Present: Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Kimi Raikkonen, Citroen Junior Team Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team Matthew Wilson, Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team Aaron Burkart, FIA Junior World Rally Championship Thierry...
Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Kimi Raikkonen, Citroen Junior Team
Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Matthew Wilson, Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Aaron Burkart, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Thierry Neuville, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.
Q: Mikko, Rally Turkey has featured on the calendar since 2003 but now we move to a new base near Istanbul, what are your first impressions of the stages?
MH: For sure, it is completely different. The stages are a lot faster, some are basically straight -- and they are quite rough in places as well. The organisers fixed the roads with abrasive gravel, so it will be tough on the cars.
Q: Will Saturday be the roughest day?
MH: Yes. The long stage and in the one before there are some rough sections, but the cars are pretty strong. I hope it doesn't come down to luck: somebody is lucky not to break something.
Q: How tough would it be to run first on the road on day two?
MH: On some sections, you might lose some time being first on the road. But the sections which have been repaired are so deep they're not going to clean. Also, there could be some rain which would also help to take away the problem.
Q: Turkey marks the one 100th rally for you and Jarmo Lehtinen as a partnership. How are you planning on celebrating this landmark?
MH: I didn't even know that before you said it! I suppose it's a great landmark. It's been okay so far, maybe the next 100 rallies we'll have some more victories -- starting here.
Q: You are now third in the Drivers' Championship, 31 points behind Sebastien Loeb and six points behind team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. How important is it to take a good result here and do you feel pressure to achieve that?
MH: No. The road position is perfect; this is what I was hoping for.
Q: You didn't win until round seven last year, how do you feel about this season?
MH: It's early days yet. For sure the mistake in Jordan has left me in a difficult position, but we just have to win rallies and if we do that everything is possible.
Q: Kimi, we are now on round four of the Championship, how are you enjoying your WRC experience so far?
KR: Yes. I mean, for sure it has been very challenging, I knew that before, so it's not a big surprise. We will look for more points if we finish the races. I am learning all the time. It's getting a little bit easier.
Q: You said at the start of the year this would be your biggest career challenge to date, is it proving to be?
KR: All of the time it changes, the surface, the stages, everything is coming at a similar level of difficulty. I have no idea for more or less [difficulty on] any rallies; it's not one thing which is more difficult than others. I just have to drive.
Q: What about this rally?
KR: It's a bit easier than the previous rally -- very fast and quite rough in places. I guess that's rally. I hope we can go well.
Q: Was Jordan the toughest?
KR: Yes. It was probably the most difficult thing so far, in that way this event looks slightly more easy.
Q: How are your pace notes progressing?
KR: It's the same story as driving: I have to do every event with new notes, so I am learning all of the time. It gets easier, but for sure, there is still lots to learn. This is one of the most important parts of the weekend, it's experience and more to learn.
Q: We passed the F1 track on the way to shakedown this morning. Do you miss F1?
KR: No. I don't miss it. If I missed it I wouldn't be here, I'd be there. This is something I chose for myself and I'm enjoying it.
Q: Dani, you lie in sixth position in the Drivers' Championship after three events, how would you assess your start to the year?
DS: Not very good, after three rallies there is no podium. I made a mistake in Mexico, but Jordan was not so bad. But I have no confidence on the crests last time. But here I have a good feeling, so it can be better.
Q: Do you feel the pressure?
DS: Of course. But this rally in general I like the stages. Some of them can be bad for the car, but it's nice.
Q: Is there a rally on the calendar you can compare it to?
DS: We have some parts like Portugal or New Zealand.
Q: As this is a brand new event what will be your approach on the opening day? Is the objective to gain a podium or just to make sure you bring home points for the team?
DS: I intend to take points for the manufacturers' and drivers' and push a little bit for the podium - and to come to the press conference after the rally!
Q: Has you confidence been dented?
DS: I had a lot of confidence in Mexico, but after the mistakes [in Jordan], I didn't have so much. But on the last rally, I get more points for the manufacturer and things are a little better. I will push here.
Q: Matthew, a brand new location for the rally this time after the move from Kemer, what are your thoughts on the stages and do you think it's a good move to this region?
MW: Like Dani said the stages are fast and wide. The only thing is, where the repairs have been done, they are rough. I don't see a great deal of point to the tarmac points, but they're there and we all have the same chances.
Q: You took fifth overall in Jordan and you lie eighth in the Championship overall, how do access your performance and where do think you stand in comparison to the other drivers?
MW: I said at the start of the year, we wanted to be consistently in the top six and hopefully that's where we'll be here. I like the stages here and we can push hard from the start. You can't afford to lose any time to these guys, so the quicker you can get up to speed the better it's going to be.
Q: Although the stages are predominantly gravel there is a mixture of tarmac thrown in, what are your thoughts on this and is there a compromise with regard to car set-up?
MW: It's going to be a bit of a challenge. It's not like Cyprus where the first day was tarmac and we lowered and stiffened the car for that surface. Here we'll be going into the rougher stages with the car high, so when we're on the tarmac, the car will feel a bit like a boat. It'll be about adapting to those conditions. It's not going to be easy.
Q: How do you feel about the start of the season?
MW: It's not been the greatest of starts in Sweden, then in Mexico I made a stupid mistake, then we got some good points in Jordan. But like Dani and Kimi said it [Jordan] was a difficult event, more than two years ago. I hope to have a good event here.
Q: What about the start in the centre of Istanbul?
MW: It's interesting, something new -- I'll tell you more tomorrow.
Aaron Burkart, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Thierry Neuville, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Q: Aaron, we welcome you back to the JWRC but at 27 this will be your last eligible year, this is the last chance to fight for the title!
AB: In the end, it's the last chance for me to win this title, so we have to go all out to win. I have done it four times now.
Q: Are you disappointed this is the last time in Juniors for you?
AB: Not in the end. You have to look forward rather than looking back. Some things stop and some new things will start again. I'm not bad about getting older.
Q: You return with a different co-driver, Andre Kachel with whom you made your JWRC debut with in 2003 at Rally Germany. Why the change and have you and Andre been able to get into swing of things straight away?
AB: There's no real story. It was time to make a change. We competed for four years together, it was not a fight or anything -- we just agreed to stop. I asked Andre and he said yes, he agreed and everything is fine so far. I like to drive with him.
Q: I believe you have been able to test and develop the car this year which you haven't had much experience of previously, how much will that help with your title fight this year? How much testing have you done so far this year?
AB: It's always nice, it's nice for the self-confidence and to get the car more adapted to my style. It's also nice that people are trusting me to work with the development of the Suzuki. I hope it will be a nice season with a happy end.
Q: How has the recce gone, what do you think of the stages?
AB: The first day is quite nice, quite technical a lot of corners closing and going over crests. The Saturday stages will be quite difficult, there's a lot of tarmac. And there are some big rocks, it's hard to go over these sections, they are very high-speed sections and the stones have very sharp edges. It will be tough.
Q: What result do you hope for on this event?
AB: It's difficult to say, nobody knows what the competition will be like -- I hope to be on the podium which would be a good start and then we'll see for the season.
Q: Thierry we welcome you to the Junior World Rally Championship, what are your hopes for the season ahead?
TN: For the moment it's not so bad, we did some kilometers with the car. I am happy to be here with the other Junior drivers. It's interesting to see how it will go.
Q: We saw you compete in the C2 R2 Max last year at Rally Catalunya, how does the S1600 differ?
TN: For sure there is a big difference. The engine has a lot more power and the brakes are different. It will not be easy but I will try to drive and see where we are at the end of the event. I need to try not to go too fast at the start.
Q: You have a very experienced co-driver alongside you, how much does that help?
TN: His experience is very important. He did a lot of rallies, he can explain and he speaks French and German. He can explain everything to me. He did a lot of rallies with good drivers, so it's good to have him with me on the stage telling me how to go.
Q: Which do you think will be the toughest stage?
TN: I don't really know. I think the first day will be the best. I like the first one tomorrow, but Saturday, the road will change a bit because of the big rocks on the road. Sometimes we can have some punctures, I hope not, but it can change over the weekend.
Q: What do you think of the stages?
TN: The stages very nice with some very fast corners, but also it's quite narrow in places. You need to find good rhythm to stay on the road, I like the circuit.
Q: Who will you compare your times with?
TN: We talk, all of my crew, sometimes you have to go fast, but the best this year is to stay on the road. When we are second or third we need to take points, that can be nice for the Championship.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
Q: Kimi, will you commit to the WRC for several seasons?
KR: Like I said before, I haven't made my kind up for next year and I'm not in a hurry to decide. Like I said, so far, I enjoy the challenge. It's going to be difficult to learn everything, but we are learning
Motorsport Aktuell, Germany
Q: Mikko, would you prefer them to shorten or cancel the long stage on Saturday?
MH: In the recce it looked rough, but to be honest on the shakedown that [shakedown] stage looked rough as well -- but that wasn't so bad. In the long stage, there's some sections which are so fast there's no real point -- there's not so much interest. We'll see what happens.
Q: Kimi, what do you think of the tactics?
KR: I don't have to worry about those things, hopefully at the end of the year maybe I will have to worry about them! All the motor sport has those things, this is part of the game. You can make the rules, but there are many ways to go around the rules.