WRC

Rally Finland: Post-event press conference

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...

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, Team Principal, Citroen Total World Rally Team

Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.

Q: Sebastien, what a weekend it has been here in Finland; you have taken your first win at this event, how do you feel?

SL: It feels really good especially after the battle we have had all weekend. It was really big tension and big stress all the time, flat out everywhere. At the start of the stages you knew that you couldn't make any mistakes. It was really difficult. To win here gives me great satisfaction.

Q: You have had many wins in your career but how does this one rate?

SL: It is difficult to remember all the wins I've had but this one for sure is one of the best because I won Sweden in 2004 because I was the only non-Scandinavian to win but it was not the same kind of fight. Here there was a big fight and that gives you the most satisfaction.

Q: You seem to have really enjoyed yourself all weekend and you said you were happy with your performance. But you backed off and made a little mistake today -- did that unnerve you?

SL: Yes, I just had to remind myself to drive normally and not to try so much flat out. I have been driving flat out for two days and after that you start to do stupid things. So after that mistake I said, no, keep a normal rhythm and try to finish and that's what I did. It is a question of pressure. I knew I would have to push this morning and the feeling was good but when you try to change the rhythm that's when it becomes difficult.

Q: What point did today did you think that Mikko was not going to be able to catch you? Was there a point after that longest stage this morning that you felt slightly easier going into those final two stages?

SL: Yes, because I knew 18 seconds was OK but I didn't want too lose too much in the first stage so I decided to push from the beginning because if you start too slowly you lose the rhythm and you find it harder to find the feeling again. But after that stage the gap was still the same and with 18 kilometres to go I said to myself, it should be OK.

Q: Now that you have won Rally Finland, when you retire - which we hope is many many years time - will you feel satisfied that you can sit back, relax and say 'I won the classic event?'

SL: Sure! This year if I had to choose one rally to win I would pick Finland. I have never won it before but I have always been more competitive here. I have tried a lot of times but I never was able to win. It was always the last rally on the Championship that eluded me. So for me, Finland was the one I wanted to win,

Q: Rallye Deutschland, where you scored your first ever WRC win, is next on the calendar. It's an event you have made your own since it came on to the WRC calendar in 2002; are you confident you can reclaim the lead in the Drivers' Championship there?

SL: Yes for sure. Tarmac rallies have always been good for me and in Germany I have won every time, but you never know. Everything is possible and anything can happen so, OK, tarmac rallies help me a lot in my Championship but Germany is always very tricky.

Q: Only three other non-Nordic drivers have ever won this event, is it a good feeling that you and Sebastien have achieved a win here?

DE: I am the second Frenchman to win now! Finnish drivers are very fast, not so much on tarmac for the moment, although Mikko is very motivated for Germany. But I am very happy today and it has been a very good challenge. We tried hard here in the past but with no results - but this year we had no punctures and the tyres were very good and so finally we had the result we wanted.

Q: You came here to win, but it's second position for you at the end of the event. It's been a fabulous battle -- is that any consolation to you?

MH: It is, even though I came second and for sure I am disappointed with that, but it has been a fantastic battle and I have really enjoyed every moment. The pace the whole weekend was crazy in many stages and I am sure that we were taking more risks than last year, but fair play, Sebastien has found those few seconds to win the rally and so all I could do was to just finish second.

Q: You were taking seconds out of Sebastien, and then he was taking seconds out of you - it seemed to go back and forth like that all weekend. That seemed frustrating, but was it also enjoyable?

MH: It was both for sure. I don't know how it went that way that some stages I would win by a few seconds and then he would fight back and take exactly the same time off me. We were both absolutely flat out but I am sure it must have looked good outside the car because it looked good from where I was inside!

Q: If you could re-run the weekend again what, if anything, would you have done differently; did you feel you were too cautious at any point?

MH: I wasn't completely happy with the rhythm I had on Friday morning but we weren't slow and maybe there was one stage where I made a mistake and lost four seconds, but otherwise it was a really good performance.

Q: You began the final morning 18.2 seconds behind but still with your amazing fighting spirit you were not going to give up. When did you realise the win was not going to be yours though?

MH: I think when we came to the podium! After Lankamaa, where we had exactly the same time, I realised that it was not going to be enough but even with Sebastien's small mistake it wasn't enough.

Q: We will see the new evolution of the Ford Focus WRC in Germany. How has the tarmac testing gone for that event and could you possibly upset Loeb's reign in Germany?

MH: Here in Finland we were the favourites but we didn't win, so maybe the same will happen to him. It will be hard but there is no way I will settle for second straight away. There are three tarmac rallies ahead of us but I will go out and drive to win every stage.

Q: It's been a great weekend but for you and Mikko coming to your home town leading both Championships I can imagine it has been very special indeed. A shame you couldn't stand on the top step of the podium, but has it been a good experience?

JL: It was a very special thing. We have both been spectating here since we were small kids and came here as favourites and leading the championship. In front of all your fans it is a fantastic feeling and nothing can beat that.

Q: We thought we may see slower average speeds here this weekend with the changes to the route -- what did you think of the route?

JL: No complaints about the route. Maybe a little bit smaller than in previous years but the roads were OK -- no harm done and there were even new routes for me that I haven't done and I've been doing rallying in Finland for a long time, so they were even a surprise for me.

Q: Chris, it's your fifth podium of 2008 and the first time we see you on the podium here in Finland. You have to be pleased with the result?

CA: It's good yes, a good way to start the second half of the year. These two guys and their co-drivers were on a whole different level this weekend and we couldn't match that, but after coming through the field and finally moving up to the podium, that is such fun.

Q: You seemed to get off to a slow start on the opening day, what was that down to? Did you make any big changes to the car on the service ahead of Saturday?

CA: We had some problems but I stayed with the same set up I'd tested with all weekend. We had some issues on the first day but we solved them at the second service and that enabled us to build our confidence. But in Finland it takes a few stages to build up the confidence again so by the second day we were back up to our normal speed.

Q: We know the team have been developing the Subaru Impreza WRC 08 since we saw it last in Turkey. Does it feel more competitive than it did back then?

CA: There has definitely been a step forward and the car feels more consistent. For the last two days we had no problems and ran at the same pace all the time so that is encouraging. But it's not enough -- we want to win and we need to go faster so we will keep pushing and developing things. These guys have been in their cars for a couple of years now while we are still developing and changing things on each rally, so it takes time.

Q: Rally Finland is great to have on your CV as a podium position -- third overall -- but what about the rest of the season. What is your plan?

CA: We have had a good season in terms of consistency and we have been able to get podiums because of that, but we know that we were only third here because of Jari-Matti's mistake. That's a fact -- the outright pace wasn't there for us and we have to improve that. We will keep driving the same way and still work as hard as ever and try to improve things.

Q: Chris, Germany next and a tarmac event. We have seen you do well on tarmac in the past. Are you confident?

CA: We had some good times in Germany last year and I hope to do the same again but we have a new car and it will be the first time in hot conditions with new tyres, so it is a different feeling and we need to learn to adapt to that. So I am not sure we will have that same pace straight away but we shall see.

Q: You have a good amount of experience of this event, co-driving here in the 90's. From what the event was back then, do you think it has improved in terms of the route used?

SP: For me the rally was really good but I have to say that a few of the stages were narrow and rough the second time through. Call me old-fashioned, but to me Rally Finland is all about really fast stages and the narrow stuff is bumpy and perhaps more dangerous. The average speed is a bit down maybe but I don't think it is any safer. The real fun is in the typical wide Finnish roads and that is what makes this rally unique.

Q: Olivier, congratulations on Citroen's first ever win in Finland, the whole team have put on a great performance this weekend. Did you think before the event began that it would go so well for you?

OQ: When we came here I did not think that it could happen. I knew that Sebastien wanted to win but I knew also that points were important to us above all for the Championship. But he set a good pace and then as you see the car was OK and so congratulations to him. It is good for Citroen and for the Championship. There was no strategy, it was just pure driving.

Q: The lead in the Manufacturers' Championship is now slashed to just three points between you and BP Ford. With the tarmac rounds coming up, are you feeling positive about achieving good results in the rallies ahead?

OQ: When we came to Finland we were the challenger and won. In Germany we will be favourite and so we have to take care if we want to win again. We cannot be complacent so even from tomorrow we will work hard and begin our testing.

FIA JUNIOR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
1st -- Martin Prokop
1st -- Jan Tomanek

Q: Martin -- a great fight in the juniors with you and Michal Kosciuszko, very similar to the battle we saw in Italy earlier this year. But this time it's you who comes out on top, did you enjoy the fight?

MP: It was again a very big fight and I didn't expect this as I thought I would be fighting Patrik Sandell more. There was never more than five seconds between us and the speed was too high and I was feeling like I could make a mistake at any moment.

Q: The lead was swapping back and forth between you and Kosciuszko throughout the weekend, until he made a mistake. It must have been frustrating...

MP: It was very enjoyable but here in Finland sometimes it is too fast and sometimes I was scared but you just can't go slow -- you have to push hard all the time so there was only one way to go. Today we slowed down and controlled our position more and weren't so aggressive, which is sometimes harder.

Q: With this win I believe you are now in sixth position. Is the Championship title still within your grasp or not?

MP: We have to win all the rallies right to the end to be in with a chance of winning. It will not be so easy but we will see and we will try.

Q: A great result for you both and a boost to your confidence for the rest of the season?

JT: For sure! We have a lot of confidence now because we have found a very good set up in the car and know we can fight hard.

FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
1st -- Juho Hanninen
1st -- Mikko Markkula

Q: Congratulations on your second PWRC win of the season, this puts you just eight points off Aigner's lead in the Championship. You needed to win here didn't you?

JH: It has been a very good weekend and we have ten more points, and that's what we need from here.

Q: It was a tough battle with Juha Salo though. Did you think a win was out of your grasp?

JH: No, it was under control and I put some pressure on him and he made a mistake. But we had a very good battle and he was very fast.

Q: Salo retired and then there was quite a gap between first and second -- did you ease off at all?

JH: Not so much maximum attack because it got rougher and I knew I needed to save the car for Sunday, but we had great fun.

Q: Things look good in the Championship now, as Aigner has another dropped event in Japan. The Championship is still on for you then?

JH: Yes it looks much better and with New Zealand coming it is one of my favourites so I am looking forward to it and I am confident.

Q: Tough event, especially during Friday and Saturday. What did you think of the stages this year?

JH: They were very nice and very demanding and I got a lot of experience and fun from them.

Q: Mikko we have been lucky as spectators to see some great battles this weekend and it's been fantastic in the Production Car Championship. How pressured has it been inside the car today?

MH: I don't think we had much pressure because we were laughing and joking all the time and were relaxed all the way through the rally. OK, we knew we had to think about the Championship so it was a different situation. I was more relaxed and we got the points.

Q: Winning in front of the home crowd must be something special

MH: For every Finnish rally driver they want to win in front of their home crowd, so yes it was very special indeed.

-credit: fia

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Sébastien Loeb , Daniel Elena , Mikko Hirvonen , Stéphane Prévot , Jarmo Lehtinen , Jan Tomanek , Chris Atkinson , Mikko Markkula , Martin Prokop , Juho Hanninen , Michal Kosciuszko , Patrik Sandell , Olivier Quesnel
Teams Citroën World Rally Team