WRC

Rally Sweden: Pre-event press conference

Present:
Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Petter Solberg, Petter Solberg World Rally Team
Mads Шstberg, Stobart M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

Q: Sebastien, a new season, new regulations and most importantly a brand new car. You have tested and been at shakedown this morning -- how are you finding the new Citroen DS3 WRC?

SL: At the moment it's okay, for sure. Everybody wants to see a bit how will be the level of the different cars. This morning was okay, the conditions were tricky with a lot of snow. We can't compare this with the shakedown in the previous car. For sure it's more nervous, it's very small and we have to fight more in the car. We try a lot of things in the morning and finally the car is not so bad.

Q: How does this car compare with the C4 WRC?

SL: It is a four-wheel drive car, so it drives the same way. There is a little bit less horsepower and no central diff but you drive the same way. We have to adapt the set-up of the car and our driving style. It's enjoyable, but maybe Sweden with the conditions we have is not the best rally for this little car. I enjoy to drive it -- you have to fight a bit more and stay concentrated. But it's not problem.

Q: Snow has been falling all morning around tomorrow's stages, will this fresh fall make being first on the road difficult for you?

SL: It's not a challenge. To have snow like this, you can do what you want and you will lose time being first on the road. I hope it's not too bad, but I expect a difficult first day. It would be nice if it stopped snowing, but it doesn't look like it at the moment.

Q: Are you excited about the start of the new season?

SL: For sure, I am excited. It's a lot of changes in the regulations -- all to get some new manufacturers coming. We have MINI and I hope some new ones [manufacturers coming]. The regulation is quite good, it's a reduction of performance and price, it's nice to drive -- if we can get some more manufacturers then it can be nice.

Q: And a record eighth title?

SL: Yes, but I have already the record number of titles, so it's no pressure for this. Maybe it's a little early to start talking titles... but my goal is to fight for this. You never know what is coming in the new year.

Q: Jari-Matti, 2010 saw you seal second position in the Championship. The team has announced that you and Mikko [Hirvonen] will be on equal standing this year -- does that make a difference to your approach this year?

J-ML: No, I have not changed my approach from last year so much, if you want to do well, you need consistency, you need to finish the rallies. It is like that. I was improving that way. Our main target is the manufacturers' award this season.

Q: Tell us about the testing that has been done with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC? What do you think of the car?

J-ML: I have done five days in the snow for Sweden. I feel this should be enough. I got a very good set-up in the test. Today we saw it was very slippery with ice underneath and when you have the ice, you have good grip, but in the snow there was nothing. I am very happy with the balance of the car. In the Focus, we had a problem with the rear hanging a little bit, but it's not like that at all in the Fiesta. In the fast stuff, the Fiesta is a little more nervous, but that's the nature of the car, this is what happens when the wheelbase is shorter -- it's like this with all the cars.

Q: How competitive will the car be compared with the Citroen?

J-ML: I have a good feeling, but it's hard to say. Even tomorrow, with the snow, he [Loeb] is opening the road and I am second -- even if there is a big difference in the car, you still can't say anything in these conditions. When we had the narrow tyre you could do something. I hope the snow will stop otherwise it will be tough this weekend.

Q: Do you get any nerves before the start of the new season?

J-ML: I was nervous this morning. We stalled at shakedown, but once I'd done that it was okay -- it was a different kind of excitement.

Q: How will you approach the rally in these conditions?

J-ML: I can do nothing except follow Sebastien [Loeb] and find the grip there. The main thing is to get the good feeling and enjoy the driving.

Q: Petter, great to see you as part of the Championship this year! What is the deal for the season? Will you contest all the events?

PS: Well, it's been much tougher than I expected. I hoped to have this sorted before Rally GB 2010 and then I wanted to make an announcement at the Solberg Extreme Motorshow and now, yes, I am still waiting for the whole Championship. At three o'clock, maybe I have everything for this year, but it's a close call. But, I'm here and that's the main thing.

Q: How much time have you had to test the Citroen DS3 WRC? Are you feeling confident?

PS: It doesn't matter about the testing, it's not so much for everybody. The team has worked so hard to get the car ready, they have done a brilliant job.

Q: How were your runs at shakedown this morning? Are you happy with the set-up?

PS: I tried a lot of different things at shakedown, some of Seb's [Loeb] things and some of my own. I am sure we will get some improvement, but on the first rally it's important to come through and get some points.

Q: But you will do all the rounds?

PS: Like I said: three o'clock, but I'm not panicking!

Q: How was the recce?

PS: Shakedown was very good, the road was good and the stages will be nice. The stage over to Norway will be very good. I think they will take the snow plough tonight or tomorrow morning and it will be good. They [the stages] are the best for many, many years -- there are no problems with the conditions.

Q: We're at the start of a new era here, how exciting is it for you guys?

PS: Definitely, okay we wish there were some more manufacturers, but, hey, everybody is quite excited -- it's going to be a big, big attack, but you have to finish the rally also. I'm sure this can be tough, the snow banks are different, but I won't be stopping to help anybody!

Q: Mads, what's your approach? Will you be flat out from the start?

MШ: I'm definitely going to try and push from the first stage. The first loop, we have the advantage on the start position, so we have to push from the beginning. I will try to keep a steady run on the first stage and see how it goes, if the pace is good, we will stay there, but if it's terrible and we need to push more it could be tough. We will be with a steady speed through the first one.

Q: Mads, you have a good season lined up with eight events in the Fiesta RS WRC, how much are you looking forward to the year ahead? And do you know more about your programme?

MШ: At the moment we have nine rallies. It started with eight, but already we have been able to get the ninth. Hopefully we can prove some good results through the year and get some sponsors to do the last four rallies as well.

Q: What's the aim for this year?

MШ: It's difficult to say, this is a brand new car. I drove the Subaru for five years and the Fiesta is totally new, with a totally new team -- although I do feel very, very welcomed in the team. The car is very good and, of course, we have done some driving with the S2000 Fiesta. I feel very confident and then I tested the WRC Fiesta on Sunday and it was good. I hope we can have some great results.

Q: You already have two strong results on snow under your belt this year in the Norwegian Championship, how much will that help you here?

MШ: I hope it does. The manufacturer drivers have been able to test for quite a long time. Maybe it is not as much as they wanted, but I am very happy to do these first two Norwegian rallies in the S2000 car -- which is similar to the WRC car on the snow, it paid off to do this. I think I have some advantage over some guys, but I would like more time in the [Fiesta RS] WRC.

Q: And what about the conditions?

MШ: It's very good for us snow drivers, we are far behind [in the running order] -- let's hope it continues to snow all through the night, making it bad for them!

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Keikki Kulta
Turun Sanomat, Finland

Q: What do you think of Robert Kubica's accident? Is this more dangerous than F1?

PS: What is dangerous? You know, you can stand in the shower and fall over. Everything can happen, you can be unlucky. It can happen everywhere: you are in the ski lift and you fall back. Everything can happen to everybody, it makes no difference, this happens. Unfortunately it happened to Kubica, but normally it's okay.

FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Patrik Flodin, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Martin Semerad, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship

Q: Patrik, you were last year's runner up in the PWRC and this year you are back for more; do you like this rally?

PF: This is a very nice rally, I haven't seen the Swedish Rally like this before. It will be the perfect rally for everybody.

Q: How are those conditions with the fresh snow on top of the road?

PF: For the first cars in WRC it might be harder, but, for us, it doesn't matter.

Q: Do you feel prepared, have you done much testing?

PF: Last year I did a small rally in Russia before coming here, but this time it's been one day of testing in Finland. I have done a little bit of testing, but not like last year. But I am confident in the snow rally, I'm confident we can make the same thing like last year -- but we must stay on the road!

Q: You won the Production class in Sweden last year and again there is another strong field of drivers lined up. Can you make it two in a row?

PF: It's nice to always have a battle. It's going to be very, very, tough. It will be interesting to see the speed after the first stage. It will be interesting to see if we have to take the risk to be fighting at the front.

Q: What's the aim for this year Patrik?

PF: I will try to be number one this year and I think we have quite a good chance. We have good experience and I got through the rounds with no mistakes last year. The most important thing is not to make any mistakes.

Q: Martin, this is your third year in PWRC -- you were out of action last year after an accident in the Czech championship. What injuries did you sustain and are you now back to 100% fitness?

MS: I had only a small injury in my feet, with a bone broken, but I didn't even know about it until Rally GB. I had a small operation before Christmas and I was fixed. Two weeks ago I started rehab, it's still not 100 per cent, but I don't see any problem driving.

Q: How was your testing for this event?

MS: It was quite good on Monday, we did 80km with the new tyres. I had no experience, but I was quite confident.

Q: What is the approach for the year?

MS: Well, it would be very nice if I can make the finish of the events in the positions I was always able to make. Last year, I made some stupid mistakes, but if I can avoid those I could be in top five. My hope is top three, but I try to be modest, it would be great to be on the podium.

Q: Are you confident for the event?

MS: I was, but now I am not at all. Shakedown was really difficult. I think tomorrow will be about surviving. Definitely there are much faster guys than me on the snow, Patrik [Flodin] and the other Scandinavian drivers -- but I will try and be the fastest non-Scandinavian.

Q: Why aren't you confident?

MS: The car set-up... There was mud on the bottom last time, not ice like this time -- I need to change my driving style a little.

-source: wrc

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Jari-Matti Latvala , Robert Kubica , Martin Semerad
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport