WALES RALLY GB
7 December 2008
1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Miikka Antilla, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Marc Marti, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Team Principal, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Welcome to the pre-event FIA Press Conference.
Q: Sebastien, Wales Rally GB has been the win that has eluded you, but you have put that right this weekend after a dramatic final two stages. Citroen* takes the Manufacturers title as well -- a great result after a difficult weekend.
SL: I feel very satisfied for sure. When we arrived here the priority was to try to get the Manufacturers' Championship and so we didn't know really if we had to push or not because the conditions were so tricky -- it was so difficult just to stay on the road. It was going well but we had some big moments sometimes because we had no gravel crew and only one tyre; it was really bad sometimes. But we could keep in contact with Jari-Matti, and Dani was just behind so everything was looking good for the Championship so we decided to push for victory.
Q: You picked up a 10 second penalty on stage 18 after a jump start, which was then removed. Did that spur you on to charge even harder on the final stage?
SL: The problem was that the penalty was on the board but I didn't know if it was going to stay there or not. So I had to drive like I had a penalty and it was still possible to win because we were only 2.2 seconds, I think, behind Jari-Matti at the start of the last stage. Normally when I do a jump start I know it. We had to take some big risks in the last stage but we won it, and the penalty didn't stay, so that was the most important thing.
Q: You have done the double this year with the Drivers* and Manufacturers' Championships; it's been an incredible year for you and Citroen.
SL: For sure! It couldn't be better for us. We had everything this year; both Championships, and that was the priority. I beat my own record too! So I am very happy with that.
Q: During 2008 Mikko Hirvonen was the only real threat to your title hopes -- has it been easy for you?
SL: No it hasn't been easy at all. When you look from outside for sure we won 11 out of 15 events but we had to work very hard for those victories and that is something that you don't really understand if you are not following every stage. On some stages I won only by one second and I tried to push really hard to get those fast times. With drivers like Jari-Matti pushing harder every year and with Mikko going well all season this year it is never easy. But thankfully at the end everything came right for us.
Q: It sounds like 2009 will be a great year next year. Are you looking forward to it already?
SL: Yes, sure, I am looking forward. My goal is to win another title. I will try to get six! We will see. There will be some good fights but we need to look at the regulations. In most of the rallies it worked okay to have a hard tyre but in a rally like here you have no cuts, no tyre choice, no gravel crews, no information of the condition of the stages and for me it is getting more dangerous. I understand it is a question of reducing cost but when you see Chris Atkinson's crash I am quite sure that had he had a gravel crew and cut tyres he wouldn't have crashed. He was aquaplaning on the mud. I think it would be cheaper to have a gravel crew rather than a totally destroyed car. We always speak about safety, and this is going the wrong way. I hope for next year, and especially for Ireland, we will be allowed to cut the tyres if it is raining very hard. Like this, as it is now, it is completely wrong.
Q: Sebastien said it had been a difficult event and we have seen difficult conditions across the board. How has it been for you?
DE: It was very icy out there! Everyone knows this is a dangerous sport and these bad conditions are not easy for the marshals, for us and for safety. It is not easy to stay on the road. The team have done a very good job on the car and we are very happy to win here now.
Q: What was going through your mind going into that last stage? How much were you risking to try and get the lead?
J-ML: I thought I had lost the game up until that last stage and when I heard about the penalty for Sebastien I thought I had a possibility - but I drove similar as I drove in Rheola and I basically went as fast as I could and I was taking risks. But I didn't take such big risks that I would be waiting on the bank for a trailer! I didn't want to finish my end of the year like that. I thought New Zealand was one time too many to retire on the last stage so I had a little bit of limit on my speed. But, how you say, the best man won the rally.
Q: You began the day first on the road -- did you think you still had a shot at the win?
J-ML: I had a feeling in the morning that I could make it, and it was alright in the morning but going into the afternoon it changed. The roads in the morning were very solid ice with a little bit of gravel on top which was giving you grip on the braking points but in the afternoon the sun melted the road which gave a little bit of surface water and I just didn't have total confidence and had a couple of moments and I think that's where I lost the game -- I just couldn't find the rhythm.
Q: 2009 looms large; will you be fighting for the Championship title next year?
J-ML: I feel that now, finally, I am ready to fight for the Championship. I spoke with my co-driver Miikka on the road section, that we got the Rally Sweden victory the easy way. We thought that it gave us an easy feeling that it would be easy now. But today we realised that the victories need big fights and if you want to win a title you need to be able to fight and win these battles. So I think mentally I am stronger.
Q: Miikka, you just lost out at the end of the event after such a strong performance; how are you feeling?
