WRC

Monte Carlo: Post-event press conference

RALLYE AUTOMOBILE MONTE-CARLO FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Media FIA Post-event Press Conference 01.27.2008 Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb -- Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena -- Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Mikko Hirvonen...

RALLYE AUTOMOBILE MONTE-CARLO
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Media FIA Post-event Press Conference
01.27.2008

Present:
1st - Sebastien Loeb -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Mikko Hirvonen -- BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen -- BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Chris Atkinson -- Subaru World Rally Team
3rd - Stephane Prevot -- Subaru World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Citroen Total World Rally Team

Welcome to the post-event FIA press conference.

Q: Sebastien, congratulations on achieving your fifth Monte-Carlo victory; no other crew has won this event as many times. How does it make you feel knowing you are the most successful driver of this event?

SL: I'm really happy about that. It's Monte Carlo, so for me it's a great moment. It's the first rally of the season -- I like to start with 10 points. It's also a rally in France, so I have a lot of fans and supporters. I like to bring some pleasure and it's a home rally for my co-driver too. So yes, it's a great moment to break this record.

Q: How did it compare to your other wins here? Was it any easier?

SL: It was not the most difficult, for sure. We fight with Dani (Sordo) at the start and on the second day, then we had a good lead. The conditions were less tricky than before, so it was less difficult to stay concentrated and stay on the road.

Q: It was the first rally with the Pirelli tyres. Were you happy with their performance?

SL: It was good. It was really good, not a lot of punctures -- that's an important point. The grip was good. When the tyre is in a good condition, it works well. Sometimes we were a bit soft (compound) in the afternoon sun, but that's not a problem of Pirelli; it's the regulation. For this rally, it was really good.

Q: During the opening days your team-mate Dani Sordo was your closest rival. How much were you pushing and how much pressure did you feel from him? Do you think he will continue to be your main rival over the course of the season?

SL: On tarmac yes, for sure. On gravel, maybe. It depends how he improves. On gravel, it will be Mikko (Hirvonen) and Jari-Matti (Latvala) -- they are very fast. On tarmac, this year, I tried hard immediately on Friday morning on this event. In the morning last year, Dani took 15 seconds, so I tried harder this year.

Q: Dani had a few issues with his car this weekend -- was your run trouble free?

SL: I didn't have any problem. When Dani had this problem, my engineer checked the car, he said it was okay. We didn't have to do anything. No problem.

Q: Daniel, there are not many sportsmen in Monaco who have achieved what you have. How proud does it make you feel?

SL: He's not a sportsman!!

DE: Okay. I'm a sportsman in my bed or in the car! This victory is very fun because nobody has five wins in Monte-Carlo. It's very important to break this record. I'm Monaco-born and a Monegasque and I have this record. I hope for the Prince it's important too. He loves motorsport.

Q: What did you think of the format of the rally this year?

DE: Yes, very nice. It's back to Turini; it's a very important stage for this race. The Turini stages are the oldest in the world. Monte-Carlo without the Col du Turini is not Monte- Carlo. And Monte-Carlo without the Ardeche is not the Monte-Carlo. It's a legend, but the tension yesterday was too much.

Q: It was your first event as number one driver Mikko. Did it feel different in any way -- did you feel more pressure to perform?

MH: Maybe just a bit. Last year, everybody's eyes were on Marcus (Gronholm) and what times he was doing. I'm really pleased we started well and got second place here. I just had to bring the car home for me and the team, but this time it was nice to get some more points for me as well. I was more nervous this time.

Q: You had a lot of confidence before the event got underway, but on Thursday evening you were a long way off the pace of the Citroens. Did it dent your confidence in anyway?

MH: Not really. Okay, we were far behind and we saw early that I can't match Citroens speed. Then we tried to put a little bit of pressure on Sordo. When Dani had a problem it became a little bit easier. We backed off, drove slowly and brought the car home.

Q: After Dani's problem on Friday, the gap narrowed between you. On Saturday how much were you pushing to catch him? Did you take any risks?

MH: I really tried on Saturday morning. Okay, I couldn't match his speed and he took a few seconds straight away. You can't give up, something might happen and this time it did.

