RALLY IRELAND FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Marc Marti, Citroen Total World ...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Marc Marti, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Team Principle, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Welcome to the post event FIA Press Conference.
Q: Sebastien, congratulations on win number 48 and your second Rally Ireland victory. A tough weekend?
SL: It has been a very, very difficult weekend. The conditions were really tricky, especially the first day. We started with the tarmac tyres and it was nearly impossible to keep the car on the road in these conditions. We understood it was a tyre choice mistake and snow tyres were working very well in these conditions, so from that point the feeling was a bit better and the car was working well for me absolutely no problem at all.
Q: Even with the winter tyres was it difficult to get into a rhythm on the stages when they were so soaked with rain?
SL: It was important to take a good rhythm, to be concentrated, because we had a lot of information from the safety crew that there was a lot of water here and there. I had to listen to the notes and to be 100% concentrated and so for us to take a good rhythm was a good solution and I had a really a good feeling.
Q: You said it was tough, you said it was a challenge. We saw some moments, were there any big moments when you thought maybe it was going to be all over or not? What happened in SS18?
SL: When it happened it was not a complete loss of control but I went a bit on the grass and when you are in the grass you don't know if there's a stone or not. If it's only grass it's okay but if it's a stone it can break something so I was a bit lucky, but other drivers were all a bit lucky one or two times in the rally.
Q: Daniel, it has been a big challenging event, what have you thought of Rally Ireland this time around?
DE: This was very difficult with the weather conditions. It was very slippery and more difficult with water on the road and if you have no safety crew here you have just five cars at the end of the race. For me it is more important to take safety crews on tarmac for all drivers, not just for manufacturers. If you have a gravel crew, then it is not just 20 cars at the finish but 40. It is for safety. It is important and here it is most important, not for performance.
Q: Dani, you have equalled your result from Rally Ireland in 2007; was it tougher this time around?
DS: I am really happy. Not bad for the start of the season. It was a little bit tougher than 2007, on the first and second day particularly. Also for the tyres, but after that with the winter tyres it was going very well.
Q: You made your way to second position through day one -- how much were you pushing on the opening day?
DS: I pushed on the first day on the first stage and also on the second stage but on stage three I tried all the time but it was really very difficult to go faster. After Mikko's problem with the steering, it was more easy.
Q: What is your aim for the 2009 season?
DS: Yes, I will try to finish in second position in the Championship because it is very difficult to get in front of this guy (Loeb) but second position is not bad. It will be difficult with Mikko and others but I will try to get points for me and the Manufacturers' Championship.
Q: Marc, how did you find Rally Ireland?
MM: I found the rally very good, the conditions were difficult for the organisers but they did a good job. But for the co-drivers it was a lot of work because there are a lot of corners and you need to put all the points of view from your safety crew. This meant you had to read the notes more fast but we are happy to do the job because for us it was more for safety.
Q: Mikko, Ford knew it would be tough against the Citroens; can you say you are happy with the result?
MH: Yes and no. Of course I'm always hoping for more but like you said we knew it was going to be very difficult against Citroen on tarmac and in the end I am happy to have six points because it is a very good start to the season. But after Friday I was hoping I would have a fight with Sordo but it ended up there was nothing much I could do.
Q: It seems like it was a bit frustrating, because you could have had a great battle for second but you had to have your eye on third because the gap was so big?
MH: Yes, it was. Even when the car was okay, I wasn't able to take any time out of Sordo. I managed to be close and we might have put some pressure on him, but the power steering broke and there was nothing we could do about it and the gap was too big to fight.
Q: It has been a rally of tyre choices and weather. On the opening day we saw Jari-Matti (Latvala) benefit from using the Sottozero tyre; you chose the PZero. Was that on the team's advice or was it your choice?
MH: It was my choice and it was wrong, but I was 50-50. I did some testing with both tyres and I thought there was a lot of abrasive tarmac and I didn't think it was so much water so I thought it should be okay to go with the slick tyre, but it was raining a lot more than we thought so it was just not working.
Q: Third overall, which is good points for you both, but is there a sense of frustration about the weekend?
JL: For sure, we came here to take more points than six points but after the problem yesterday it was frustrating just cruising around. Yesterday afternoon was the longest afternoon for a long, long time. Today it was a lot easier when the sun finally came up and we can say we enjoyed tarmac rallying again, but we had a good tyre choice and the stages were drying up and generating some grip. It was fun today but unfortunately it was too late.
Q: Olivier, maximum points here in Ireland puts the team in the lead of both Championships -- it's a great start to the season for you.
OQ: Yes, but we do prefer to start like that because the next rally will be Norway and I think it will be more difficult for us. This year there will be only 12 rallies, two on tarmac and we want to keep the Manufacturers' title, so we need to make the most here and this is done and I am very happy for this and now we try to do our best in Norway. I hope it will be good but we won't be the favourite.
Q: Let's also talk about the Citroen Junior Team, what are your feelings on their performances?
OQ: We are quite happy because Chris (Atkinson) did not know the car, for Sebastien Ogier it was quite new and for Conrad (Rautenbach) he is still progressing, so what happened is quite okay because the three cars finished the rally so that means they are quite good. Chris was going up and up and up with every stage and Sebastien Ogier was disappointed but he has to learn so I think it's good for him, and to be at the end is quite well but he has to learn and this is the World Championship so its not easy.
Q: Chris Atkinson was only confirmed for this one event, would you like to see him in more this year with you?
OQ: Yes, I hope he will stay with us. We will have a discussion but I don't know yet, the rally is just finished but I hope he will stay with us.
Q: Sebastien let's go back to the opening day. We talked about the weather; those last two stages were cancelled due to the weather. If we had had our old regulations with regard to the tyres, if you were allowed to cut, do you think you would have been allowed to go through those stages or was it not an issue for tyres?
SL: I didn't think it was an issue with the tyres because with the snow tyres it was working well. I think it was more that there was a lot of water in some places and it was very tricky. Without any other information, it would have been too dangerous so I think it is right that they decided to cancel but it is difficult to give an opinion without seeing the stages. I'm sure if the organisation decided to cancel then they had good reason to do it.
Q: Dani, did you make any mistakes on this event?
DS: Not too many mistakes. I make some mistakes but not too much. I drove well and am happy but some mistakes the same as everybody.
Q: We go to Norway next? How do you hope to perform on snow?
DS: I will try to go fast but I think after testing in Sweden this year I am happy, we will see. I have more experience on snow and feel very well after the test.
Q: Mikko, did that change your strategy when Jari Matti retired?
MH: No, not really. Of course I have to think of both of the Championships so if I can't score points for myself, there are no points for the team either so I just have to go as fast as I can and in every rally I just need to collect as many points as I can. I think if Jari-Matti had continued we would have more points and we wouldn't be so far behind Citroen now after the first rally, but there are still many rallies to come so hopefully we can get more points and fight back.
Q: Last time in Norway you won, can you repeat that?
MH: I am definitely going to try. It is a rally I like and if conditions are perfect for sure we can get a good fight there.
Q: Sebastien, you will be first on the road in Norway, what are you hoping for at that event?
SL: I hope I will be able to fight for the victory. For me I like this kind of rally; it is always a pleasure to drive in Norway and Sweden in the snow. It is only one rally per year and I'm excited to go there but always a good challenge for me to try to fight for the victory because Mikko won in Norway last time we were there, and Jari-Matti won in Sweden.
FIA JUNIOR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Aaron Burkart
1st - Michael Kolbach
Q: Congratulations Aaron on your first ever JWRC win. How do you feel?
AB: Very, very happy. I don't know what to say. We started with a new team, I started with a new car and the first rally we are doing together is my first win in the JWRC. It's quite a lot of firsts as you said last year so it's quite impressive. I had a good feeling from the start and luckily the Suzuki was strong enough to cover a small accident we had on stage 3. For the rest of the rally it was very difficult with a lot of mud and water on the streets. We made it to the finish and I'm very happy with that.
Q: You had a consistent year last year, you were runner-up in the Junior Championship but that win has eluded you. Is there a sense of satisfaction now that you have achieved it?
AB: I think you always feel satisfied when you win, it doesn't matter when or how! It was very nice, Even better because this was such a challenging rally.
Q: You are in a new car, the Suzuki Swift -- how was it this weekend?
AB: We went to the pre-event test on Monday and this was very helpful. It was very muddy there as well. The circumstances were not as wet but quite comparable, I think we made a good job over there. The main difference is that you don't feel the limit of the car as easy as you do with the Citroens, you have to be very confident with it, just to drive.
Q: It's been challenging with the weather conditions. Have you driven in conditions like this before?
AB: Well we did the Galway Rally last weekend; there was stormy weather there as well, like 140km wind, heavy wind and some streets were flooded. I came here and thought it couldn't get worse but it did get worse!
Q: What were conditions like today out there?
AB: The grip was not that different. The streets were more or less dry, the character of the stage was that you could cut and get more dirt out. In the end it was quite the same level of grip; driving style was much the same.
Q: Congratulations Michael, how was the weekend for you?
MK: It was quite interesting, I was sitting on the right side; sometimes we were swimming and not driving!
Q: What did you think of Aaron's driving this weekend?
MK: Yeah he did a good job and I hope this is not the last time to be on the podium!
Q: How much confidence will this win give you ahead of the next round in Cyprus?
MK: I think Cyprus will be very different; it will be a very hard gravel rally.
Q: From what you have seen this weekend from the other competitors in the JWRC, do you think there are some who have raised their game this year?
AB: Yes, as I said in the pre-event press conference, the young boys are improving as well. They are doing more kilometers, they are getting more used to the car and the car is improving as well so of course they will be competitive in the following event.
Q: Your next round is in Cyprus, a total contrast from this event.
AB: It will be interesting, it is the first time that they split the rally between gravel and tarmac. As I heard we will use the gravel tyres on tarmac and I never did this, so this will be the next challenge to appear.
Q: How are you going to be celebrating this victory?
AB: Unfortunately have to be in the harbour early, it's a shame that I can't celebrate with the team. But I'll have a beer or two with them!