WRC

Monte Carlo: Post-event press conference

2004 Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo Media Press Conference Sunday, January 25th, 2004 Interviewer: Welcome the press conference at the end of the Monte-Carlo Rally, round 1 of the 2004 World Rally Championship season. Just joining us are the ...

2004 Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo
Media Press Conference
Sunday, January 25th, 2004

Interviewer: Welcome the press conference at the end of the Monte-Carlo Rally, round 1 of the 2004 World Rally Championship season. Just joining us are the winners of the rally, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena. In second place is Ford driver Markko Martin from Estonia and his co-driver Michael Park, and in third are their Ford team-mates Francois Duval from Belgium and Stephane Prevot.

Sebastien, if we can start with you, first of all many congratulations on winning the Monte-Carlo Rally again. Did you find this one easier than the others, more difficult, or about the same?

Sebastien Loeb: For the road conditions it was very difficult. The most important was not to make a mistake, and it was my strategy from the beginning. I avoided taking risks in the first 4 stages because there was slippery with snow and ice. I then waited for better conditions to push, and at the end of the day the conditions improved and I took the lead. Yesterday in the fog I could make a big difference, much to our surprise, and I think we've had a nice race.

Interviewer: Daniel, over to you. Many congratulations. This year we had three stages cancelled for various reasons. Was that disappointing for you?

Daniel Elena: The first stage was cancelled because there was too many people, with a lot of traffic jams. Ourselves we had trouble getting there. On the second stage, a car was blocking the road, so there was nothing else to do. And in the third case I don't see the reason for cancelling the stage since the conditions were the same than in the first run.

Interviewer: Markko, on the final day you had a big fight with your team-mate Francois. How confident were you that it would be you who was second and not him?

Markko Martin: We had a very interesting Sunday. But it was important to make sure to get both cars to the finish for the manufacturer and get the maximum points for Ford. We had to watch out for Marcus who was close. We had to push but not too much. I would have been happy with third place as well because it's the beginning of the season and to be on the podium is a good start. Luckily, we got second and two extra points. I'm happy our team is leading the Championship.

Interviewer: Michael, this rally is well known for being one the trickiest and most unpredictable of the entire Championship. What was the biggest challenge for you and Markko here?

Michael Park: It is well documented that we didn't go too well yesterday in the fog. That was particularly tricky for everybody, but we seemed to struggle a little bit more. This weekend has proved how difficult it is to do. And you have to have complete teamwork, and that includes not just the driver and co-driver but also the gravel crew. They play a tremendous role on an event like this and it is a shame we won't be able to use their services again, and I can't imagine doing this rally next year without them. Also the role of the co-driver as well, with the extra information that we have to say is quite difficult. It seems we can't even get our names on the car anymore and the way the sport is changing is going to make our lives more difficult.

Interviewer: Francois, are you disappointed not to be second?

Francois Duval: No, because my rally was very good. No problems on the car and no mistakes. Finishing second or third is not very important for me. It is important for Ford to finish second and third and get the lead in the World Championship. I improved my pace-notes, and I learned how to use my brakes and tyres better. I didn't want to take risks in the last stages.

Interviewer: Stephane, in the past yourself and Francois have been working hard to get the pace-notes exactly right. Were they perfect here?

Stephane Prevot: Yes, sure, they were really perfect, as shown in stage 8 in the fog. We are very confident for the future.

Interviewer: Guy, you know Sebastien very well. Is he improving as a driver all the time, or is this one of his best victories?

Guy Frequelin: Sebastien and Daniel were exemplary on this rally. They were cautious in the beginning, and then pushed in the day's last stage to take the lead on Friday. They pushed even more on Saturday in the fog, acquiring a comfortable lead for today, and they managed it well. A Team Director cannot expect better. I am very happy for Sebastien regarding the Drivers Championship, and a little less so regarding the Constructor Championship because Carlos went out on day 2. But this is the Monte-Carlo, the most difficult rally in the season because of the changing grip and weather conditions. It's always a challenge to choose the right tyres.

Interviewer: Sebastien, how important is it for you to start the year with a victory?

Sebastien Loeb: It's great for the whole team to start the Championship with a win. It is a great source of motivation, including for me. It is a mythical event that I enjoy winning, and I hope we can go on like this.

Interviewer: Daniel, were there any moments when you thought you wouldn't win, or were you quite sure?

Daniel Elena: No, there was no single moment when we thought we couldn't win. It was a bit like last year. Marcus started strong, and we caught up with him at the end of the first leg, taking the lead. Then we increased the gap in the fog and managed our race. There is always a risk of mechanical failure or accident, but we never think about that.

Interviewer: Markko, do you think the reliability of the car is now sufficiently good to keep Ford in the lead in the Championship?

Markko Martin: I certainly hope so. This weekend was really good, with both cars running without any problem. If we can keep it that way, it would be good for the year. Everybody in the team is working hard to make sure everything is spot on.

Interviewer: Michael, one of the rule changes we saw take effect here was that each manufacturer had two cars. How do you think that has affected the spectacle of the sport?

Michael Park: I don't know about the spectacle, but it has made apparent that nobody can afford to retire, like what happened to Petter demonstrated. You have to keep going until the end. The driver who will do the best in the Championship is the one with the least amount of retirements.

Interviewer: Francois, in Sweden you are not nominated for points. Is that taking some pressure off you?

Francois Duval: No, I think it is rather positive for me. It is a rally where I've never gone too far, so they made the right choice to nominate a Nordic driver. I will do my best without the pressure.

Interviewer: Stephane, the route of the Monte-Carlo this year was described as more compact and lively. How does this one compare with some of the Monte-Carlo you've competed in in the past?

Stephane Prevot: I don't know. It was still a long distance on road sections. But for me the real Monte-Carlo Rally has to be going to Gap and race on the snow. This looks to me more like Corsica or French Championship events. I don't mind having to go all the way to Gap because this is where the best stages are. I am a bit upset that some stages like Corobin or Sisteron are gone.

Interviewer: Guy, Citroën has always been quick in the Monte-Carlo, but how confident are you now for snow in Sweden and for gravel in Mexico?

Guy Frequelin: The price of success in the Monte-Carlo is that we have to open the road in the first leg in Sweden. It will all depend on the nature of the snow. And Carlos will start further behind since he retired here.

Interviewer: Any questions?

Journalist: Francois, did Malcolm Wilson ask you to back off a little bit today?

Francois Duval: You will have to ask Malcolm directly. I just did my job and drove well. I stalled twice today, and Markko chose the right tyres in the Turini and was faster there. I did not want to take any risk.

Journalist: Co-drivers don't have their name on the cars anymore. What do Daniel, Michael and Stephane think about this?

Daniel Elena: It is a team sport, and we are two people in the car. I don't expect fame, but it is sign of respect to leave our name and our national flag on the car. I am racing with Sebastien who is French, but I am not French. I would have appreciated to have my Monegasque flag here in Monaco today.

Stephane Prevot: This is a clear sign of disrespect for co-drivers. I think there were more important things to change first, for example on safety issues. This is a bit senseless.

Michael Park: I am hardly going to disagree. We are all members of the same co-drivers union, and we all think we've got a valid part. We're not saying that we're better than these fantastic guys we've got sat in front of us, but we're also doing a job we do well, and we deserve some recognition for it as well.

Journalist: Sebastien, you've dominated this rally this weekend. If the point changes for next year, and you drive in the same way, you would have been third today behind Markko and Francois. Do you think the system should change?

Sebastien Loeb: I don't understand the meaning of this question. If the rules change for next year, something I am not aware of, and we scored points for every day, I think we would still be ahead since we were in the lead at the end of each day this year.

Journalist: Sebastien, at the start of the Rally, were you expecting Francois to be your toughest rival, and do you think this could happen again on other tarmac events?

Sebastien Loeb: I knew he was good in difficult conditions. I am happy for him since we get along well. I would be even happier if he could stay behind in the future. He is a young driver and he has many years ahead of him to get even better.

Interviewer: Daniel, you want to add something?

Daniel Elena: This is a new Championship, but someone is missing, Richard Burns, and we hope he comes back soon.

Interviewer: We welcome Nicolas Bernardi and Denis Giraudet, winners of the Junior category.

Nicolas, you started the rally and then set some fantastic times in the fog. How did you manage that?

Nicolas Bernardi: Denis helped me a lot in keeping my concentration. It is a difficult rally. I know the roads because I am from this region, especially regarding the third leg. The important thing was to have a well-balanced car, and it proved crucial in the fog.

Interviewer: Denis, we've been used to seeing you with Didier Auriol recently and have a lot of experience. What do you think of your new driver?

Denis Giraudet: When you are the winner of such a difficult event, you are for sure a very good driver, so I am happy about that. The stages are not as much fun than in WRC cars of course, but when you see on the time-boards that you are fighting with somebody, it's much better than being in a slow WRC.

Interviewer: Nicolas, you are from here. How much help does that give you?

Nicolas Bernardi: It definitely helped me today in the Turini, but in other stages I think the drivers who raced here last year know them about as well as I do. I was lucky to be able to set a good pace this morning, giving me a safety margin, and that was the main difference compared to other drivers.

Interviewer: Denis, what are the main differences between a Super 1600 car and a WRC car?

Denis Giraudet: During the first leg, the main difference was the traffic on the road because many spectators had already left, and we got caught in some traffic jams. More seriously, on slippery uphill roads it's not much fun, but in the downhill with a good driver it is fine.

Interviewer: Nicolas, what are your plans now for the rest of the championship? Do you feel as confident on gravel as you do here?

Nicolas Bernardi: My experience is 7 or 8 years spent rallying, 70% of which spent on tarmac. In the France I got used to do a single run during the recce, and it is a valuable experience. I don't think I am bad on gravel anyway.

Interviewer: Any questions from the room?

Journalist: You participated in some races last year in the Super 1600 category. This year, you are competing in the whole Championship. There are some new cars. Do you think the level is higher than last year?

Nicolas Bernardi: It is difficult to say. You have to reach the finish line. Some people made more mistakes than we did. The competition will be tough this year, with many drivers able to win races. I hope it will go on like here.

-fia-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team