Q: You couldn't beat Loeb, but did we see the full potential of Mikko Hirvonen here?

MH: I did what I could here. Second was a very good start for me. Rallies are coming where I can be stronger. I feel stronger for Sweden, but we have to see what the weather will be like. If there's a lot of gravel it will be hard for the tyres.

Q: What did you think of the stages this year Jarmo, was it good to have more stages on the Sunday?

JL: Like Daniel (Elena) said, it's good to have the traditional stages back and the Ardeche stages are mostly really nice. I can't help myself to bring up SS1 and SS10 where there was a lot of black ice. It's not very nice and safe to have these in the rally.

Q: Did you feel any extra pressure stepping up to number one status in the team?

JL: We both were more nervous before the rally. Once the rally started, things normalised. Maybe, this morning, we got more pressure again.

Q: Congratulations Chris on the second WRC podium of your career, a great battle between you and Francois (Duval) -- did you think before the event that a podium was a possibility?

CA: Realistically, no. There are a lot of good drivers and cars. Look at the Stobart team, it wasn't going to be easy, but we were lucky and it worked out well.

Q: How much pressure did you feel going into this morning's stages, and what did you think when Duval took so much time out of you on the opening stages?

CA: I wasn't running on splits at all this week. I was trying not to make mistakes. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes I made mistakes. The car worked well on the second run through the stages, I was confident we could do it.

Q: Let's talk about stage 13 -- it's a stage you seem to have made you own. Why were you so quick on that particular stage and not the others?

CA: It's an interesting one -- it is ridiculously fast. There are not a lot of long twisty corners. We know we don't have the most perfectly balanced car. I took some risks and I was shaking for about an hour afterwards. Whether it was worth it -- I don't know.

Q: How many risks were you taking out there this weekend? What were your thoughts at the start of the super special stage, with the battle between you and Duval being so close?

CA: It was okay. I did it last year with Mikko (Hirvonen). One second between us is nothing; we both had to do the fastest time to make it happen. I hope this is the way things are going to happen with the team. Subaru and Prodrive are completely focused and we're all working very hard to make it happen. At the same time, we have to focus on these early rallies to get some more valuable points.

Q: It's your first podium with Chris -- how has your relationship developed over the past 10 months?

SP: Very good; I am very happy. It's my first rally of the season, and I haven't done them all with Chris yet. It's working well, it's not easy, but I have a lot of pleasure from the big challenge.

Q: What was the atmosphere like in the car just before that super special got underway?

SP: We knew we could do it. We knew we spun in the stage before, we knew we could be faster than him there. We were quite confident. There was no reason to be particularly nervous.

Q: A great start to the season and a great start for you in your new role as Citroen Sport Director. Are you pleased with the performance of the team this weekend?

OQ: I am quite pleased. For sure, as Guy Frequelin used to say, I am very pleased, but a little bit disappointed too. Dani had his engine problem and I would like to have seen him here. Our pilots made the difference on Thursday night. But Sebastien and Daniel are here and with their fifth victory, it's amazing.

Q: Do you think this year will be a tough battle in the Manufacturers' Championship? We already have three manufacturers represented on the podium today, which shows a strong start.

OQ: Yes. This is why I would have liked the points for Dani. Anyway, he is really in progress. For Seb and Daniel I don't worry at all. Dani can be a strong second driver and Seb and Dani -- I'm sure are good for the first!

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Markus Stier (Rallye das Magazin, Germany)

Q: Did you adapt your lines because of no mousse (in the tyres)?

CA: I did. I followed the guys ahead a little bit. If they cut, I did too. Some of the time I made cuts into don't cuts in the (pace) notes. All of the time I was thinking: "Don't get a puncture, don't get a puncture," because I didn't want to get out and change it.

-credit: fia.com

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Sébastien Loeb , Guy Frequelin , Daniel Elena , Mikko Hirvonen , Stéphane Prévot , Jarmo Lehtinen , Chris Atkinson , Olivier Quesnel
Teams Citroën World Rally Team