RALLY DE PORTUGAL
Post event Press Conference
Sunday 5 April
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 - Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Marc Marti, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Team Principal, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Welcome to the pre-event FIA Press Conference.
Q: Sebastien, congratulations on your fourth win in a row. You were first on the road today, how was it?
SL: Okay today we had a good lead. Yesterday evening I decided to try and keep the speed with being first on the road. We didn't lose too much time. It was tough for the drivers behind as well.
Q: We have seen some changes to the event for the 2009 edition; what did you think of the stages?
SL: They were really difficult. They were tricky with a lot of corners behind the crest. You never see where is the right place to brake and it's hard to know where to put the car in the corner. It's very precise; you need to be right with the notes. I really like it.
Q: The rally has finished well for you but it didn't get off to the best of starts; what happened on the opening stage?
SL: In the first stage, I was first on the road and had to push hard. I was just a bit too late in the first big brake so I decide not to turn because it was narrow on to a bridge. If I turn we are off the road. So, I go straight, reverse and stop because there is a lot of dust and I can't see the road. I lost maybe 15 seconds and then I tried all of the day to catch this gap, but I couldn't make it. Then I had a good day on Saturday, pushing hard from start to the finish.
Q: Day two was where you made up the time lost to the mistake on Friday -- and more. How much were you pushing yesterday?
SL: I was on my limit nearly all of the rally and finally we were here. It was a nice weekend with lots of fans, nice to see a lot of people out and enjoying the rally.
Q: There's a lot of talk of you winning all 12 rallies. It's still looking good...
SL: Yes, it's looking good. We have four at the moment and 12 is a lot. I prefer to think about each rally. Now I work on Argentina and prepare as well as possible. We do our best there. The most important thing for me is to try and win both Championships.
Q: There was a big battle between you and Mikko, but we also saw Marcus Gronholm back again. Would you like to see him on more rallies?
SL: Yes for sure. It's good to see him back for the sport. His name is good for the rally. He had good speed here straight away. Okay, he made a mistake on Saturday. I hope to see him back, but you need to ask him.
Q: There seemed to be a mix-up with the split times in SS17. Were you concerned?
DE: Yes. I have this information, I spoke with Sebastien after 6km. It's not possible, Sebastien, he is a good driver. We think that maybe Mikko has rolled down the hill and taken a shortcut. But for us, it's impossible, we think to open the radio and ask the team: "What is the problem?" It's more for Mikko and Jarmo this problem, they think we have the puncture and they push more.
Q: What about the number 51? It's on a lot of the bottles at Citroen today...
DE: Okay, 51 is a beautiful number. When I practice racing the quad I have 51, and when I have a big party with my friends I drink 51!
Q: Mikko, did that split time problem cause trouble for you?
MH: Yes it did. First we had no splits and then it was minus 17 seconds. I thought he (Loeb) must have a puncture or something like that, so I went flat out. Luckily we had no mistakes. At the next split, it was minus 17 again and then I knew something was wrong, so I was not flat out all the way to the finish. There was a hope in my mind that something was wrong.
Q: Mikko, you settled for second early on today -- how much of a problem was the hanging dust?
MH: Well, for sure, it was a problem. It was getting worse and worse for the drivers behind. The last 4km of both stages you couldn't see anything. In many places I had to drive slowly and then start again, for sure we slowed down.
Q: You were first on the road yesterday, you lost most of your time on the middle stage of the loops -- why do you think that was?
MH: Sebastien had a shortcut as well! No, I don't know. It's impossible when you lose the time with the gravel. The stage went well for me. I went without any problems and the driving was clean with the lines, but the time was not there. Everything was perfect for Sebastien, maybe he has found something else now.
Q: You said that when Sebastien scored 50 wins maybe you would score 50 seconds places...
MH: That's looking good isn't it!
Q: What do you need to do to beat him?
MH: We need to go to the next rally and start again.
Q: If the team had played tactics on Friday night, so that you were not first on the road on Saturday, how much of difference do you think it would have made?
MH: Who knows? Maybe it would have, I don't know. Then again we were 18 seconds ahead of Sebastien and it's quite a good lead. I didn't want to play tactics. I didn't think we would lose that much. I thought we could keep him behind, but it didn't happen. Let's see in Argentina.
Q: What effect did Jari-Matti's accident have on you and your strategy?
JL: You need to concentrate on your own driving, so this did not affect our thinking in the car, but it did affect our strategy. He had a fantastic road position and we could have been leading -- that was the downside for us. But, the main thing is that the boys (Latvala/Anttila) are okay. It was a horrible accident; I have never seen one like this.
Q: Jarmo, there are two weeks to go till Argentina and another chance to try and beat Seb and Daniel. How much will you and Mikko analyse what has happened here this weekend?
JL: We try to go through everything in a long debrief with the team. We will do this tonight when everything is fresh in the mind and we will go through stage by stage and look at the strategy and what went right for us and what was not so good. Actually, maybe we don't think too much about this rally any more, but we will look forward to Argentina and see what we did well last year and what we can do this year.
Q: Dani, third position at the end of the rally, it's been a very strong performance. Are you pleased?
DS: I am really happy. I was first on day one and the stages were all going well, the pace notes were working well and I was happy.
Q: There were a few mistakes though, on Friday and Saturday. What happened?
DS: I made the same mistake as Sebastien on the first corner in the second pass. I lost 20 seconds. After the second day, after one crest, I thought left corner was going left not right - I didn't hear the pace note so well. And also, we lost 20 seconds. There were those two small mistakes.
Q: We have seen a lot of drivers have problems on this event, was it tougher than you expected?
DS: It's very difficult for the roads. They are tough with lots of crests and corners, it's hard to see where to brake, but it was okay for me.
Q: Are you confident for Argentina?
DS: I was third last year and had a good feeling with the car. I like the rally, it's some place like here which is nice for every driver. It's very nice.
Q: Can you challenge Mikko?
DS: I don't know. Mikko is really fast and strong and he never makes a mistake, like Sebastien. I will try to go faster and faster in gravel.
Q: This has been one of the most difficult rallies from a pace-note perspective. Did you find this?
MM: Yeah, okay, the rally was having some brand new stages. You have to change the notes some times. It's tough when you lose the confidence, it's very important in the recce. During the recce when you are coming to these corners, you can't imagine the speed is so high and you can lose the place. I am happy with Dani; he did a great job on the rally.
Q: Olivier, the Citroen story just keeps getting better as the events go by. You are now 24 points ahead of Ford in the Manufacturers' Championship; are the team feeling comfortable now?
OQ: It's still alive, but we must say there are only 12 rallies. We are getting to Argentina, the fifth event this season; it's comfortable, but it's not finished. I would say 51 is on the bottle, but this is the number of victories for Alain Prost. Today, this is the same level as Alain Prost.
Q: Some dramas for the Citroen Junior squad this weekend, they all had problems but Rautenbach's was on the penultimate stage, what happened?
OQ: There is no problem with the crew, but the car is destroyed. We are really disappointed about this, but this is it. What can we do? Conrad and his co-driver are okay, this is the main thing.
Q: Have you been happy with the performance of the Citroen Junior Team drivers?
OQ: No. There have been too many problems. I understand that the team is quite young, but I think, since the start of the season, there are too many problems with the Junior team. I hope there will be less in the next rally.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
Martin Holmes, Martin Holmes Rallying, UK
Q: Olivier, Max Mosley said he would prefer more emphasis on drivers rather than the manufacturers. What do you think?
OQ: Maybe, I don't know. For me if there are no more manufacturers, there won't be so many drivers. For me, I can't see the sport going up without the manufacturers. Maybe he could do a second division Championship for the young and private drivers. For the high level, without the manufacturers you won't get the cars, drivers or money and maybe the media. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think...
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Armindo Araujo
1st - Miguel Ramalho
Q: Armindo, your first win in PWRC and on home turf; you must be delighted?
AA: I am very happy. It was my first victory in PWRC. It was good. I have been leading before, but to win here is fantastic. During the race I never made mistakes and the Mitsubishi is always well. In the end, it was incredible to win.
Q: You won the rally in front of 20,000 Portuguese fans in the Algarve Stadium; what did it feel like?
AA: Yes, what I feel is that it is more or less like Euro 2004 with all the people with the flags. They were fantastic fans. The Portuguese people love the rally.
Q: You had a strong start to the season in Cyprus, your pace here has also been impressive; were you happy with the pace you set during the weekend?
AA: I am very happy. Last year we had a very bad year and couldn't find a good speed. The car was not so good last year. This year we changed much in the team and we find more speed. We were fourth in Norway, which was good, then we were always in the front in Cyprus but we lost the lead and now in my own event we won. And now I'm leading PWRC. This is very, very good.
Q: What have you changed in the team?
AA: Some details. The damper engineer is changed and we change a lot in the car. I am much more confident with these new things and now I win again with the speed of 2007. In 2007 we have very good speed, but we didn't get to the finish, but now I have the speed and I win the rallies.
Q: How difficult was that last day, given that you had a good lead?
AA: It was difficult, but we had good speed and the correct lines. I was protecting the car from the rocks. I am always protecting the car completely.
Q: This must give you confidence for the remaining rounds of the Championship?
AA: Yes. It's very good for me, but it puts a lot of pressure on the team. I need a strong and fast car all of the time. It's a big responsibility for me, leading PWRC and being the first Mitsubishi is very good for us. But now we need to work hard to have this speed in all of the events.
Q: Miguel, congratulations on the win -- it has been a great weekend for you here in Portugal. What does it mean to you to win here?
MR: It's fantastic to win Portugal rally. Fantastic for us. We are lucky of course because it's a rough rally with a lot of rocks everywhere which could damage the car.
Q: How were the new stages?
MR: These are normal stages for us Portuguese guys. I know the area, but not the stages. It's normal.
FIA JUNIOR WORLD RALLYCHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Michal Kosciuszko
1st - Maciek Szczepaniak
Q: Michal, the second win of your JWRC career, congratulations, you made it look easy out there finishing with a lead of over five minutes - was it?
MK: For sure it wasn't easy. This rally was quite tricky; there were lots of difficult places and stages. We took the lead on the first stage and kept it for the whole rally. On the second and third leg, I drove safely. It was enough to win.
Q: You have led from the start, had great battles on Friday, but on Saturday your lead went up to over three minutes with retirements behind you. Was it difficult to maintain your focus when you weren't in a battle?
MK: Unfortunately, yes. On the second to last stage there was some tarmac and a hairpin left. It was too tight. I went for the handbrake, but I was not focused. I had to stop and reverse. It was very stupid. I almost went into a ditch. This cost a lot of time. I came through with no more troubles and made the finish.
Q: Did you experience any problems this weekend?
MK: No problems at all. The tyre consumption was a little bit high, but everything else was under control.
Q: You are the joint leader on points with Martin Prokop, you may not have had a battle this weekend but you certainly will during the rest of the season!
MK: I'm looking forward to the next event. The next event for us is Argentina. It won't be easy, with maybe only three drivers, but they can be fast there as well. We need to stay focused. I believe we can win there. Then we are back for the battle in Sardinia again.
Q: You haven't been to Argentina before...
MK: We always have good pace notes, so I'm quite confident for this when I don't know the rally.
Q: Maciek, congratulations, you pick up your first win in JWRC this season. A lot of drivers experienced problems around you, how tough was it out there?
MS: This was definitely a tough event for the car. We expected Cyprus was going to be toughest during the season, but it seems Portugal was harder for the car. Our car was perfect all of the time.
Q: You've been to Argentina before, while Michal hasn't. What advice can you offer him?
MS: Just push the throttle! Argentina is a very demanding event. The weather can change with the fog in the mountains, but in the gravel we have a good feeling. We can take the chances and try to win.