Continued from part 1
Q: Seb, he wants to give you a fight, no doubt you are ready for it?
SL: Yes I am ready. For the moment everything is going well. Everything with the car is good. I remember last year it was a fight with Petter and he was a bit faster, so I think we have improved this year with the car and the tyres. I am sure we can fight with him. For me it's another challenge here because if I finish third I will be the champion and that's important.
PS: Have you decided which rally you want to win the championship? Will you wait till Corsica?!
SL: I prefer to win the championship here than the rally. It's difficult to think like this. And to decide I will not take too much risk to fight for the victory. We will see tomorrow and if I can fight for victory and I will do it.
Q: What would it mean to you and Citroen to win here where Mitsubishi and Subaru are so big?
SL: For me to win here it's not the most important thing. The most important is to be the champion and now we have four rallies to go and we are close to winning the title and it's not over till the end so at the moment I think if I could be champion here I could very happy because it's also a lot of pressure when you are close and you are not at the moment. I will do my best. If I can fight for the victory I will try and fight.
Q: You could have won in Britain but it wasn't to be because of the decision... PS interjected: That decision was wrong in England. They should have cancelled the rally after the stage when everybody came back to service, then Marcus would have got his points. There would not have been anything at all. It would have been the most fair thing because of Marcus and the Peugeot team. All the teams and drivers would agree that we should have left it as it was.
SL: The best way to make it simple and fair and logic for me was that the rally should have been stopped at the last stage that every driver has drove through. Marcus was third, I completely understand his decision to retire and not to go to check in at service. What does it change in a situation like this. We didn't do anymore stages so why not stop the rally on the last stage.
Q: It could have been argued this was unprecedented; we were in a place we had not been in before or for a long time so clear decisions were difficult to come by.
PS: No not really; we should think of what happened and forget everything else and think logic about it and just leave it, calm down and finish. Instead of doing everything else we did. If not, if we pulled out all the driver, if we pulled out of the whole rally we would have pulled out.
Q: Have we learned anything for the future if anything was to happen again?
PS: We won't think about it happening again
SL: No for sure. In the rally we were not happy with the decision but it's like this, you take your own decision after that. I didn't want to win the championship in these conditions. It's not fair. Marcus decided not to check in at the service for that we checked in a bit earlier. But we don't want to speak anymore about this... I hope it never happens again such an accident.
Q: A lot of Japanese fans are looking forward to you two fighting to the win. I wonder how that will be affected by the longest stage for the rally - an enormous stage for 50 kms and a rally with 26 stages. How is the rhythm for a stage like that?
PS: The stages last year were much better. The stages this year are too fast compared to last year. The long stage that is going to be crucial for us, because it's very hard base and it' will be tricky for us. You need a lot of power you need to take the throttle down and take some risks, like a lot of other stages. We have talked about it also the rally is too fast.
SL: Sure it's very fast and very narrow. Also it's not an easy rally. For me the long stage will be very difficult with the tyre because now with the new regulations it's very hard to choose the tyre one month before but this will be difficult for everybody. Some of the stages are not as nice as last year because they put a lot of gravel on the road. We have soft roads like this after the recce and it can be dangerous because you really have to stay in the lines. If you go off the line you can have trouble.
Q: Do you think you should have input into the stages you drive on or just accept what you get?
SL: It's not easy because we are not allowed to see the stages before - that's normal. We cannot say one driver can go and see the stages; it's not fair, so it's difficult. Perhaps the organisers here do not have a lot of experience here of World Championship rallies and probably good intention to put some fresh gravel on the stages and make it clean but with the car like we have some big ruts and after it's not so nice. I think like Petter said the stages are very fast. it s not the only rally there is a lot like this especially with our car which as a lot of grip and the car is very easy to drive. If some stages could be more twisty it would be better for everyone.
Q: Petter what do you think?
PS: We can cope with everything, it's no problem. But like it is now it's so fast, you put it in sixth gear and have to just hold it. First of all we should go to pure logic again. When the guy who is in charge of stages and goes through them and decides which one we should use, they should drive through every single one and think things like "this is too fast, the whole stage has a big drop on the left hand side, maybe it's a stupid idea". We want more technical, more difficult stages, more driving so we can see more differences between the drivers. Because everyone can put in sixth gear and leave it there. But for example when it's very muddy and rainy and difficult, that's where you see the driveability and the driver's performance. That's for safety and also for driving and performance.
FIA Production Cars World Rally Championship
Toshi Arai, Subaru
Natalie Barratt, Mitsubishi
Marcos Ligato, Subaru
Fumio Nutahara, Mitsubishi
Welcome to the PWRC press conference. First of all a word of introduction about the PWRC. Essentially a championship for cars that look like world rally cars but in a lower state of tune so you could call it a division two championship. Here in Japan there has been a tremendous interest in the championship mostly because its two biggest Japanese manufacturers are most represented on it. A particularly close championship fight to this year. The top three drivers are covered by three points. Nasser Al-Attiyah currently leads the championship as the regulations mean you have to miss one rally so the championship will be fought by Toshi Arai from Subaru and Marcos Ligato, another Subaru driver.
Q: Toshi, this is the first time the PWRC has come to Japan. How popular is it here?
TA: It's now the second Rally Japan so everybody knows everything well so with the Production Car being just Subaru and Mitsubishi, they are quite famous in Japan.
Q: And is there a particular interest in the Production Cup category.
TA: Yes last year no one came in the Group N Championship and this year quite many Production Car people come here. And also Japanese competitors are very excited.
Q: It's very exciting for you because you can fight for the championship. With only two points in it how are you feeling?
TA: I am not too bad because we have Japan and Australia - so two rallies more so it's not so bad for me. We try hard to win this rally.
Q: For the last two years you have been second in the Championship. Is this the one where it's finally going to be your year?
TA: We have to win this rally and this year. STI said many times to me "you have to win".
Q: Do you have a lot of support from the local fans?
TA: Yes quite many people come here and are excited.
Q: Fumio, you come from Hokkaido, do you feel you have a local advantage?
FN: Yes, I live in Sapporo and it's only three hours from here. I don't really know the course too much but it's on the same island so perhaps I do have a home advantage.
Q: You won the last round of the Japanese championship. It must give you a lot of confidence?
FN: In July there was Rally Hokkaido in the same area and unfortunately I could not win the Japanese Championship but I could get good expereince for this rally. I have prepared myself very well.
Q: What is the main difference between Subaru and Mitsubishi.
FN: You want me to explain the difference between Mitsubishi and Subaru! Well they are both 2 litre turbos! The biggest difference is the engine, the form, the Subaru has a horizontal opposing engine and that's the biggest diference I guess. Both are very good cars, high performance.
Q: You are the only driver in the Championship using Yokohama tyres. Do you think they will be an advantage for you?
FN: Yes I do. I am the only one and I have been usng these tyres for two years and participating in the WRC in this form as a Japanese manufacturer is rare. In the past two years, Yokohama has collected a lot of data. We have been putting focus on this event. Obviously as a Japanese manufacturer they would like to have a win in a Japanese event. They have been very well prepared for this event.
Q: Natalie,this is your first time in Japan, what do you think of it?
NB: Japan is different to what I expected. The roads are narrow and fast with a lot of gravel. Some places remind me of how it is in England in Kielder and Scotland so it should be interesting.
Q: You are the only girl in the championship. How difficult does it make it for you?
NB: It doesn't make it difficult. It makes it easier because sometimes you can get a helping hand. It's fine, the guys are really nice, they are really good fun to work with. They are really nice people, it's a nice championship to be with.
Q: You have Kaj Linstrom sitting with you on this and the last event. He is one of the most experienced co-drivers. How is he able to help you? What input does he have?
NB: A lot of input. He has been a really big help. This morning when we did shakedown, we were back in a Mitsubishi and I had driven a Subaru for the last three rallies. It was a different driving style and he sat in the car this morning and he helped me set it up. That's why we're late, we did an extra two runs. We changed small things, my pace notes. Before we did Rally GB we changed my pace notes from descriptive to numbers. We are just perfecting those at the moment, it's a big big help.
Q: What sort of objectives are realistic for this event, as it's your first time here?
NB: I would like to get my times better than GB basically and at the end of the rally be closer to the guys at the front than I am at the moment. That's the big objective.
Q: Toshi, what does it take to doing well in Rally Japan?
TA: I think it's quite difficult because the road is quite difficult in parts so you must drive precise. There is a lot of grass and underneath there are big stones under the grass.
Q: What do you expect from the weather conditions?
TA: I think fine days but I want rain because after rain it's quite difficult especially day three it's quite difficult so after rain it's much better for me.
Q: Natalie, you've driven both a Subaru and Mitusbishi. What are they key differences?
NB: I think in the Mitsubishi sometimes the engine is a little stronger and maybe more stable but for me the Subaru tends to be nimbler through the corners and drives a little differently. I find the difference quite reasonable.
Q: Marcos welcome. Fumio was saying he is local. You come from literally the other side of the world, Argentina.
ML: I was here three years ago and I remember Fumio was very fast here and I know Toshi was the same, they are from Japan. I think we will have a very good race with both local drivers.
Q: How difficult will it be for you to beart them on home territory?
ML: It will be very difficult. They know very well the roads. I have been here three years ago but it was a different race.There are too many new stages for me. I know about 20 per centre of the race and the rest is new to me. I have a very good feeling. We have a very good car. We are doing world championshop events and taking good points. On the fourth event we finished on the podium. I will try and do the same here.
Q: This event has mixed weather and loose gravel. Are they similar to Argentina?
ML: No. We made the last two stages recce yesterday and they were very difficult, very slippery and it was not raning but in the middle of trees. It was very difficult to see. With the sun you cannot see the corner. It's very difficult. If you have good notes here you can be at good advantage.
Q: What is your strategy? This is a crucial event for you.
ML: It's difficult to take a strategy here because we are in the same points. I think Toshi is very fast here but maybe we can finish close to him, more or less the same points, and we can go to the last event. You must not think of anything but the World Championship. In the last event you can go flat out but not here.