WRC

Rally Argentina: Post-event press conference

RALLY ARGENTINA 2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Post-event FIA Press Conference 03.30.2008 Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Chris Atkinson, Subaru World...

RALLY ARGENTINA
2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Post-event FIA Press Conference
03.30.2008

Present:
1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Chris Atkinson, Subaru World Rally Team
2nd - Stephane Prevot, Subaru World Rally Team
3rd - Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Marc Marti, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Citroen Total World Rally Team

Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.

Q: Congratulations Sebastien on your fourth consecutive win in Argentina. Would you say this has been the toughest Rally Argentina you have ever competed on?

SL: Yes, the toughest conditions for sure. It was very difficult to stay on the road in some stages. It was incredible conditions but okay the first day the Fords started really fast, especially Mikko (Hirvonen). I think he had an advantage to be first on the road on the first stage, he had a big gap and then finally he went off the road. We had after that a good lead and we just had to keep a good pace and not make a mistake and keep the position.

Q: On the opening stage Mikko Hirvonen blitzed the competition, setting a time 40 seconds quicker than you. What did you think of that at the time? Were you concerned that your chance of a win was in jeopardy?

SL: Yes, what can you do? The time was there and it was nothing to do but to try to catch him. It's like this, I don't know, but his time on the first stage was pretty impressive.

Q: And how have the tyres performed this weekend; a hard compound in these conditions was always going to be difficult. What are your thoughts?

SL: I think the tyres we have are really good. There were no punctures here, the tyres were very strong. In Mexico it was the same, but to do Greece in summer when it's 40 degrees and to do Argentina today with the conditions we had with the same tyre it's impossible. That's what I say; it's not a question of the tyre. The tyre is good but is not adapted to the conditions we had and that's because of the regulations. I think we should find a compromise on that. Okay, last year we had five different compounds to use in different situations, now we only have one, and last year we could cut and now we can't do anything. Okay we accept to drive this hard tyre, even when it's wet it's not so bad, but maybe if we could have a cut it could be much safer. And if it's the same for everybody it's not an advantage for anyone and it's for that, for the safety we ask.

Q: This morning we had two difficult stages before the super special, and we lost three or four WRC cars on those stages. What was your approach this morning and were you aware that even with those three stages left it still wasn't over?

DE: The time actually is very good but okay you lose a lot of time in the last stage in El Condor, a lot of mud, foggy and slippery and as Sebastien said with the tyres, it's not good for these conditions and okay not normal. If you have technical problems in the stage you lose a lot of points for the manufacturers. This rule is wrong for the moment. Well it's a rule, but you have to push for safety conditions. You have no choice. If it is raining you put a soft compound with a little cut, just for safety.

Q: Congratulations on second position, your third podium in four events. It's been a great start to the year.

CA: Yes, it definitely is a better start than we expected for this year and the team made a step forward with the consistency of the car and as a result the results are better for me, so no complaints there. My confidence probably hasn't changed at all; I'm still driving the same as I did last year and the same every rally. I came here not going flat-out at the start but pushing and seeing where we are. And this year it is working.

Q: Things seems to have changed though with Subaru and obviously you're getting results and as you said consistency is there, what do you attribute that to?

CA: It's all about development and getting everything working on the car. We know we had a couple of difficult years and finally we seem to have turned the corner with consistency and the performance of the car. We're still not on the pace of the leaders for sure and I think If we really have to have a fight then try to have a fight with Sebastien, or Mikko (Hirvonen) and Jari (Latvala) but hopefully that's not far away and wins are not too far away either.

Q: A big disappointment for your team-mate Petter Solberg on the final day. What did you think when you came across him stopped in the stage?

CA: I felt really bad for all the team and disappointment for all the guys. It would have been really cool to have two Subarus up there in the podium and I think it would have been a motivation for the guys to work even harder. For me it's good to be second and it's good for my Championship position. I feel sorry for Petter, obviously it sounds like it was out of his hands completely.

Q: You were in a battle with Petter (Solberg) but as of yesterday afternoon you seemed to settle for your position. Was that discussed within the team?

CA: No there were not decisions made or anything, but you know that you don't want to crash especially when you're in a safe position, when you have over a minute behind us like that. Petter has better experience than me on these roads and I took the decision to slow down and to be more conservative. That was my decision and at the end it didn't affect my result. I sort of decided my day will come in the future. I didn't have the best feeling; he seemed to have a better feeling than me yesterday. That was fine with me, obviously I would have like to beat him but the most important thing was that it was a good result for the team.

Q: Back on the podium, like I said to Chris, it has been a great start for the two of you. How was the event? Did you take any risks? Were there any big moments for you this weekend?

SP: Yes, a few but it was more due to the road conditions. I mean, Chris is not crazy, he is a good driver. He was pushing for sure but not crazy risks. For sure, we had some moments like everyone, yes, but it's due to the road conditions. For sure it was really tricky.

Q: Dani, third position and on the podium. Did you expect when you came here to Argentina that you would be in a podium position and was that the aim?

DS: Of course the podium here is very well for me, at the start of the rally I imagined this podium for the conditions of the roads, with a lot of mud after the cars, but the finish in the third place is really well.

Q: It went exceptionally well for you. Your confidence really does seem to be growing on gravel and you set some great times this weekend. Do you think you are getting far better on this surface now?

DS: Well, I think my performance on gravel is better and better. In this rally some stage times are not really good but I think it is something like in Finland. These rallies are very important and it's a very special surface. But of course, my performance is better and better in gravel.

Q: Now, the event always has a huge following from the passionate fans you have here in Argentina. Did you expect to see so many people out there on the stages supporting you?

DS: It's incredible. It is a lot of people in the stages, in the road section also. I think even more people in the road section than in the stages. But I think it is the rally with the most spectators in the Championship and I'm happy. Me and all the drivers we see many spectators on the stages.

Q: Did you have any problems at all this weekend? It seems that the Citroen Total World Rally Team was the only team that experienced no problems. Was everything okay for you?

DS: Everything is okay, we didn't have very big problems. We will start the new season now with no problems but I'm happy the car works very well in all the rallies, only in one stage we had a little problem but not a lot, I'm happy with the performance of the car.

Q: Marc, it's a podium position at the end of Argentina, which is fantastic for you and Dani. What was the original thought when you came to Argentina? What were you aiming for?

MM: When we arrived here we expect, of course, to do a good result for Citroen and for us, because in the previous rally we didn't have a lot of luck. But of course, you never know, and we never expected to have these weather conditions. Then, into the rally, when we arrived at the end of the rally in the third position, we are really, really happy because it's a good result for the team of course, and also for us because it's not easy in these conditions for even a driver like Dani to arrive in third position.

Q: What do you attribute your success to Olivier?

OQ: The team is so strong because of all the mechanics, the engineers, the drivers and this is what made the team. This time nothing happened and even Rautenbach got to fourth place and for us it's quite good.

Q: This result is very good for both the drivers and manufacturers' titles. How positive are you now feeling about the events ahead?

OQ: I feel very good, for Sebastien; he is leading for Championship. For the Manufacturers', because of the Super Rally, we are okay, but we are three points behind Ford so I think that's the new game we start.

Q: The next event is in Jordan and it will be new event for some of the drivers. Do you think it will be a level playing field for you there?

DS: The rally we try to finish in the same position as now or better. The rally is difficult, the surface is a lot of gravel in the top and slippery. It's not good for the first car; Sebastien is the first car in the route and it will be slippery. But I think the rally is nice.

Q: Chris, it was disappointing of course for Petter, but you are still in second position, it has to be a good boost for the team morale?

CA: Yes, it's a little bit different to probably Mexico and even Monte-Carlo, like that was a really good feeling and really good motivation. Obviously the guys were happy when we got back to service. There is a little bit of disappointment there obviously and that is the way it is in life, sometimes it goes your way or not. I think the motivation is more that you can give anyone when you get a result, like that's the most important thing. If we won then the guys would have been more motivated than if we were second, that's the aim obviously but one step at a time.

Q: It is Jordan Rally next and like Dani said you will be first on the road. That could be very tricky. What are your thoughts on the rally?

SL: I don't know. I was never in Jordan so I have absolutely no idea what we will have to do there. The only thing I can tell you is that Dani was there for the recce and he said that in some places it's some gravel on the road so maybe we will have to clean a bit, but, I like to clean because when you clean it is because you're leading the Championship and that's good.

FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
1st - Andreas Aigner
1st - Klaus Wicha

Q: Congratulations Andreas, your first-ever win in the P-WRC. How does it feel?

AA: My feeling is very, very good. After the off in Sweden the pressure has been a little bit higher already, so I'm really happy to be here and I didn't expect that I could win; but, I'm very happy with the three days. We were only pushing on the first stage and especially in the first two stages, and after that, we tried to keep the gap like it is. And I am here and we have one minute left to the second place, so it's quite okay.

Q: Certainly you seemed like a very confident driver this weekend. Did you experience any problems at all?

AA: Not, at all. We are very strong, quick as well. The team prepared the car very well and we had only one small moment in the last stage - El Condor - where we hit a stone but nothing broke on the car so everything is okay.

Q: Klaus this must feed your confidence for the remaining rounds in the PWRC. We know that you both want to go for the title this year. This is a great confidence boost, isn't it?

KW: Yes, I think we try to get the title or at least to match the other guys. It's a strong Championship so normally everybody in the Championship can win, and like Andreas said, after the retirement in Sweden this was a good opportunity to come back and fight against all the others. Yeah, I'm looking forward to Greece and even Turkey.

Q: What was it like inside the car this weekend because you both were leading for the majority of the rally? Was it quite stressful inside the car?

AA: We started the rally okay. The weather conditions in the whole weekend were completely difficult and we took it, let's say, quite carefully in the first one pushing a little bit better on the second one, Ascochinga, and then we won there a little, and after that we tried to keep the gap and tried to keep all the guys behind us.

Q: I know you did a good job Andreas, but Nasser Al-Attiyah really was starting to move up the leader board. I know there was a big gap between you, but he was starting to narrow it. Did you feel any pressure at all from the guys behind?

AA: Yes, for sure. Nasser was pushing very hard on the second day and we know yesterday that he had some problems on the uphill twisty parts. I knew today in the first stage, this stage was almost uphill and twisty, normally it's no problem to keep him behind us, so I try to relax but it's impossible to relax when the stage is El Condor or Mina Clavero because the conditions are so difficult.

Q: But you didn't lose your focus once this weekend at all; what was your approach to each day?

AA: I think it's very difficult to drive like this when you are leading and with a gap of one minute or more, it's very difficult to make the real tactics, but I think it's going really well and we kept the gap in the middle of the second day. I wasn't a bit afraid that I slow down too much. But I think it was the right choice to do like this.

Q: Now, it's the first gravel event for you with the new Pirellis. What do you think of the performance of the tyres this weekend?

AA: The tyres are for sure quite strong, I think it was not the best tyres for this condition when it's like muddy or raining, but Pirelli are quite strong. I think now the problems are the rings and the suspension.

Q: Looking to the whole season, what rallies do you think you can be strong on? Obviously your first win in PRWC has come here in Argentina, but where else you think you can possibly pick up another?

AA: I think the next two events are very good for me, I like Greece and Turkey. I did not so bad in the past, and I think I will be very strong there, and after that it's New Zealand, completely new for me. I have to look what happens there.

-credit: fia

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