2008 FIA WOrld Rally Championship Uddeholm Swedish Rally Post-event FIA Press Conference 10.02.2008 Present: 1st - Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 1st - Miikka Anttila, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 2nd - Mikko ...
2008 FIA WOrld Rally Championship
Uddeholm Swedish Rally
Post-event FIA Press Conference
1st - Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
1st - Miikka Anttila, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Gigi Galli, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
3rd - Giovanni Bernacchini, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.
Q: Jari-Matti, congratulations on becoming the youngest driver to win a WRC event since Henri Toivonen in 1980. How does it feel?
J-ML: It feels amazing. I can't even describe the feeling with words; a special moment. Henri Toivonen was a big idol for me and actually I have followed him very carefully when he was having his time. He was 24 when he won the RAC Rally in 1980, but it feels great to beat his record. Malcolm told me you can make it, but I wasn't sure. Now it's great.
Q: How much did it mean to have your dad here to see your first win?
J-ML: It was a very emotional moment. My father doesn't cry so often, but he did at the end of the stage. He has been waiting 22 years for this. It was really a good feeling.
Q: You have seemed very calm this weekend, with the pressure of the lead from the first stage on Friday. How did you manage to keep so cool? How much pressure did you feel?
J-ML: Always in sport there is pressure and always you have to have a little excitement. It helps you to perform. Last year, some of the rallies I was too excited and using my energy in the wrong places. I have worked on the concentration and making the energy in the right places.
Q: How much do you think you benefited from your road position on Friday morning?
J-ML: Of course I got some benefit from that. Friday was the most difficult day -- I was 10th car on the road. I had clean roads to drive. With that attack, I was able to keep the lead to the end. That gave us the gap to Mikko (Hirvonen), which I controlled. Those three stages were very important to me.
Q: How does this first win feel?
J-ML: You always remember that first victory, I'll never forget it. I hope this gives me more confidence for Mexico. It's not such an easy rally; I was seventh last year. There are nice rallies towards the end of the year -- especially fast rallies, which suit my style. Maybe we can fight for the wins in those rallies.
Q: Congratulations Miikka on your first win. After Monte-Carlo, did you feel your confidence had taken a knock from that weekend?
MA: After Monte-Carlo, we didn't expect the win -- we came here for the good result. Everybody was a bit unaware; there was so much discussion about the weather. The main talk was of what kind of conditions and how we could adapt to those conditions.
Q: Have you seen a difference in Jari-Matti since stepping up to the works team?
MA: There are some changes -- many positive. Of course, when you have time to take care of yourself you have time to come with the fitness and proper sport. He has taken a positive direction. All that he is doing, he is very determined. He knows what he is doing now and knows what is expected of him.
Q: Congratulations on your second, second position of the year Mikko. It does mean that you are now leading the Drivers' Championship, the first time in your career you have led. That must be a good feeling?
MH: It feels very, very good. I came here for the win, but Jari-Matti was too good -- we couldn't catch him and then we concentrated on the Drivers' Championship. Six points ahead is a very good start.
Q: Your road position wasn't the best on Friday morning, and it followed into the afternoon after Sebastien Loeb's retirement. Was it the main reason that you couldn't match Jari-Matti's pace?
MH: Maybe it was a bit down to road position. I could have slowed in Monte-Carlo to tenth or eighth to get the position...! That's how it is, there might be a few surprises on Friday (in Mexico) -- we will have to wait and see.
Q: When Loeb retired on Friday, was it a case of just holding position, or were you determined to push Jari-Matti still? When did you realise that you couldn't catch him?
MH: Saturday morning. The plan was to attack, but then I couldn't get the best out of myself on the first two stages. He drove so consistently. I thought: "Okay, let's get to the finish and take eight points."
Q: How difficult was it to compete with the changing conditions this weekend?
MH: It was not easy for anyone. It was so warm we had lots of gravel and mud, actually. Then there was slush and snow on the road, the grip was changing all of the time. It was a very difficult weekend.
Q: Leading the Championship going into Mexico means you will be first on the road, a difficult road position again?
MH: It will be tough. I haven't tested the gravel tyre -- that's next week. There will be loose gravel and we will sweep the road. It's going to be interesting -- right through the year.
Q: How did it feel battling with a team-mate, and was it frustrating not to be able to catch them?
JL: We hate losing; it was frustrating. But soon we realised there was no point taking stupid risks. We thought that if Seb had no points, eight would be good for us.
Q: Will you win next time? You need to win if you want the Championship...
JL: If Seb keeps not finishing, then this is okay. But we will go to Mexico and hope to step up one place on the podium.
Q: Gigi, congratulations on the second podium position of your career. It's been a great start to the year with the Stobart team; did you think you would get on the podium so soon in the season?
GG: Of course I could not imagine that kind of result for us. As I told you before the start of Monte-Carlo, it was just for me to get used to the car. I could not imagine a result like this. We started with a good pace, with no big moments. We tried to drive as well as we can and after the second day, when Henning (Solberg) was stopped, we tried to arrive at the end. We were very consistent and just looked for Petter (Solberg) behind and nothing else. Today was just cruising. Pirelli also did a great job. We were a bit scared for this year without mousse, especially in this really rough condition. We had no punctures and the studs stayed on the tyre. It's good and also it's good to be the third car from Ford after a long stop (not competing) for me.
