FIA press release
RALLYE DE FRANCE
Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Jacques Morelli, Michelin Competition
Q: Sébastien, last year you sealed your seventh FIA World Rally Championship title here in France. This year the Championship battle will not be concluded on home soil for you. How are you feeling about what happened in Australia and the door now opening up to your rivals?
Sébastien Loeb: For sure I am happy to come back here. I have great memories from last year, the best from my career. I remember last year the incredible atmosphere with a lot of spectators and an incredible feeling. There is pressure for the result, but I try not to think to this. We won everything last year, but this year it’s not the same. I try to do my best.
Q: The result from Australia changed things?
SL: For sure, Mikko is closer than he was. For the Championship he is close, here is a Tarmac rally and I have been used to being fast on Tarmac rallies and usually we are able to stay ahead of the Ford.
Q: Last year the weather was very different, making the stages very slippery and muddy. Will the lack of rain make them easier?
SL: Last year it was very tricky, they [the organisers] have done a good job to avoid the cuts a lot with the poles. It’s important they [the poles] are strong. We have to adapt the line to the poles and we will see how it goes.
Q: Did you hit one of the poles during the recce?
Q: We were just wondering…
SL: Yes I did. I just wanted to hit and see whether it would damage the car.
SL: It was nothing.
Q: Some of the gravel sections have been cut from the route, what do you think of that?
SL: It’s not so much gravel [in the route now]. I think there is two kilometres on Sunday and one or something tomorrow [Friday]; it won’t be so hard for the tyres. I’m happy, I don’t want to say much to the tyre, but the Tarmac tyre is not a problem – I don’t think we need to worry. If we want some Tarmac on the gravel stages, we don’t really need this kind of thing, we need the gravel on gravel rallies and the Tarmac on Tarmac rallies, that makes sense to me.
Q: Mikko, Citroën’s result in Australia seems to have helped you?
MH: Sure, if they carry on like that then I’m going to be happy! I’m sure this is going to be a tough rally against Citroën in France on Tarmac. But we would be stupid to give up on the Championship. We have to try and believe we can do it. We will see tomorrow what the speed is like.
Q: How was the test for you?
MH: We did change the car after Germany. We were too soft in Germany, [the] car is different now, but now it depends on me taking the best out of it.
Q: Unusually your test for this event took place on a racing circuit. How did it go?
MH: We had two days on the circuit and then two days on the rally track. I think the time on the circuit was more for the engineers to confirm what they were thinking about with the car. And then, after that, the time on the rally track was more for us to confirm what we like with the car. The outcome was very good from the test.
Q: Do you feel you have nothing to lose in the Championship now?
MH: I don’t have a lot to lose. But, like I said, we will see what the speed is like tomorrow. It would be stupid to bin it if I can’t win tomorrow. Sorry, this is not the most interesting, but it is my final answer.
Q: What is the future for Mikko Hirvonen? Even if Ford continues your contract expires at the end of the season. What can you tell us?
MH: I’m sure when I have news, you’re the first I will give a call! I have always enjoyed my time at Ford. It would be nice to continue there.
Q: Do you have doubts about your future, given that Ford has yet to confirm?
Q: You lost second position in the Championship to Mikko Hirvonen in Australia and lie 29 points behind Sébastien Loeb. Do you feel your Championship aspirations are over? Is your role now as support to Loeb and the team to help them win both Championships?
Sébastien Ogier: I think so, but I feel I want to do some good results and drive as fast as I can.
Q: You competed at Rally de Vosges recently, was that good preparation for this event?
SO: It was a very good experience, good testing and a real rally. It was very good to practice with the competition, this is the best way to improve the performance. We had good conditions with the weather, it will be nice weather here, good for everybody.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge for you on this event?
SO: I don’t know.To be fast and to have the notes. We have to change a little bit the notes because of the poles, sometimes it’s a bit unnatural to drive now. But this does make the conditions more stable for everybody and that’s good.
Q: What can you do here, what’s your aim on this rally?
SO: I want to make a good start and see what happens. I want to be as fast as possible
Q: What does the future hold for you?
SO: I am contracted to Citroën two more years.
Q: So you will be at Citroën next season?
Yes, as I say.
Q: What was the feeling at Michelin after the first Tarmac event of the year in Germany?
JM: We were very satisfied from the performance of the tyre. The tyres were very fast and the longevity was very good. We were fast from the start to the end of the stage. We faced two very difficult conditions and had more than 113 rims broken for just 22 tyres without pressure. The mixed stage in the rally from gravel and asphalt: it’s following the rules, but it is very difficult for us. We develop the tyre for one kind of rally and then we face mixed stages – they are not adapted for this.
