JORDAN RALLY FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Media FIA Post-event Press Conference 04.27.2008 Present: 1st - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 1st - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 2nd - Dani Sordo, Citroen...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Media FIA Post-event Press Conference
1st - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
1st - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Marc Marti, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Chris Atkinson, Subaru World Rally Team
3rd - Stephane Prevot, Subaru World Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Welcome to the post-event FIA press conference.
Q: Mikko, congratulations for your first win of the season and re-taking the lead in the Championship. Is there a sense of relief now that you have that first win of the year under your belt?
MH: Yes, kind of. We had a quite good start position in Monte-Carlo and Sweden. In Argentina I lost valuable points, but I am happy to be here and be able to take the 10 points.
Q: It's the first time this season we have seen road position tactics come into play. Was that the team's strategy from the start?
MH: Yes we had a plan after the recce and after we saw the Sunday stages. We knew that we did not want to be first on the road. We had some tactics. Seb (Loeb) did some very good times and may have upset the strategy but then he had his accident and it looked like we could try again. It worked out. To be honest I did not gain so much. Dani did some very good times this morning. It was not as good as we thought. Before the long stage the splits would not come through and he was really pushing. I was sliding all over the place.
Q: You had a bit of a scare on Friday; did you drive more cautiously after that?
MH: Not today. We were sliding a little all over the place. We were not out of control like Friday. I lost confidence a little after the big moment in that place on Friday, especially on all the corners and crests after that.
Q: From a competitor point of view, do you find it more exciting with the final day being the longest -- is it more of a challenge?
MH: I try to be realistic always. We need to work on some more speed. We are close to being very competitive, but there are some small things we need to change.
Q: How are you feeling now that the first win has come Jarmo?
JL There is a relief now. I suppose we should have had a win in Sweden and Argentina, but this feels really good.
Q: Second position overall, it's been a great weekend for you here in Jordan Dani. Are you happy with the result?
DS: The second place is not bad. First is better, but I try all the time. Mikko is fast. I think in some stages there was a lot of gravel. I am happy of course. It is important to take points for the team.
Q: You have spent the past two days sweeping the road clear, how difficult has that been?
DS: Of course I clean the road. It is important for the team to learn to go fast when the roads are in this condition. On the second lap there was some gravel on the top - Super 1600 cars do not always take the same line as WRC cars.
Q: How much were you pushing today?
DS: The times in the first stages were good, they were fast. But in the second stage (loop) the times were not bad at all. Then I pushed in the long stage. After the second lap I lost a lot of time on the last long stage. I make a mistake 2 kilometres after the start and that cost me time.
Q: With Sebastien's (Loeb) problems yesterday, how much pressure did you feel to make sure you picked up good points for the team?
DS: Of course, but I had my race. It is important to take some points for the team.
Q: It was a great performance yesterday and today considering you were first on the road. What was the team's advice this morning?
MM: We knew that it would be difficult. We try to push. Citroen ask to us to drive as fast as possible. This is good for us. Dani did a great job. He is still learning and I am happy for him. He is improving all the time. He needs to be patient and know how to be first on the road. He is learning a lot of things.
Q: Your third podium in a row; how has this weekend been for you Chris?
CA: Obviously it was not the best weekend because we are still a long way off the pace. Dani, Mikko and Jari-Matti (Latvala) had good rallies. We are nowhere near the pace to finish on top, but we had a bit of luck and we were there at the end. I would have been happy with fifth at the start of the week. To finish on the podium is a bonus.
Q: Damper problems have affected the team at the start of the weekend. Did it get any better as the weekend progressed?
CA: We were just struggling with the handling of the car. It has been better on the last two rallies but it was not as good here. Petter (Solberg) set some better times than us. He had some misfortune and then we found a level of pace that was sensible.
Q: With today being the longest competitively of the three days, and coupled with the longest stage run twice, how did the Pirelli tyres hold up today in terms of wear?
CA: Our tyres have been fine. We did not even bother 'front to backing' them.
Q: What did you think of the event overall?
CA: It's been interesting to come to a new country and the Middle East for the first time. I came a few days early and did the tourist things. The rally was really challenging. There were a lot of moments, spectators and plenty of action for television.
Q: You have shown this season your consistency and ability with a car that is soon to be replaced. How much are you looking forward to the new car and when will we see the first win for Chris Atkinson?
CA: Like I said who knows when it will come. We are still a long way from winning. We have work to do. We had some good stages and we have had some good rallies. We have been fast on some stages. Now we need to find it all the time. We still need to work hard. Four or five drivers are faster than me on any given day. More speed is needed.
Q: Stephane, what were your thoughts on the rally in general?
SP: Very good. It was not an easy rally. The stages were quite difficult. The organisation was fine, the marshals worked well. It was a very good event. It was not easy for sure.
Q: It was almost a Ford 1-2 Malcolm, until Jari-Matti (Latvala) developed problems. It was a massive effort by him to complete the group of stages and get back to service; what happened?
MW: The first stage this morning was fantastic. We got back to first and second. Then, at some point he hit some rocks and damaged the car and the rear suspension. It was still intact at the end of the stage, but then it broke after being badly bent in the next one. He managed to affect emergency repairs. I talked to him on the 'phone and the repairs had failed. It meant that he had to go through the long stage with the wheel at 45 degrees. He did a great job to get the car through to service. The team did a great job. We changed the transmission, the rear diff and the rear suspension with time to spare and he set out for the final few stages. The goal was to push as hard as possible and help by getting some points.
Q: With the tactics that were brought into play on Saturday evening, it made things very interesting. Will we see that come into play more often during the year?
MW: I think so. We reversed seeding for the last few years. When the decision was taken to reverse the running order system we got the tactics back. This was the first time that this has happened. On difficult loose surface events, like Turkey and the Acropolis, it might happen again.
Questions from the floor
Martin Holmes Martin Holmes Rallying (UK)
Q: What are the drivers' thoughts on the place where Seb (Loeb) and Conrad (Rautenbach) had their accident?
MH: We saw the place in the recce and knew it would be a narrow section. We will never know what may have happened. It was unfortunate. I hope it does not happen again.
Hiba Sabbagh Al Rai newspaper (HKJ)
Q: How do these stages compare to others on the WRC?
MH: Some sections of stages are the same nature of Cyprus, slow and twisty. Then it opens up like Finland, fast and flowing, but there are no trees and ditches. The surface is different so the rally is really unique.
FIA Junior World Rally Championship
1st - Sebastien Ogier
1st -- Julien Ingrassia
Q: Your second win in a row in the JWRC Sebastien. It's been a fantastic performance -- a great weekend for you?
SO: Yes. It was a very good weekend. The start was good for me and the finish was good.
Q: You picked up a puncture and dropped out of a podium position but were determined to get back -- and you did. How difficult was it yesterday to get back on the podium, how many risks did you take?
SO: Yesterday I pushed so much to try and come to the podium. Today, on the first and second stages, I had no problems and it was easy for me. I think I did not take too many risks.
Q: Was it harder to win here than in Mexico?
SO: I think it was more difficult there.
Q: How difficult were conditions out there?
SO: It was very hard here. The roads have a lot of corners and blind crests you do not see. It is difficult to have a good rhythm every time.
Q: Two wins from two events, which extends your lead in the Drivers' Championship. Are you feeling good about the title fight?
SO: Yes it is a pleasure for us. We are very happy to be in this position.
Q: Patrik Sandell had a great run until this morning; do you think he will be your main rival this year?
SO: Yes for sure. He is a very good driver. Martin Prokop will be a competitor for us as well. We will see. To talk about next year is too early. In the next months it is important for me to have a good season. I hope to win the JWRC and then after maybe get a place in an official team.
Q: An incredible result again Julien, it's been a dream start to your first season in the JWRC hasn't it?
JI: We hoped to win here, but we knew it was a difficult rally. You saw many people out there with problems. This is a really good victory for us.
Q: It's the first time we have seen Jordan on the Championship calendar. What did you think of it overall?
JI: This is a good rally. The organisation was very good and it was different. There were not too many people on the stages. They need to know more about rally.