RALLYE DE FRANCE -- TOUR DE CORSE 2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Pre-event FIA Press Conference Present: Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team Francois Duval, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Petter Solberg, Subaru World Rally ...
RALLYE DE FRANCE -- TOUR DE CORSE
2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Pre-event FIA Press Conference
Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Francois Duval, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Petter Solberg, Subaru World Rally Team
Toni Gardemeister, Suzuki World Rally Team
Sebastien Ogier, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Aaron Burkart, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Welcome to the pre-event FIA Press Conference.
Q: Sebastien, Corsica is where you claimed your first world title; you could of course claim your fifth here this weekend. Is that in your mind going into this event?
SL: For sure, I know that. But it doesn't affect me, I try not to think to this. I try to do my rally as always with good preparations. I try my best to win. After that it depends.
Q: Last weekend in Spain Citroen dominated; are you expecting that to happen again here or do you think there will be more competition to rival the team?
SL: I think the Fords will be closer. It's very different here from Catalunya. The roads are much more narrow and tricky than Catalunya. It's more his [Duval] style of road. He's not driving very often, it might take time to get in the rhythm, but here I'm sure he'll fight from the start.
Q: The team are in a position of strength in both Championships, is there less pressure now than there was going into the second half of the season?
SL: Not really. The closer you are, the more pressure there is. I am in a very good situation for the Championship, but maybe I can win this weekend or maybe it can be only a few points ahead of Mikko. We're at the point where anything can happen.
Q: We have seen you circuit racing this year -- has that helped with your pace on asphalt, as you were in a class of your own in Spain?
SL: Maybe the circuit racing helps me more in Catalunya than here. There it was a question of the good line and speed in the corner. Maybe it helped me. Otherwise there's nothing different. It's more narrow and bumpy here. I don't think it will help here.
Q: You were very happy with the set-up of the car in Spain -- has much altered for this event?
SL: We didn't change anything here. I hope I will be as happy here as in Spain.
Q: Francois, in Spain team orders came into effect and you slowed during Sunday afternoon in order for Mikko Hirvonen to take third place. How did that make you feel?
FD: It's quite normal. My position in the Championship is not like his. It is bad for me, but it's quite normal. It's possible for Mikko to win the Championship and me not.
Q: Your speed in Spain was impressive; how confident are you about this event? Do you think you can win here?
FD: Here it's more easy for me. The stages are more twisty and bumpy. I prefer it. My position on the road is still bad, but I work to try and secure one.
Q: We know you favour this event -- why do you think you will perform better here than in Spain?
FD: Here it is more easy. I love this rally.
Q: Do you expect more team orders?
FD: I hope not, but I don't know. I catch the Citroen, this is quite difficult. The stages are not easy. I am confident.
Q: We will see you back with the Stobart team from Japan onwards. Have you discussed the possibility of a drive with the team next year?
FD: It's quite difficult now. Except the top five, the other drivers come with big money. For me it's quite difficult. I am from Belgium, with not much money. I don't know for 2009.
Q: Petter, it was fifth position for you last week in Spain. What's your evaluation of the car's performance?
PS: That's where we are. I think we will be in this position on this rally. I like this rally very much. The stages are good and twisty. As I lead on the shakedown today I am pushing very, very hard. Fifth fastest is where we are.
Q: With events back to back I suppose it's difficult to use what you learnt in Spain to make significant changes. Have any changes been made at all?
PS: No, nothing at all. We tried different things on the shakedown. We tried things [on the rally] in Spain, it's one tenth faster, but it's nothing.
Q: The team seem confident that a win is possible before the end of the year; do you think it is?
PS: Well I hope so. I hope they're right. I hope it's possible. They're trying hard and, to be fair, it's not easy, but we will see. Every rally we are trying, we will see in the next two gravel rallies and see what changes can be done.
Q: Can that fifth place in Spain be bettered here?
PS: If I can go past a couple of Fords and Citroens, then yes. I will try.
Q: Would it take exceptional circumstances to win?
PS: No, no, no, not at all. I know all of the rallies in the whole Championship and many of the stages, but it doesn't help.
Q: I'm sure it will happen.
PS: We need it.
Q: A few changes to the schedule this year, the final day seems like the sting in tail with the longest stage run twice, that could make for an interesting final day?
PS: The stages are very good. The stages are perfect. We can look from there, it's quite easy going. It's okay.
Q: This event is more abrasive than Spain -- how much will tyre wear be an issue here?
PS: I don't think it will be a big issue. It's changing a bit the surface in four or five corners, you have to be careful to get consistent grip.
Q: Toni, you have good experience here in Corsica and were second in 2005. What is the key to good result here?
TG: You need a quick car and have good notes. Notes are the key to me. This rally is sure more tricky than Catalunya. Push like hell and you could get good results.
Q: What were your thoughts on the performance last weekend -- were you disappointed with the result?
TG: I was a bit disappointed. We were testing a lot the set-up in the rally in Spain, at every service. That rally was our test. I hope we are better now.
Q: Did you get enough information from the car last weekend to turn that into a better performance here in Corsica?
TG: Sure, sure. We come to Catalunya and the car suits much better here than in Spain. Hopefully we are better here. I like this rally much better than Catalunya.
Q: One year ago at this event we saw the SX4 for the first time in test mode at the hands of Nicolas Bernardi. This year we have seen it in competition at 12 events; how would you asses the year so far?
TG: Yes and no. I expected we will have some problems during the year, but we have more. I expected a bit better speed. At least we get some reliability on the car. We have no breakdowns, but at the start of the year we had too much technical problems. Hopefully it's all sorted and we're going in the right way we need speed.
Q: How much would you like to carry on in 2009?
TG: I want them (Suzuki) to continue. At the moment there is no discussion of them stopping.
Q: I hear you're not feeling well. Will you be okay for the rally?
TG: I have small fever. Nothing too bad, just from earlier in the week.
FIA JUNIOR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Q: Sebastien, it's a big weekend for you here in Corsica, with the battle for the JWRC title against Aaron Burkart. How are you feeling going into this weekend?
SO: Not so bad. My feeling is good. We are here at home with a lot of supporters. We're leading the Championship and we just need to finish to win the Championship.
Q: Last weekend you made a mistake on the final stage of day two, which caused you to retire. You were under no real pressure from the other drivers; how did the mistake happen?
SO: For sure it is a stupid mistake. We did the rally with a big gap and it was a corner very dirty with a lot of gravel and it was missing in my notes. I did a mistake. That's rally. It was my first mistake of the season. I lead the Championship for the moment. It's okay. I need to be a little bit more prudent and it will be okay.
Q: You don't need to win here; how will you approach this weekend?
SO: Yes, I don't need to win here to win the Championship. This weekend we are going to see Aaron and to look just to win the Championship.
Q: What would it mean to you to win the Championship on your debut year?
SO: It would be good satisfaction for me and the team. To be World Champion is always good. I want to win this weekend.
Q: Did you think when you started this year that you would be challenging for the title?
SO: Yes. I started the season perfectly. We hope to be in the position to win the Championship and that's okay.
Q: Does this rally suit you better than Spain?
SO: No, not really. It's harder here, the roads are more narrow and more dirty, but for me I have to stay out of trouble, no car problem and no puncture. Our performance is always good, we need to finish.
SO: A little bit. I can't do another mistake. It's okay, I lead by four points.
Q: This is the final round of the JWRC -- will we see you again this year? Maybe in a world rally car?
SO: I don't know. You have to ask Olivier Quesnel (Citroen Team Principal). For the moment I have to win the JWRC and maybe do another season; we will see. It's my first season with JWRC, I have time for the WRC.
Q: Has Sebastien Loeb given you any advice?
SO: Not this weekend. In general all of the season, I speak with Sebastien many times. When I need tips, he gives them to me.
Q: Aaron, Ogier's mistake in Spain threw you a lifeline in the Championship and it will be a battle to the finish. How are you feeling going into this weekend?
AB: In the end it's an amazing situation for myself still to be fighting. The pressure is on this guy, he's got to win, he's here at home and obviously a good driver. I'm happy to fight for this position. If he makes another mistake we will be there, but I am happy. We always have pressure, but in the end it's not more or less than any other rally. I'm comfortable and it's great to be in this position.
Q: You haven't won any events but you have been very consistent this year. Are you pleased with your 2008 performance?
AB: On gravel we were not at the place we should be. We had some tests at the start of the year, we thought we would be closer to the top guys. We made the best out of it.
Q: What is going to be your approach this weekend?
AB: The rally is always unpredictable. If I had a bet, it would be a bet on him [Ogier]. I will keep the speed up and make some points. We need points, if Martin [Prokop] gets a win, I need to get 33 points [to be second in JWRC].
Q: What would it mean to you to win the title?
AB? It's always the aim to win the Championship. It would be great. I don't know what I should say, but it would be great.
Q: Will you take big risks?
AB: We will drive our rally and try to get the speed up. We will finish the rally and then see what the result will be.
Q: Do you know anything for next year yet?
AB: Unfortunately nothing is decided. We have plans, but it's not worth saying. It's very far away at the moment. We're concentrating on getting a good car. Hopefully I can tell you soon.
Q: This is a tough route this year, including the final day...
AB: Anything can happen on the third day. They're long stages and quite technical, you have to concentrate for the whole event.