Q: How difficult was it today, just to drive for position without needing to be totally competitive?
GG: It's difficult but the last years were harder -- I had just two or three races. I had to show my performance on them; when you are like that, you have to start at full attack. This year it's different as we work for a team. I feel good.
Q: It's only your second rally in a Ford Focus, and you have managed to get on the podium. Your confidence must be good heading to Mexico and what is your plan there?
GG: I didn't speak with my chief (Malcolm Wilson) yet. The plan doesn't change. Okay, we did Mexico in 2004 -- just a few stages. Just two times on the recce, it's not enough to be on the same pace as the other drivers. There are a lot of quick drivers. What we will do is to try and find the good, safe pace and understand how the feeling is with the new gravel tyre. After one day, we can understand. I don't know about the new tyre yet -- I didn't test it.
Q: Congratulations Giovanni, it must be good to pick up a podium so early in your first season back. How much will this boost your confidence?
GB: It's very a happy day for us. We didn't imagine at the start of the season to be here. A podium in the second rally in the car is unbelievable for us. We are very happy. This is just the start for us. I hope we can do all the season in this way. This is a good opportunity for us to have all of the season, for this reason we will do it step by step and see what we can do in the gravel. It's a good start.
Q: You had a lot of fans here. How much does that help you?
GG: Let me say: I really thank them. They are fans not just for me; there is a contest to come, they are fans from rallying. When you watched Jari-Matti get his prize on the podium they sing: "Jari-Matti!" That is fair play, not like some other sport -- I appreciate this a lot.
Q: Malcolm, maximum points for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, three Fords on the podium and four within the top five. That's a great result for Ford on just the second rally of the season.
MW: It's fantastic. It's a dream weekend to have the first three places and Jari-Matti get his first victory; Mikko to lead the Championship, Gigi on the podium and Ford leading the Championship with Stobart second.
MH: It's a big party tonight, eh?
MW: It's just a shame I'm going home. As you can imagine, I'm not going to leave an open cheque for them!
Q: Jari-Matti stepped up to the team after Marcus Gronholm's retirement and you have been quoted as saying that it would have been ideal for him to gain more experience within Stobart before stepping up to the works team. Did you imagine Jari-Matti would get a win this year and how impressed are you by his performance this weekend?
MW: I think I was right after Monte-Carlo, but he's proved me wrong here! I made no secret; it would have been nice to have kept Marcus, but he (Jari-Matti) learned a lot in Monte-Carlo. There was a lot of pressure on him stepping into the BP team. His performance in Norway (last year) was very good -- we knew he would be quick. The main thing, like he says, is to keep the concentration up. I did expect the win, but I expected it in the second half of season. There are exciting times ahead. Mikko has done a fantastic job. When Seb went off and we sent a message to Mikko, I could see straight away that his pace dropped. Maybe he was thinking that Jari-Matti would be under pressure as well...
Q: This has been a tough rally, without much snow, though.
MW: There are two groups of people I want to thank. Firstly, it's the organisers. I know how difficult it is for them. I have been here in conditions similar to this and it's tough. But this rally has created more drama than any other in the last few seasons -- that's a real positive for the sport. We're here to entertain and that's happened this weekend. The organisers deserve credit for running the event. And to Pirelli. To step in without mousse in these conditions was an incredible job. They're two people that certainly deserve mentioning.
Q: Did you expect the tyres to work as well as they did?
J-ML: I didn't expect so good a job. There was so much gravel and there were still studs there and the tyres were very strong. We hit some stones and didn't have a puncture, only the wheel was damaged.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Juho Hanninen
1st - Mikko Markkula
Q: After what happened last year (exclusion), are you celebrating yet?
JH: I'm not celebrating just yet, maybe we should wait a while...
Q: There were some big battles this weekend with Patrik Sandell, until he retired. How much were you driving on the limit and did you have any moments?
JH: After Friday morning, we had a little bit of a moment on the slippery stages. After that we weren't on the limit, but Sandell was very fast -- so I had to be a bit on the limit.
Q: Were you surprised at the speed of the S2000 car?
JH: It seems it's very fast. There will be some tough fights this year.
Q: How was the car on this event? Did the short remote service time worry you?
JH: You don't think about how long the service is. You can't do that -- you just have to stay focused on the driving. And anyway, our car is quite strong.
Q: Which events do you favour this year?
JH: I like New Zealand and Finland is also good for me. I like Greece, Japan and England.
Q: Who will be the pace-setters this year?
JH: Toshi (Arai) and Sandell. Sandell is fast in this new S2000 car -- maybe Arai is still the fastest. Maybe he's not the best on the snow, but he will be fast in Japan. I am a little concerned about the S2000 car.
Q: You inherited the lead after Patrik (Sandell) spun; was it your pressure which caused the mistake?
MM: It's hard to say, but it was our target to give him some pressure. I don't know if we achieved that; maybe, maybe not.
Q: How difficult will it be to aim for the title with such a strong field in PWRC this year?
MM: It looks very competitive this year. There are a lot of good drivers and cars. It will be a long season.
Q: Were there any problems with the car at all?
MM: No. The team did a great job and all went well. What can I say?