MA: It has been a long event, with early mornings and late nights. Especially when the conditions are like this it feels longer and more stressful. Also the first day with stages being cancelled there were lots of rumours so it felt like a long, long rally.
Q: A strong drive by you this weekend Dani and this is the first Manufacturers win that you have been part of; that must feel good!
DS: I feel very good. A perfect weekend for the team and for me. I knew I needed to take some points for the Manufacturers' title and I am very happy with my performance as well.
Q: How much pressure did you feel this weekend to score points for the Manufacturers' Championship?
DS: There was a lot of pressure. The rally was very difficult in these conditions but now it has finished it feels very good.
Q: On the first stage on Saturday you set an amazing pace; how did you find conditions?
DS: I don't understand how I got such a fast time! We had very good confidence with the notes and it worked very well. But it only lasted one stage! After that other people came in really fast with the ice and I had to be careful.
Q: As I said it's been a strong year for you, do you feel confident in your ability to be fighting for the Drivers' Championship next year?
DS: I will try, of course. I have more experience and more confidence. It is not easy with other fast drivers but my feeling is very good and I am ready to try.
Q: Looking back at the season, it's been a great year for you. What has been the highlight of 2008?
MM: In these conditions it is not easy. The FIA need to understand that it is not the same as Formula One with just one tyre. We need more tyres, we need gravel crews, we need a lot of things to do our job. We need a lot of help. I am very happy with Dani -- he finished fifth three years ago, last year fourth, this year we finish third so it is good preparation and we helped win the Manufacturers' Championship so I am happy.
Q: Congratulations, Citroen* has taken its first Manufacturers' Championship since 2005 and its first win at Wales Rally GB. What a great result!
OQ: I am quite happy for the team and for Citroen. And we get the Junior Championship* too. We get eleven victories this year, and Seb gets the Rally GB win, so we couldn't have done better. I am very pleased for the drivers and co-drivers.
Q: It's been your first year in your position as Team Principal and Citroen Sport Director -- has it been an enjoyable year for you?
OQ: Of course! But when you have a team like that you have to do this job.
Q: What does winning the title mean to Citroen?
OQ: For Citroen it is very important. For me the Driver's title is more important. So the best way is to get both so everybody is happy!
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Andrea Cremonesi Gazzetta de la Sport (Italy)
Q: I would like to ask the drivers how they felt about Valentino Rossi's performance.
SL: I think Valentino at the moment is a World Champion in motorbikes and for sure it is very hard for him to arrive like this in a World Championship rally. It is like me arriving tomorrow in MotoGP. I think I would be far behind! At the end of the rally he was getting better and better and for sure he improved. But I hope he had some fun and I think he came for that. I spoke a bit with him and he was struggling a bit with the notes and I understand that. At this speed you need some experience. But he was getting better.
J-ML: For me Valentino did a good job. I remember when he was here the first time, because it was my first World Rally in 2002, and I had a feeling that year that there was too much pressure for him to suddenly arrive and do a great performance. He is doing it the right way now, by having fun and starting slowly and improving step by step and gaining in confidence. That is the way you have to come in the WRC. Take me for example. I have been here now since I was seventeen and I am now twenty three. So now I am starting to be able to fight against Sebastien but it took so many years, six years, to get where I is. Things don't happen quickly unless you are multi-talented. So for me, Valentino's performance was good and I am really happy to see how he is improving and if he does more World Rallies in the future he could reach quite easily a top ten position.
Gareth Rhys Owen, BBC (UK)
Q: What do you make of Wales as a setting, Sebastien, and are you enjoying the stages here now that you have won Wales Rally GB?
SL: It has always been a rally that I like. I think the stages are interesting and really nice and okay, now we are in December so there is some ice so that is normal. For me, it has always been a nice rally with good roads and this year if we had more information and some tyre choice we could have done more stages on the first day. But for me I am really satisfied with the event. For the future for me it is okay to keep it in Wales.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Patrik Flodin
1st - Goran Bergsten
Q: Patrik, your first PWRC event win, congratulations!
PF: Thank you very much! It feels great, especially here in Rally GB. Motorsport here is really big so it is a wonderful day to do this.
Q: We have seen you win in the Group N class but this is your first Production win -- how does it compare?
PF: This is bigger, for sure. Here you have all the best drivers from Production and also you have the drivers from the British Rally Championship so the local drivers here are very very fast as well. But we were a little bit better also!
Q: Did you imagine before the event you would actually win here?
PF: No, when I saw the stages during the recce I thought this would be a tricky rally but after the first stages when I saw that our time was really good the goal from then was to be on the podium at the end of the rally. I didn't expect to win and to also be the first Subaru. It is so good to be that guy!
Q: Patrik Sandell was certainly putting on the pressure on -- how did that feel?
PF: Actually after the first stage in the morning we were beating Sandell by 40 seconds so I thought, okay, maybe this is quite easy. But then he took 30 seconds from me in the next stage and I noticed when we came to the service that we had a problem with the centre diff and also we had run out of gas in the front suspension damper so after the service he had only a one second lead and we tried our best to take it back. We won the next one by 10 seconds so by the last stage our lead was 11 seconds. I know it could have been a really good battle but unfortunately he had to stop. And I won!
Q: It is the first win for the Group N Subaru after what has been a difficult debut year for the car...
PF: Yes, and Subaru need it. Hopefully the car will be even better next year so it can start to win some other rallies!
Q: It's been a fight this weekend in difficult conditions, but has it been enjoyable?
PF: Some stages yes, but in these icy and slippery conditions it was more scary because you know that you have to do it otherwise some other guy will take the lead from you. So from that point it wasn't fun to drive.
Q: You were obviously really putting on the pressure to take that win and you've got it here. You have won, but what about next year? Is anything sorted out for next season?
PF: Not really. But we are working to get the budget because we really want to do the Production Championship again next year together with the Russian team. So we don't know at the moment but maybe this win will help us.
Q: What was the atmosphere like in the car going into the final stage?
GB: We didn't have time to think about it because we had a problem with the car on the road section. There was a pipe to the left rear brake that had broken so we had to repair the car. We did it with only one minute to go in the time control so we were all muddy and sweaty by the time we started the last stage. It was only flat out then.
Q: When you came through the last stage you obviously were unaware that you had won. You were pretty calm -- until you were told!
GB: You should have seen the two last corners! That was a pretty scary moment!
PRESS CONFERENCE FOR THE WINNERS OF THE FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Andreas Aigner
1st - Klaus Wicha
Q: Andreas, congratulations, you are the 2008 FIA Production Car World Rally Champion*. How does that feel?
AA: It feels fantastic. I know what can happen here especially in these tricky conditions. I nearly passed Juho (Hanninen) on the first stage and I know he must have had some problems and then he started to climb back up and on the second one he let me pass without any problems and he was very, very fair there, so the Championship was there then - so we tried to be in the top three to keep our chances alive and it worked perfectly the whole weekend.
Q: Juho retired so the pressure was then on you to get the position you needed to win. How did that feel?
AA: It was quite hard in these conditions because the top six cars were going very quick so we had to push very hard all the time on Friday and also yesterday. Today we tried to slow down a little bit. We took some risks to keep in the top three and had a few moments but no real problems. I think for this event we had a very good car.
Q: Were you nervous going into the final stage?
AA: For sure I was very nervous because the conditions were quite slippery but I know 48 seconds to Guy Wilks normally must be enough and then I see Patrik Sandell stopped on the stage and I passed him. So after then I drove slower but started making a few mistakes because I couldn't get my rhythm.
Q: Andreas your title rival of course was Juho Hanninen, who retired, but I believe he has been in contact with you since you came over the finish line?
AA: Juho called me after the podium and congratulated me and, yes, I feel sorry for him with the problems he had from the very beginning, like getting stuck in the water splash. I was lucky though to get there too because we had a misfire a few kilometres further on. But like he said, that is rallying and this happens all the time.
Q: It has been your best year in PWRC which has resulted in the win; will this help your cause for 2009?
AA: Yes, I hope that I can use this victory to take the next step in a WRC car and that I can show my speed there. I hope we can find a package with my sponsor Red Bull.
Q: Klaus it has been an incredible year for you both, one of the best you have had together. You came to the final round and you were on the back foot really. Were you confident you could take the title away from this event?
KW: Confident is maybe not the right word. We had to push straight from the start. The best thing would be to win but when we saw the entry and especially the guys from Britain we thought it may not be so easy. So we said, okay, we will do everything we can and like Andreas said before when Juho retired it was hard to concentrate on keeping third place because later we had a small spin. But at the end of the day we were quite confident.
Q: Have you been impressed by the improvements in Andreas' performance?
KW: I have followed him since the driver search in Austria and we are driving together since 2004 except for one year when I drove with Armin (Schwarz). But you can see that, yes, he has got more experience and you can see him getting faster. It was a good choice to choose him as the leading driver in 2004 and I think now he is World Champion in Group N and hopefully he can show his speed and confidence and experience in a World Rally Car.
* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA