NESTE OIL RALLY FINLAND Present: 1st - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 1st - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 2nd - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally...
NESTE OIL RALLY FINLAND
1st - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
1st - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Miikka Anttila, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson OBE, Team Principal, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.
Q: Mikko congratulations on winning your home event for the first time. How does it feel?
MH: It feels fantastic. I have been following the rally since I was a kid in the forest and if you look at the list of drivers who have won it before it is very impressive. So I am glad I am there myself now. This is definitely one of the best victories in my career. After the last stage I was shaking. I couldn't believe I had actually won it and like I said, for me the biggest thing was being up there with all the great Finnish drivers: Alen, Vatanen, Mikkola and Makinen have all won it and they are my biggest heroes. And now I manage to win it as well, so it feels really good.
Q: It's your third win in a row and this is win number 10 overall -- how does it rate against the others?
MH: So there's only 40 more to go! Okay, this is Rally Finland and I know the event really well. Yes, we had really good rallies in Greece and Poland as well but there Sebastien made a mistake and now here too. But we had a great fight over here and I won it in the end but I will see how easy it goes in Australia and Catalunya and GB. They are very fast rallies like this so I am confident I can do really well.
Q: Last year it was Sebastien Loeb who dominated on the opening day, but this time it was you. What did you do differently?
MH: This time it was our turn. I felt really confident before the rally and everybody said you must have lots of pressure coming to your home event with the Championship so close, but I didn't feel the pressure at all. I felt really good and for sure I knew it would never be an easy fight against him but I thought if everything worked then we could definitely do it. It went exactly to plan.
Q: We go to Australia next and the last time you were there you won, but this time it is on the other side of the country and into the great unknown. How are you feeling about it?
MH: Like you said, it will be a new rally for everybody and I don't know what the surface will be like. In the past it has been very difficult to be first on the road. But we will see. It is now three to go and we are leading by three points. If all goes well in Australia we can take the battle right to the end.
Q: Jarmo, congratulations -- you missed out last year, how does it feel for you to win your home event?
JL: It is emotional to be honest. It must have been 1977 when I spectated on this rally for the first time and now I am here winning it. I am almost out of words to describe how it feels. Before the final stage that was the longest time to wait because the running order was different. We had to wait 10 minutes and that felt like an entire weekend. But like Mikko said, when we crossed the finish line I didn't realise we had done it as it just felt like another stage win. But on the road section it started to sink in!
Q: Sebastien, second position for you at the end of the event, but it was a great fight between you and Mikko on the first day and yesterday morning. It's a shame it didn't last longer; did you feel it was all over when you picked up that puncture?
SL: Yes, for sure. I was pushing really on the limit and Mikko was still ahead. Before my puncture I was more than 10 seconds behind so it was still possible but difficult. I tried very hard and then I had the puncture. It was then that I knew I couldn't take him and I began to think of the Championship. Trying too hard was not the solution because the only thing I could do was so wait for him to make a mistake. So I drove for a second place.
Q: Last year you dominated on the opening the day, it didn't happen this time around -- why?
SL: I struggled a bit at the start of the rally to find the limits and rhythm, but Mikko was faster this year. I think our car hasn't improved a lot since last year as it was running pretty similar times. But Mikko's car has got better -- that was the biggest difference. I saw his lines on the Saturday stages and could see he was on the limit and I wasn't as far in the ditch as he was. I knew he had a good feeling from that moment on.
Q: It was important coming into this event, and for the next three, that neither of you made mistakes, as a low score or no score could mean it's all over in the Drivers' Championship. Does this make your approach to events any different?
SL: Not really. I really tried but okay we lost contact after the puncture and I decided to stop pushing. If one of us retires it can be over for the Championship but anything can happen and it is important to keep in contact and at the moment it is like that. We have three rallies to go and a three point lead by Mikko and we will see how we go. But I am sure it will be very interesting in the Championship.
Q: A lot of attention has been paid to Kimi Raikkonen this weekend. What did you think of his performance?
SL: I think he did really well. He was about 1 second per kilometre from Hanninen and the other best drivers and in Finland that is a very good performance.
Q: Daniel, this week it was announced that Rally Finland has been confirmed on the Championship calendar for the next five years. Many consider it to be the best on the calendar; what do you think?
DE: Yes sure. But this year it is a longer event with early starts and late finishes. This is not normal. This is okay for TV and I agree for them it is normal, but if you could just start at 9am then it would only be two hours difference and it would be better for the drivers as we won't be so tired. But the stages and the rally are fantastic.
Q: Jari-Matti, congratulations on your first-ever podium at Rally Finland. How does it feel?
J-ML: It is my best result. Before this I was 14th overall in 2003 so it took six years to get better!
Q: It's been a tough weekend -- the pressure of what happened in Poland on your shoulders and you weren't feeling very well yesterday either. Has is it been the toughest third position you have ever had?
J-ML: This rally has been the hardest because I started with pressure bigger than ever which is why I couldn't find the right feeling on the Friday. Also there was the famous Mokkipera stage where I crashed three times so that was a little demon I had to watch out for. I managed to overcome that and then I got a better feeling. But then we had another thing on the Saturday morning when I felt really sick. So sick in fact that I didn't even know if I would be able to drive the car, but I managed to keep going. So to finish third is amazing. I couldn't be happier.
Q: There was a battle emerging between you and Dani Sordo. Was it difficult to balance your pace with the team's calls to be safe and get on the podium?
J-ML: After Poland for sure my goal is to be a team player and if you think about the Manufacturer's Championship, Dani needs the points and so do I. But both of us want to be on the podium. You have to be clever and not do anything stupid. That's why I was really happy in this rally. Okay, even in Friday's loop Dani was 10 seconds ahead but I was able to use my head to think about it. I thought, okay, if it doesn't happen now we have some stages to come on Saturday to be able to take it. I was able to make a plan and for me that was one of the reasons why this rally was one of the best I have ever done.
Q: Does this result help you move on and forget about what happened in the first half of the season?
J-ML: Of course it takes the pressure off, but we also need to remember that this is only one rally and it makes my situation easier to go now to Australia. We need to carry on like this for the next three events. I am really hoping that I can find the consistent level now, finally, for the rest of the season. I just try to carry on and we will see if it was a turning point at the end of the year.
Q: Mika, congratulations -- how much pressure did you both feel coming here to your home event after what happened in Poland?
MA: The Mokkipera stage was really a target for us to overcome without mistakes and the first time through it was okay, and for us that was the same feeling as finishing a World Rally. The second time we did it okay with just a jump and we lost 5 seconds to Solberg and that was okay. It was according to plan. It wasn't rally driving, but safe driving!
Q: Malcolm, Ford's fourth win in a row and the first at home for Mikko. It's been a great weekend!
MW: It's been a dream weekend for Ford to be honest. If you think about it, after the results we've had, it is something else to build on for the remaining part of the season. Both drivers did exactly what we were looking for and if you look at Mikko's performance it was outstanding and a big step from last year. I think that is a message for Sebastien: there is a little bit more still to come. As for Jari, I think he's touched on it. I don't think there has ever been anyone with as much pressure coming into a Championship event, particularly your home rally. To come onto the podium is a great turnaround from where we were in Poland.
Q: Only three events remaining on the Championship calendar now. The fight for the World Championship title could come down to the wire in Great Britain. How will the nerves cope?
MW: I think they will cope. This has been a difficult rally because the gap is always so small and as Sebastien has found, one small incident like he had means that the rally really is lost unless something happens, whereas other rallies you can afford to lose that and pull it back, but here you can't do that. I must admit I am really looking forward to Rally Australia. It's a completely new event and Mikko has a great track record on new rallies, so all we have to stop is the 'Sebastien Loeb Factor' in Spain and I think we are well on the way to the Championship.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: What did Mikko and Jari-Matti think about Kimi Raikkonen's performance?
MH: I have the same thoughts as Sebastien; I think he did really well, considering he has only ever done two rallies with pace notes before. He was setting really good times.
J-ML: I agree, he did really well considering his lack of experience. Okay, he went off the road, but even I had a little moment in the same place. It is not an easy corner, and these things can happen!
FIA JUNIOR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st overall and winner of the 2009 FIA Junior World Rally Championship
(Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA)
Q: Martin you are the 2009 FIA Junior World Rally Champion! How does that sound?
MP: It is something very nice for me. We have been fighting for this for five years and the last two years we have almost won it, so this year we expected it to be a hard fight but Michal (Kosciuszko) made a mistake in Poland and so for me it was a chance to make it in two rallies. And where better than to win than here in Finland and be World Champion?
Q: You have been third for the past two years -- is it a great sense of relief now to have claimed the title?
MP: It is something new for me! I had previously thought that it would be impossible after trying for so long, so we will see tomorrow if it has sunk in! It has been a great experience here for me and we were not ready to be Champions so early in the middle of the summer. This year we did a very good job on every rally. In Sardinia we had a couple of problems, but we were helped by everybody to keep on fighting, the same in Cyprus. We have had so much experience and I was very confident.
Q: Jan, how does it feel for you to be Junior Champion?
JT: This is the biggest moment in my rally life, so I am very happy!
Q: You have led this event from start to finish and made it look easy. You said before the event got underway that you were not feeling so much pressure, did that change when the rally started?
MP: My race started last week on the test. On Monday we had official test and we were fastest so I was confident on my driving. I had big pressure in my head so I was quite nervous but also wanting to enjoy the rally. I knew I had to go fast and in Poland I was a little bit scared to make mistakes but not so bad here. I knew I didn't have to go flat out here.
Q: What was the atmosphere like in the car during the final stage?
MP: It was pretty normal actually, but then we realised that we were the World Champions so I realised that I have to drive like a World Champion!
Q: You have a small chance to be Production Car World Rally Champion too. How do you feel about that?
MP: For sure there is a small chance, and we will push to the maximum, but I think there are other drivers fighting for that title!