruuda
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport