FIA World Rally Championship
Uddeholm Swedish Rally
February 11, 2007
1st -- Marcus Gronholm, BP-Ford World Rally Team
1st -- Timo Rautiainen, BP-Ford World Rally Team
2nd -- Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd -- Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd -- Mikko Hirvonen, BP-Ford World Rally Team
3rd -- Jarmo Lehtinen, BP-Ford World Rally Team
Representative of the winning manufacturer BP-Ford World Rally Team, Malcolm Wilson
Welcome to the post-event FIA press conference.
Q: Marcus, many congratulations on your second consecutive win in Sweden. This victory gives you a total of 26, which equals Carlos Sainz's record. How does it feel to get past another milestone? You took the lead on Friday afternoon and maintained it to the end; how much pressure did you come under from Sebastien (Loeb)? Were you pushing at your hardest all the time?
MG: It's been quite many wins now. And my fifth win here. It was a good weekend and a good fight with Sebastien, then finally we could win -- it's nice. I know him (Loeb), he is always pushing and I couldn't get much of a gap. Then on Saturday we had our chance and then it was easier when it was more than 20 seconds. I did push all the time, but they (the team) sent me wrong split times. They showed I was plus four after five kilometres, then I put the brain to one side and attack!
Q: Timo, many congratulations again on this 26th win. After being beaten by Citroen in Monte Carlo, how much pressure were you under to win this event? Sebastien Loeb and Petter Solberg were very quick as well; were they a threat to you? You had a lot of problems with loose snow on Friday, how much did that delay you?
TR: I didn't feel pressure. But we realised before the event we need to win and this was one of the events we could do it. I am glad we did. Petter was a threat. When he started in a good position on Friday, we were sure he would beat us. Luckily it wasn't so, we caught him, even a little bit on Friday morning and then it wasn't such a big issue. When you think about the loose snow it wasn't such a big thing, but when we drive on the stage, I didn't like it. The only good thing was Sebastien was having more trouble ahead of us. He was on a different tyre to us, and he coped very well on that, but it was hard.
Q: Seb, congratulations on second place and keeping the lead of the Drivers Championship. Now that you have had a good chance to drive the new C4 on snow, what do you think of it on this surface? Are there any areas where you can still improve it? Did you think you had a chance to win here, or did you decide to settle for second place yesterday?
SL: For me the most important thing was to look and see if the C4 was fast. I'm really happy with the car and we were able to fight with Marcus until mid-day yesterday. The handling and balance is really good for us, it's good for the future. Now we are satisfied. Yes for sure there are always little things to do. Now there is nothing; no understeer, not so much oversteer; it's good. But the team will always try to work more; adjust the suspension and diffs, but no problem. I thought I had a chance until the first loop on Saturday; we were 10 seconds behind Marcus and everything is possible. Then I took the long stud for the hard surface, it was wrong and I lost time to Marcus. After that I was 27 seconds behind and I didn't try any more.
Q: Did you have any problems on this rally Daniel? What was the most nervous moment for you here?
DE: The race wasn't perfect for us, but it was only the tyre choice on Saturday and the snow on the road on Friday -- it wasn't easy for us. For the drivers behind, it was better. Then in the super special we dropped some seconds and to come back against the other drivers was hard -- they are very fast, especially in the first three stages.
Q: Mikko, congratulations. You had a big fight with Henning Solberg for third place; that must have been quite entertaining. You got past him yesterday -- did you expect him to be that quick on his first Swedish Rally in the 06 Ford Focus? Did you think you had any chance of beating Sebastien Loeb to second, or did you decide to concentrate on making sure of third place?
MH: The car is fast and Henning has been here a few times. It wasn't a big surprise. On Saturday I was fighting with Henning and Toni (Gardemeister). I think I was one or 0.5 seconds faster. By driving hard it was possible to catch him. I was concentrating on my driving and trying to keep the others behind.
Q: Jarmo, well done. You had a problem with the power steering on the opening day; how bad was it and how much did affect your pace? Do you think it made the difference between finishing third or second? Apart from that, was your car reliable?
JL: It's difficult to say how much time we lost, but for sure we had to take a lot of risks. We tried to hang on and not lose too much time. We had more moments that day than all of last year. It was not nice.
Q: Malcolm, congratulations on getting two cars onto the podium here. You said in Monte Carlo that you expected Citroen to be quick there but that you were after revenge in Sweden. Are you disappointed that you were first and third rather than first and second? The result means that you are now just one point behind Citroen in the Manufacturers' Championship. Do you think that this closeness of competition is going to be maintained throughout the year? How do you plan to try and get an advantage?
MW: First of all, I am delighted to have first and third. Everybody knows about the battles Sebastien and Marcus had last year, it'll be the same this year. Mikko had problems on day one, but let's wait and see what happens in Norway. There have been some great battles, even further down the field, but we're happy to go away with the points we have. I think it sends out a clear message that reliability is a key issue. In Monte Carlo and here it's the same people that are battling and driver mistakes are going to be key. It's going to be a long hard season, but an exciting one.
Q: Marcus, this morning the Focus cars of Jari-Matti Latvala and Matthew Wilson had to retire because of a problem connected to the oil breather pipe freezing in the very cold conditions. Did this worry you?
MG: Yes we were a little worried. It was so cold, but in fact we had no problem in our cars. I don't know exactly their problems.
Q: Throughout the rally, you and Marcus proved that you were quicker than Sebastien. However, you both have a lot of experience of this event. When the Championship goes to Norway next week -- which is a brand new rally for everybody -- do you still think that yourselves and Ford can have an advantage?
TR: I'm confident we can be quick, but I cannot say I am confident we are the quickest. You can see the new stages here and how Sebastien, Petter and we are fast. That's what we're going to face in Norway; there isn't anybody above the others. It's going to be a good fight again.
Q: Seb, what do you think about Norway? It will obviously be completely new to you and to everybody; do you think this fact helps you or not? It will be the first event where the car you used here does a second consecutive event; are you worried about reliability, as the C4 is still so new?
SL: No, it's the same as Timo said. Sometimes we had new stages here, but it doesn't change anything. I hope we will be able to fight for the victory; we will see. You never know about reliability, it will be the third rally with the same engine and that will be the first time for everybody. Hopefully it will be okay.
Q: What difference does it make to your job when the conditions are as cold as they were here? Does it make it difficult to read the pace notes or turn the pages? Is there anything you can do to minimise the effects of the cold?
DE: Yes, when you turn the page of the book, it's not easy when your finger is cold. You don't have the same sensation. I know the FIA want the glove for the co-driver (for safety reasons), but it's not possible for the co-driver. It's not possible.
Q: You had a big battle with Toni Gardemeister as well, which was a similar situation to the one you had in Monte Carlo. Were you feeling confident here, generally speaking? What are your thoughts about Norway? As it is a completely new rally for everyone, do you think you will be closer to the pace of Marcus?
MH: I had a good feeling here anyway. When you have a fight like this you enjoy it. It was close, we did stages when it was really close with Henning and Toni and it is about drivers' mistakes. I didn't do any, which was lucky for me. I managed to maintain my position. I'm always hoping that I will be closer to Marcus, but we'll see in Norway next week.
Q: Do you think that the experience you have accumulated here will help you in Norway? What do you think of the idea of running these two snow rallies back-to-back; does it make life more difficult for you, or does it mean that you will start Norway with a very good rhythm straight away?
JL: Yeah, for sure it helps. We are well adapted to driving on snow and ice. It's quite easy, we are ready for Norway; this is a good shakedown. Logistically it's cheaper for the teams.
Q: As we mentioned to Marcus, two of your cars driven by Henning Solberg and Matt Wilson had a problem this morning. Can you tell us more about it and is there anything you can do to make sure that it doesn't recur in Norway -- which tends to be colder than Sweden? Are you feeling reasonably confident that you can emerge from the event leading the Manufacturers' Championship?
MW: Obviously we haven't done a full check at this stage, but we have a good idea. In all honesty, it's not something we are concerned about at all. Both drivers switched the engines off before any damage was done. I think the same engines will be used in the two cars next week. If it is what we think it is, we're not concerned at all, in any way, shape, or form. I always said we had to do the same to Seb and Daniel as they did to us in Monte Carlo. We're under no illusions, we're in a battle. We know how strong they are on asphalt and we need to take the advantage on snow and gravel. We have to do the same, if not better next week.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st -- Juho Hanninen
1st -- Mikko Markkula
Q: Is it a surprise for you to win Juho, as this is your first ever event in the Production Car World Rally Championship? You had a big fight with Kristian Sohlberg; were you still confident you could beat him even before he had his problem this morning?
JH: Of course, I'm now very happy, but I was here also last year. I have some experience and drove in some World Championship rallies and got some good results, but I didn't expect so good a result. I knew he (Kristian) would attack very hard today and the first stage was not good for me. It was very slippery and not good time, but then Kristian had the problem at the end of the stage. It was a good fight for the whole rally.
Q: You went off on Saturday morning Mikko -- was that a big problem for you? What happened exactly? How much time did you lose?
MM: It was not really an off. We cut the bank so all of the snow came to the screen. We had to stop to see where the road was. We lost a few seconds here and there.
Q: In Norway you will be driving a Mitsubishi Lancer World Rally Car. Do you think that this event was good preparation for that? What sort of result could you achieve? How much confidence did the Group N car give you on snow?
JH: Three days driving on snow, it must be good experience, but the cars are quite different. This was my first rally with Mikko, so we have good experience there. It would be nice to have a small test before, though. I don't know about the result in Norway. What I want to do is good stage times. Norway is not on the calendar in 2008, so it's not so important for the experience of the roads. A couple of stages being close to Toni (Gardemeister) -- he was going very fast here and I can compare my speed with Toni. Of course, it gave some confidence, but I didn't drive so much test before the rally. Friday was learning about driving back on snow. The speed was getting better through the rally.
Q: Mikko, you are an experienced co-driver who has sat with many drivers. How does Juho compare to them?
MM: He is very fast and talented. We worked well and had good fun in the car. Everything is fine for Norway.