Wales Rally GB
Post-event FIA Press Conference 12.02.2007
1st - Mikko Hirvonen -- BP-Ford World Rally Team
1st - Jarmo Lehtinen -- BP-Ford World Rally Team
2nd - Marcus Gronholm -- BP-Ford World Rally Team
2nd - Timo Rautiainen -- BP-Ford World Rally Team
3rd - Sebastien Loeb -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Daniel Elena -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson, Representative of the winning manufacturer, BP-Ford World Rally Team
Welcome to the Post Event FIA Press Conference.
Firstly, we would like to congratulate our top three winning crews, as well as Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena on claiming their fourth consecutive world title.
Q: Mikko, congratulations. Was this a perfect rally for you? What was the key to your excellent pace in such tough conditions? How worried were you about the threat from behind?
MH: Apart from the final stage it was a perfect rally, no big dramas. Friday was difficult in the fog and rain and luckily I didn't throw it away in the last stage. When conditions are like they have been you can never be quite sure of anything. I know Marcus and Sebastien had their own fight for the Championship so they were not giving it 110 per cent flat-out all of the time, but Marcus kept a nice pressure yesterday so I needed to be flat-out all of the time to keep ahead of him.
Q: There was obviously a massive Championship battle behind you, did you really notice it? Were you worried that you might have to become involved?
JL: Maybe Friday, yes. We were pushing hard in bad conditions and maybe Marcus and Seb were thinking more about the Championship and were taking no risks so we were able to build up a comfortable lead. So on Saturday Marcus was pushing quite hard and even this morning following the splits he wasn't going that slowly. I wasn't worried that we might have to get involved; maybe a little excited! This morning was the first time in a rally on these stages for Mikko and myself, and Marcus knew that so we decided to be awake there.
Q: Marcus, congratulations on ending a fantastic career on the podium. What are your thoughts now that your long and very successful career is over? How much have you enjoyed this year?
MG: It's okay now, but maybe after two months it will be a different story so you will have to ask me again then. I am a little bit disappointed to not get the Championship but it was quite clear before the start that it would be difficult after Ireland. It is over, yes, but it is also nice that I don't have to drive in the fog and the rain and the mud anymore! It has been a very good season for me. The last two rallies before weren't good, but everything else has been perfect with no problems with the car.
Q: How about you Timo? Are you glad it's all over or are you feeling a bit sad now?
TR: I am not sad at all. Okay, at the end of the last stage when we came to the last few corners before the finish I asked Marcus 'can I put my notes away' and he said I could, and I thanked him for the years. We were driving towards the stop control and saw Seb and Daniel there and a few minutes later -- actually, two minutes later -- Mikko and Jarmo arrived and it was great, but a very emotional feeling at that moment. On top of these feelings I am relieved that there will be no more 'RAC Rally' and no more fog and mud and split times! But as a whole these last two years have meant a lot to me, because it all started so nice in 2002. It was a dream come true after all those private years to get the drive and win Championships. We had a few bad years and we were thinking already 'are we not quick enough anymore?' but then to end your career with two years in a team like this, and to achieve what we have achieved with almost no technical problems, it has been a good feeling - to leave the field whilst still knowing that we can win.
Q: Seb, congratulations on a record-equalling fourth consecutive world title. Do you think that this is the hardest Championship you have ever won? How nervous were you feeling today? Was this one of the toughest rallies you have done all season?
SL: Yes for sure this is the hardest Championship. There were lots of big battles at the start of the season with Marcus and we had to take a lot of risks to go flat-out and try and take a win. I had really to be on my limit all the time. To win this Championship for me is a really great moment. For all my team, and for Guy (Frequelin) for whom it is his last season, I am really happy for that. It wasn't a tough rally for me because I didn't have to go on the limit. I immediately found a good rhythm and I didn't have to take risks.
Q: How about you Daniel? What are your feelings on such a historic moment?
DE: I am very happy!
Q: Malcolm, has this rally been something of an emotional rollercoaster for you? How are you feeling now?
MW: I think you can imagine, obviously, we are really happy with the result. First and second -- we couldn't have done any better. But sadly it wasn't enough to give Marcus the title we wanted to give him in his final year, so it's great to win in GB again but it is disappointing that Marcus couldn't clinch the Championship. More importantly he is going to be a big loss to the team. As everyone knows he has been leading the team and has helped us win two Manufacturers' Championships, which was a first since 1979 - so there is no question the records speak for themselves as to how he has actually helped us and made the team and everybody raise their game to where we are. So Marcus, you'll be greatly missed and you know that if you ever want to come back you only have to knock on my door.
Q: You will be Ford's number one next year: do you think you can take the fight to Seb who is a four-time World Champion now?
MH: I am definitely going to try and if I can just get the good feeling in the car then I think there is a chance. But of course it will be very difficult but I am definitely not going to give up. We will see!
Q: How difficult was this rally for you Marcus -- just waiting for something to happen to Sebastien? Did you think about trying to challenge Mikko for the win?
MG: No not really. We started slowly and Mikko was going quite fast - very quickly it was clear there was nobody else between us so it was not a good idea to push for a win and make a mistake.
Q: Seb, next year with no Marcus, do you think that you will have an easier time? Who do you think will be your next big rival?
SL: Yes, but when you look at Mikko you can see he is going faster all the time. I am sure it won't be as easy as people think and with new rivals like Sordo and Latvala, I am sure it will be a good fight.
Q: Malcolm, how are Ford's plans shaping up for 2008? Will it be a life without Marcus -- and are you worried about it if so?
MW: Well I am, yes, but I think as Seb said, there is a lot of young talent out there and Mikko has won three rallies this year. My brief to him before we started this rally was to finish in the position you plan to be in next season. It's going to be a very interesting fight but all the rallies it's been Marcus and Sebastien. But as he said, it won't be easy.
2007 FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st -- Guy Wilks -- Mitsubishi Motors UK
1st -- Phil Pugh -- Mitsubishi Motors UK
Q: Guy, congratulations on your first PWRC win. How difficult was it to concentrate on getting this overall result while thinking of winning the British Rally Championship at the same time? Which result gives you the most satisfaction?
GW: It was very difficult, to be honest. I said from the outset that my goal was to watch everything Mark Higgins did, and whatever result came on top of that was a bonus. Obviously winning the British Rally Championship is very satisfying -- as someone just said to me, it is a pretty elite club to be in. To get it at the first time of trying with Mitsubishi is pretty sweet. The only reason I agreed to it when Mitsubishi approached me was because I knew they would do a good job -- I knew we could win it.
Q: Phil, congratulations. It wasn't all straightforward though: you had a problem with the engine stopping on SS15. What exactly happened and how did you solve the problem?
PP: It was just getting really rough out there. In Trawscoed, about a mile from the finish, we went through a rutted corner. We suddenly lost the intercom and I just thought, 'Ok, I'll switch to the back-up system.' Then I looked up and saw there was no power in the car at all. Luckily Guy realised straight away what was happening and reacted quickly, flicking the master switch on again.
Q: Guy, you've had a busy year in all sorts of different equipment: how would you sum up the season? How positive does this make you feel about next year?
GW: It's been a generally good season for Phil and myself. We've had four top ten finishes in the WRC, including sixth overall in Ireland. To win the British Championship with five maximum scores and to have led the other two events I didn't finish is great too. The pace has been there all year. It has been good for me to have a change from the Junior Rally Championship this season. I needed to do something different to get my appetite up again. I was hungrier for success because of the switch.
Q: Phil, you've said in the past that you might be stopping co-driving at the end of this year to concentrate on your business and your family. Is that still your plan?
PP: That's what I said a couple of months ago, but I've got some time off now to sit down and have a think about it.
Q: Having measured yourself against the world's Group N drivers on this event, is the PWRC a possibility for your campaign next year? How far advanced are your plans for next season?
GW: Never-say-never, but the PWRC is not my ultimate goal -- I want to be in a World Rally Car next season. It's hard running as a privateer and having to pay to run in a WRC car that isn't as up-to-date as the top cars. In that situation you can't afford to go flat-out as you pay for the damage. As for next year, I am in a better position now than I was this time last year as we are talking to teams, but nothing is settled."