FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Rallye De France - Tour De Corse 10.14.2007 Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb -- Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena -- Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Marcus Gronholm -- BP Ford World Rally Team 2nd...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Rallye De France - Tour De Corse
1st - Sebastien Loeb -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Marcus Gronholm -- BP Ford World Rally Team
2nd - Timo Rautiainen -- BP Ford World Rally Team
3rd - Daniel Sordo -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Marc Marti -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
Guy Frequelin -- Team Principal, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Welcome to the final FIA press conference.
Q: Seb congratulations: you're now down to a four point gap to Marcus in the Championship. How optimistic does that make you feel? Are you pleased by this result or disappointed that the gap isn't bigger?
SL: I don't feel very optimistic with that. It was very important for me to win here for the Championship. We have done it. We are now four points from Marcus, so everything is still possible even if no one can fight with us. If I win all the rallies, I will win the Championship. It's my only chance. It's not so easy. It was important to win here. For sure, I would prefer someone to be between me and Marcus, but it was not possible. Marcus was really fast, perhaps too fast at the start, but then we managed to pass him. It's not so bad, two points is not so bad.
Q: You had to fight very hard for this result; were you surprised by Marcus's pace?
DE: No. Marcus is like a good wine, the older he gets the better he gets. His pace was very good from the start. If he carries on like this he will win on asphalt, maybe it's time he slowed down before Ireland.
Q: Marcus, congratulations on second place and a fantastic performance. Would you say this was your best performance on asphalt? Over the first couple of days there was almost nothing to separate you and Seb?
MG: It was a good rally, yes. It was mainly because I was not worried about the tyre choice, dry all of the time and just to drive. Maybe one of my best rallies on tarmac, yes.
Q: What made the difference here? How come you were second here and third in Spain? Was this event better for you in terms of weather and tyre choice, or was there more to it? After the first day, how good did you think your chances of beating Seb were?
TR: That's difficult to answer. Look at Spain, there were some stages where we were not as competitive and that's the way on some very fast rallies on tarmac. You cannot afford bad stages -- immediately somebody is off. Without Dani's problem we would have been fighting very hard for second place. I'm quite happy to be here only two points away to Seb, maybe we can do the other way in Japan. For a short while I was thinking this looks good now, especially when I saw Sebastien looking a little bit worried. Then later on Friday night, when I was thinking about the stages on Saturday and Sunday, they were not like the racing track and no matter what we tried... driving like an idiot with no mistakes, it was still no good. He still beat us by one, two, three, four, five seconds. It doesn't feel very good.
Q: Dani, you were only really 100% happy with the car on the final day. What was the problem earlier? What did you change to make it suit you better? How disappointed do you feel not to finish in front of Marcus, or are you just happy to be on the podium here?
DS: I lost a little time yesterday because I didn't have confidence for traction. Today the car was well. I understand what was done yesterday. I change some parts. The car was very different today. I am disappointed. For me the second position is the best for the team and Sebastien, but it's not possible here.
Q: Marc, what do you think? Looking back, is there anything more you could have done to finish higher up the order? Or are you pleased with your performance here?
MM: No. I am happy for Dani and the team. It is disappointing not to help Sebastien more. Dani is 24 years old, but he's on the podium. He's learning. If there was no problem, for sure, we could fight for second place. But the most important thing is to be here at the finish.
Q: Guy, how do you think your drivers performed on this event? What do you think Sebastien's prospects are looking like now for the Drivers' Championship? Looking at the three events coming up -- Japan, Ireland and Great Britain -- who do you think they favour?
GF: We know it will be difficult with three different rallies: Japan, Ireland and GB. We have a chance to win, but they must win three times. If Marcus and Timo finish second in the three last rallies, it will be difficult, but we will try for sure.
Q: The next event now is Japan, where you had a fantastic battle with Marcus last year. Do you think that will be the case again this year?
SL: It's difficult to say now. The last gravel rally (New Zealand) was really close. Last year in Japan was really close. Maybe it can be the same, yes.
Q: Daniel, what did you think of the new stages run this year?
DE: I am very pleased with the times in the first day. One pass and no mistakes. Okay it's dry, but in this Championship and at this level it's incredible.
Q: You had a small technical problem on the final stage yesterday. What exactly happened and how badly did it compromise your chances? You said that you were flat out all the time: how many risks did you take on this event? When you finish at the end of the year, will you miss battles like this with Seb?
MG: It was not a big time loss at all. We were lucky to have it on the last stage. We came to service and they fixed it. No risks at all! It was late braking only. No, I don't know how many risks. Everybody is going on the limit. Yes, of course I will miss the battles, but if I can go out as a Champion I will not miss them. You (Seb) have your time to take many Championships, you can afford to slow down now!
Q: Timo, did the inclusion of the new stages help your prospects here? It was an astonishing performance from yourself and Marcus: do you believe that you are as fast on asphalt as on gravel now? Looking at the Championship battle, would you say that the fact that there are two gravel rallies and just one asphalt rally left tips the balance in your favour?