Q: There are poles on the side of the roads here so that drivers do not cut, keeping the cars on road - does this lessen the risk of punctures?
JM: I think this is the most easiest; the poles are not to bring the dirt to the asphalt, and to avoid the corner cutting.
Q: Looking ahead to next year, what further developments will we see, especially as tyre quantities have been reduced?
JM: We will like to collect the maximum data here and take something back from the drivers to develop the tyres first. The regulations make more kilometres with less tyres: we have to decrease [number of] tyres next year.
FIA SUPER 2000 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Q: Juho, you come to France in the lead of the SWRC, but Ott Tänak has edged closer after his win in Germany. How are you feeling about the Championship itself?
JH: I like the stages here, it’s more like normal roads over here. It’s a bit easier, I am quite happy and I am looking forward to the rally. The test was just driving, I haven’t been here before. There’s no special set-up up for this rally, it’s mainly just driving for me and getting feeling back on the tyres.
Q: How confident are you?
JH: I think more than Germany. I can remember something from the stages during the recce – this is different from Germany. In Germany, there are so many millions of junctions that I can’t really remember. But here some places are quite similar; it’s nice stages and a nice place. As I said, it’s more like normal roads.
Q: There are poles in the corners here so that you do not cut corners, are these distracting?
JH: It depends how it goes. If the marshals put them back if they [the cars ahead] drive over them, then the idea is good. But how they make them, it is something to improve for the future.
Q: Ott, do you feel enough confidence after Germany to be able to push harder on these stages?
OT: We got quite okay feeling from Germany, not the fastest, but we didn’t have any problems and the car worked very well – and the same with us.
Q: How important is it to win here for you?
OT: It is important to do our best and see what can happen. [Martin] Prokop is quite close and he will be very fast, for sure.
Last year it was muddy on the roads, what do you think it will be like this time?
We got quite okay feeling from Germany, not the fastest, but we didn’t have any problems and the car worked very well.
OT: It’s going to be a bit easier to drive. For sure, it will be faster and in other ways less risky. I think the feeling is usually the same in this condition, with less changing of grip. I hope it will be dry for the whole rally.
Q: Have you done some testing?
OT: Maybe… Yes. I have done some tests.
Q: I believe you tested with the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team before this event in a WRC car - how did it go and does it help in preparation for this event?
OT: I just got some time in the car to drive on Tarmac and, for sure, it was very good for me. Maybe I found something from there, but it doesn’t help us for this car.
Q: What about a future with Ford?
OT: Nobody knows.
Q: Yeray, you had a great result on the Tarmac of Germany after a very close battle with Craig Breen. Does that give you confidence for this event?
YL: I will try to do my best on this rally. My engine failed on the second stage last year, so I had to stop.
Q: You competed here last year but in a different car, what do you think of the stages?
YL: The car is a little different, but I will try and do my best.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge this weekend?
YL: The first leg is more complicated than the rest of the rally. The stages tomorrow will be difficult.
Q: You will drive for Volkswagen in a Skoda at your home event, Rally España. How much are you looking forward to that?
YL: Good. I am very happy to drive for VW, it’s a big responsibility and I will try and do my best.
Q: Christian, you didn’t compete as part of the WRC Academy in Germany as you were competing with Volkswagen. How was that experience?
CR: It was not easy for me, with the four-wheel drive car and the wider car. It was my home rally and it was not easy for the spectators and the family there. It’s not easy, but the result was okay and now we’re back in the WRC Academy.
Q: You compete for them again in Spain; does this bode well for your future with the team?
CR: Yeah Spain is the next run for me with VW and we have one day on gravel. I have never driven on gravel before. It’s a big change for me to come in this car and drive on this surface.
Q: Looking at this event, what do you think of the stages here and do you think they will suit you?
CR: We drive in the FSTi here [last year]. It wasn’t easy with the cuts and now we have the sticks in the corners. But maybe we have some cuts [in the notes] and not cuts [in the corners, because of the poles]; then the stick is not there and in the next one it is there – it’s difficult. The road is clear and dry, though, and this is good for me.
What do you think of the WRC Academy being run on this event?
We have to drive on the right position, but Tarmac is my favourite ground.
CR: I think this is the first Tarmac event in the Academy and I never drove the car on Tarmac before – it’s not so easy to come back to the car on this surface after my last rally was Spain last year. I hope to get the top three this weekend.
Q: Do you start cautiously then speed up? What’s the plan?
CR: We have to drive first a little bit slow and then 110 per cent in the end. We have to drive on the right position, but Tarmac is my favourite ground.