FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP RALLY RACC CATALUNYA COSTA DAURADA -- RALLY DE ESPANA 10.07.2007 Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb -- Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena -- Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Daniel Sordo -- Citroen...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
RALLY RACC CATALUNYA COSTA DAURADA -- RALLY DE ESPANA
1st - Sebastien Loeb -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Daniel Sordo -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Marc Marti -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Marcus Gronholm -- BP Ford World Rally Team
3rd - Timo Rautiainen -- BP Ford World Rally Team
Guy Frequelin -- Team Principal, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Welcome to the final FIA press conference.
Q: Seb, congratulations on another win. You now come out of this event just six points behind Marcus Gronholm with four rallies to go. How good do you think your chances are of taking the Championship title this year now? Was it crucial for you to win here?
SL: It's too early to speak about that. Sure it's better for me to be at six rather than 10 points before this rally. We expected to be faster than Marcus here on tarmac. I was really happy to see that Dani could be fast on tarmac. To take four points from Marcus was all we could expect: that's perfect. If I didn't win here, I could maybe forget the Championship. It's important to continue like this in Corsica next week.
Q: How about you Daniel, what do you think about the chances of winning the title? Do you think it will go down to the last round, on Wales Rally GB? Or is it more likely that the title will be decided before then?
DE: Hundred per cent, every time it's the same. It's not easy, now we have two gravel and two tarmac events, half and half, but the team works well and I am confident. We have to work to win the last race by 0.2 second! It's fantastic for the communication of this sport, the battle is good. If it finishes on the last stage of the last rally, but for the last rally to Marcus... no!
Q: Congratulations on second place Dani -- for a while you were pushing Seb very closely. Were you allowed to fight with him by the team, or was your role to support him on this rally? Do you think you could have challenged him for the victory? How much did you have left in reserve -- were you pushing to the maximum?
DS: To beat Sebastien is very difficult. He's very, very fast. It was important for me to finish ahead of Marcus for Sebastien and for the team. It's not my job to win against Sebastien. Normally, I push at the maximum, it's not easy. Marcus was at the maximum and me also.
Q: There was intermittent rain on this event -- particularly at the end of the first day. How difficult did that make your task of choosing tyres and trying to stay on the road? Did you have everything under control or were there some moments?
MM: Of course, it was not easy. We know the conditions and we know it was possible to have some rain and it was because of that, that we made the decision to cut the tyre. This was the most important decision of the whole rally for me. The gravel crew decided very well to make this decision. Really, I'm happy with the result, but also I am very quiet. It was a very easy rally, it was very close all of the time, but I enjoy the stages and inside the car with Dani everything was perfect.
Q: Marcus, you've conceded four points to Seb here. Was it the tyre choice on the opening day that compromised your rally? How crucial are those four points? Do you still feel reasonably confident of the title? Is there anything you would like to change on the car?
MG: Yeah we lost quite a lot on the first day. It was not only the tyres, it was the confidence and the feeling with the slick tyre. It was not nice to go with the slicks there in the rain. That's it. I still feel okay for the gravel, it's two gravel rallies and we are leading by six points. Perfect. I won't change anything on the car.
Q: Next up we have another asphalt rally, in Corsica. Do you think it will be a different story there? Is it a rally that you and Marcus enjoy more than this one? What is it like living this extraordinary Championship battle from the inside: it must be incredibly intense.
TR: I'm pretty sure it will be about the same drivers who are fighting on the stages for the positions on the podium. If you look how I was thinking a week ago, I thought this was our best shot for better than third place. I think if the weather is what we like: dry, and we make the correct tyre choice, we can challenge these Citroen crews. Here, when everything was perfect, we could match them and occasionally even beat them, But then, when we had a couple of bad stages, we lost the time. It is very intense, but so far on the stages, we don't think about the Championship all of the time. When it's near the finish and you wonder about trying to push harder, or is this enough where I am? Can I get any higher up? Or, like Friday, when it was raining and we dropped 20 seconds, you think more about the Championship then. It is very hectic, think about how many rallies we have in a season and what the gap is now, it is very hectic.
Q: Another one-two for Citroen Guy, was this a tense rally for you, or was it one that you were able to control? How anxious were you when Dani and Seb were fighting for the lead on the opening day? What do you think are Seb's chances of taking the Drivers' title now? How about Citroen's chances of the Manufacturers' title?
GF: I am always nervous on all of the rallies. For sure, I was very nervous, but it's like this. We expected before the rally to do a result with both cars and crews. It's sometimes difficult to do what we expect, but for this rally we did what we expect. It's very nice and I'm very happy. Now the difference between Marcus and Sebastien is a little less. It's very important for the next rallies. Sure, it's very difficult and I don't think we can win the Manufacturers' Championship. It's also very difficult to catch Marcus and Timo, but we will do everything we can and I hope we will do our best.
Q: When it comes to your Championship hopes, how much do you think you can rely on Dani to help you win the title? Was his performance crucial here? Do you expect him to have the same level of performance on the remaining asphalt rounds in Corsica and Ireland? Corsica will be your third rally in three weeks: do you feel the strain?
SL: Yes, I think Dani was really, really fast here. You are driving in the same rhythm all of the time. We didn't have each others' split times. We just tried to keep the times of Marcus. It was hard for me to make any difference. We were 13 seconds ahead of him on Friday and the difference is exactly the same today. I am sure he can be as fast on some of the other tarmac rallies as well. We need to do all we can to try to save our title. We are still sleeping in the night, so there's no reason to be tired. The feeling with the car is good, so no, it's not a problem.
Q: Was this the first time you and Seb have competed on wet asphalt with the Citroen C4? What did you think of the car in these conditions? Did you make the right tyre choices here?
DE: Yes. The tyre choice was not so good (in SS6). It is the hard compound and normally it's dry. Sebastien tried to push to the maximum to get the tyre hot, but the car slides a lot. When you see the time being beaten you try to push, push, push to make the difference.
Q: What do you think about the forthcoming asphalt rallies in Corsica and Ireland? Did your recent experience of competing on the Cork Rally with a Xsara WRC help you?
DS: Of course in Ireland it's very special roads. The surface is bumpy and fast. The stage in this condition is important. I think Sebastien drove last year, there are a lot of drivers in Ireland, but it's important to know the stages.
Q: How much home support do you have here? Do you think Dani has inherited the affection of the Spanish public for Carlos Sainz, as Spain's top rally driver?
MM: No, I think Dani now is a driver with speed. Everybody knows this, and it's more easy when you are driving at home in front of the crowds. But, of course, everybody will remember Carlos, but it's nice to have Dani now for the local people.
Q: It's been your last Catalunya Rally: will you miss it?
MG: Of course in some ways, yes. But not the weather on Friday!
Q: This year, the organisers placed concrete blocks on the inside of some of the corners in order to stop people cutting them and dragging debris onto the road. Do you think that worked?
TR: For me, I think it was a very good idea. It really prevents you going to the gravel and taking the gravel to the tarmac, which isn't the nicest thing. I'm also happy the stage we did today -- I cannot pronounce the name (Riudecanyes) -- we drove it last year in the opposite direction and it was like a gravel rally. This time, with the blocks, it was fantastic. I really support this. A tarmac rally should be on tarmac.
Q: With the news that Marcus Gronholm will retire, do you expect to have an easier time next year?
GF: I think that it's really a pity if Marcus doesn't drive next year for the WRC. It's important for him and Timo to have a big fight with the other drivers. I don't think he will stop, it's impossible, he must continue!
MG: And you as well! (to Frequelin)
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
Richard Rodgers (Motorsport News, UK)
Q: Guy, in Corsica next week Suzuki joins the Championship. What do you think?
GF: It's difficult to say what will be the performance for this brand in Corsica. I don't know what will be possible.
Martin Holmes (Martin Holmes Rallying, UK)
Q: Guy, we presume you encouraged Duval to do the rally to support Sebastien. Why didn't you offer Duval a Citroen C4?
GF: It's not possible with the regulations. We can only have two cars with the C4, not with the Manufacturer Team.
Q: M2 (Manufacturer Team) has to have the same car for each driver?
GF: Yes, and not the car from this year.
FIA JUNIOR RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Per-Gunnar Andersson
1st - Jonas Andersson
Q: You came here needing a win for your Championship hopes and you've done it: how difficult was it to achieve? You took the lead after your team-mate Urmo Aava picked up a puncture yesterday morning: if that had not happened, would you still have won?
P-GA: I didn't really know the pace Friday. I started well and my time was the same as Urmo. I could only keep that speed. On the second stage on Saturday, Urmo had a puncture, so I could back off a little bit. But, it was very, very important to be ahead of Urmo. If I hadn't done that, the Championship would have been more or less over. Yeah, definitely I had to push harder than I wanted. Urmo and Martin (Prokop) have both gone quicker in the last two days, and my speed would have been quicker if I hadn't had the gap between me and them. I can't really tell you if I'd have won or not.
Q: You also had a bit of a moment yesterday, with a misheard pace-note on SS9: what exactly happened?
JA: P-G misheard the way I said the note. The corner was taken as a left three, when it was a left one. We were a bit lucky there was gravel and not a big drop on the outside. Okay, you have to have some luck sometimes.
Q: Did you expect your team-mate Urmo Aava to be as quick as he was? Were you surprised that the Citroen C2s, which have been so successful here in the past, were not closer to your pace?
P-GA: I didn't think he would be so quick. We had a good pace and he showed he could be quicker. I phoned Kris Meeke on Friday night and said it would have been good to see him on this rally and see how quick he would have been. Kris gave me some advice and it helped. It was Friday when Martin dropped a lot of time. We found a good pace directly and kept it on. Martin's times were better today -- maybe he was sleeping on Friday! And we had a good car.
Q: Did you get caught out by the rain on Friday? How easy would it have been to make a mistake when the road was slippery?
JA: Not really. We knew there was a possibility, so we had two spare intermediate tyres in the boot. When it started to rain, we put them on the front and the slicks on the rear. Most people did the same. It was much better than we thought it would be. We weren't sliding as much as we thought we would.
Q: What is your approach for Corsica going to be now? How optimistic do you feel about your chances of taking the title?
P-GA: We have to go at the maximum from the first stage to the last and see if we're still in the rally at the end. We can't give any seconds away: we have to be at the front all of the time.