TR: Yes. When you look what happens on gravel, the fight between Marcus and Seb is all the time. On tarmac it's more specialised and we have jokers in the pack like Dani, but yes, Marcus could challenge if there was more tarmac with constant circumstances with the weather. One day, in ten years, maybe Marcus could beat him. But we won't be here for 10 years... It's four points to our favour. I'm pretty sure - I said this in Spain - there will be a big fight in GB. My nightmare is that we start that event on even points. We would have fought for 15 rallies for nothing, we start even. Let's hope we can take more points from Seb before then, relax in Ireland - drive an easy second place - and the same in GB.
Q: Japan will be a very different type of rally to this one. How much do you expect to be able to help Seb there, as the Championship enters a very crucial phase?
DS: It's very difficult in Japan. Sebastien and Marcus are at another level on tarmac and gravel, but it's important for me to finish as high as possible.
Q: Marc -- what do you think: can you and Dani aim for the podium in Japan or not? What will be your aim there?
MM: For sure we're going to try and do a good rally to learn more on gravel. Last year they were at another level and this year, I suppose, it should be the same. I don't expect to reduce the gap in Ireland and maybe in GB it should be Sebastien in front.
Q: Finally Guy, a word about Francois Duval in the Xsara. It was obviously a disappointing rally for him here, but do you think we could see him back in a Citroen for Ireland or Britain?
GF: I don't know. It's the Kronos team who do the rallies. I don't know what they want to do for the next rallies.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
Marcus Stier (Rallye Magazin, Germany)
Q: A question for Guy; Mikko faded a little bit here. Do you start to hope for the Manufacturers' title again?
GF: It's a dream! Yes.
FIA JUNIOR RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Martin Prokop
1st - Jan Tomanek
Q: Martin, congratulations on your second asphalt win. How much easier was it for you when P-G and his team-mate Urmo Aava hit problems? Were you nervous today?
MP: Thank you, this race was much more easier than the race one week before in Spain, where we had a big fight with Urmo, and Germany, where we had another fight with Urmo. This wasn't easy, but after Friday when we fight Urmo and P-G, we just had to hold our position on Saturday and Sunday. We drove to the finish. It was quite easy then. I was feeling quite nervous, I didn't sleep well. I don't like the situation with a big lead and nobody to fight. It's strange when you don't take risks. You worry about the puncture or the spin. I prefer to fight with somebody.
Q: You've made big progress this year as a driver: what has been the key to it?
MP: I don't know what's most important. My chief mechanic is Roman Kresta, he drove for Ford. He helped me much with the set-up of the car. He's very important and the work with the team and co-driver. We did a good job this year and got faster and faster. All the team works well this year.
Q: Martin, with two wins this year you finish third in the Junior Rally Championship, how has that helped your future career prospects? Have you got any plans for next year yet? What are you going to be up to for the rest of this year now that the Junior Championship has finished for this season?
MP: I don't know. For sure, next year it's Juniors also and I try to make it better. I hope in some race in a WRC car, but I cannot say if it's possible. I don't know how it can help me. For me the most important is to be faster than the year before. Same team and same car for next year.
FIA PRESS CONFERENCE FOR THE WINNER OF THE FIA JUNIOR RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
(Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA)
1st - Per-Gunnar Andersson
1st - Jonas Andersson
Q: A fantastic result P-G, which turned around for you after Urmo went off on SS8 yesterday. If he had carried on, how would that fight have worked out: did you have something left in reserve?
P-GA: It had been easy to celebrate on the last stage and beat Urmo. Now we beat him yesterday and had to stay on the road today. It wasn't easy, but we stayed on the road and managed some stage times as well. I was never worried; I just wanted to get into the rhythm. I knew I could push harder, it was only going to need two seconds per stage to get ahead of him - we took three on the first stage on Saturday and put more pressure on him.
Q: Jonas, what was your reaction to seeing Urmo off the road?
JA: I said to P-G: "You know what to do." He did that for half a kilometre and then we had a small off and a puncture!
Q: You become the first person to take the Junior title twice P-G: how do you feel about that? Was it difficult to stay concentrated after Urmo's accident?
P-GA: I saw only that yellow car (Aava's Suzuki) in front of me for the last 20 kilometres of the stage. I couldn't hear the pace notes and it was like driving on ice!
Q: How about you P-G? Now that you've won the FIA Junior Rally Championship twice, is it time to move on? Have you got any plans for next year yet? Do you think you can continue the relationship with Suzuki into the future, now that the team has launched its World Rally Car here?
P-GA: It's time to grow up. I don't know what to do next year. I want to be in the WRC, but it's a tough market. We have a small chance in the Suzuki World Rally Car. We have to take some meetings. We will see if Tajima will accept my contract...