Rally de Portugal
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Daniel Oliveira, Brazil World Rally Team
Henning Solberg, M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team
Q: Mikko, you lead the WRC coming into this event, it was important for you that this year got off to good start after last season’s disappointments – do you feel it has?
MH: This year it was good to have a really nice start, especially with the new car – it’s good for the whole team. l think this is going to be a long year, with a lot of work to do. But, at the moment it’s started well, let’s keep it up.
Q: We saw you take only one stage win in Mexico, what did you think of your pace during the event?
MH: Of course, there should be more pace, there’s no doubt. I was fairly happy on Friday, but on Saturday morning I thought I could match Ogier and Loeb ahead of me, but I couldn’t. I had to back off and make the finish and I concentrated on myself to get more speed.
Q: What’s your approach to day one here, you’re running first on the road…
MH: I can just go as fast as I can and see what the boys do behind me. It didn’t look as bad [on the recce] as Mexico on Friday, we’ll see how it goes.
Q: You tested before this event, how did it go? I believe you had an off during testing, what happened?
MH: A little bit. Luckily it all happened in the test, all sorts happened to me, actually. Some of it was through me and some of it wasn’t. We lost the rear wheel, but didn’t lose too much time getting that sorted out. Some of the changes we made to the car worked, some didn’t but that’s testing. We had a really good test and we are ready for this event.
Q: Lisbon’s a long way from Faro; do you think it’s worth coming up here for the opening stage?
MH: Yes. It’s a long way, but I’m sure it’s going to work. Last year we did a demonstration stage in Porto and there were lots of spectators. This is a really nice venue and the weather’s beautiful, I’m sure it’s going to work.
Q: Sébastien, the final day in Mexico could have been a thrilling battle between yourself and Sébastien Loeb but it ended on the opening stage of the morning when you retired from the event. Was it a result of the pressure being put on you from your team mate?
SO: No. I don’t think so. For sure, we were in the battle with Seb and it was very close, but I open the road and we had big disappointment. It’s like this in rally, I didn’t score points in Mexico and that’s a big shame. There’s nothing to change, we had a good feeling in Mexico, we missed a bit of luck, but it’s going to be okay.
Q: Are we going to see that sort of battle for the rest of the year, without any team orders?
SO: I hope so, it’s good for the sport, but we shouldn’t forget the other drivers, Mikko, Jari-Matti and Petter, it can be interesting when the cars are close.
Q: Portugal last year was where you secured your maiden WRC victory; does it bring back good memories for you now?
SO: Yes, of course, it’s nice to come back here. It was my first victory in WRC and one of the first rallies I did here. I did it two times, maybe I know it best. The stages are similar to last year and I have a good road position.
Q: You are sixth in the Championship, are you feeling more pressure now to achieve a good result because of the retirement in Mexico?
SO: Mexico was, for sure, not good. We are behind Mikko, but the season is very long – we will have a good start position for the next gravel events and I’m glad to see that.
Q: The Power Stage is long here at more than 30 kilometres, what will be the tactics and the risks for that stage?
SO: It’s difficult to speak about that before the last day. It depends on how the rally is. For sure, if you are leading, nobody wants to take too much risk, it’s difficult. The stage is so long and completely different, with slow, twisty and a lot of gravel on the road. We can see the speed and adapt the rhythm, it’s different
Q: Daniel, we see you in the MINI S2000, what can you tell us about the car?
DO: The car is quite good, for me it’s quite difficult to say so much about the car without so many kilometres. We have a good car for the future. We want to see what happens in this race.
Q: How much testing have you done?
DO: Only 40 kilometres on a tarmac road, enough to make some kilometres on the car, but the real test was here in Portugal, where we did 35 or 40 kilometres. Still, this is not enough to be confident with the car, but we will try to do our best.
Q: Can you tell us more about your programme for this year?
DO: We don’t have so much experience from Brazil. We want to show Brazil’s people what is rally, we want to make some publicity to show what can happen.
Q: Henning you had an injury with the biggest blister on your hand we ever saw in Mexico. Is that better now? Will you be able to drive?
HS: It’s okay now. It was hard to drive in Mexico, I did six stages with no power steering, but we came through and made some points.
Q: You seemed frustrated in Mexico, how are you feeling about competing here?
HS: Honestly, Mexico was a disaster. I was only able to go flat out for a single half stage – the one where I put brake fluid into the power steering [to make the power steering work] and I was up on Petter at the split in that stage. But then I lost the brake pipe in the rear. That was the only stage I could go flat out
Q: What do you think of this rally?
HS: It’s a nice rally, but it’s also a very tricky rally. It’s very narrow and fast.
Q: What’s the objective for this year?
HS: To go as fast as possible. Now we have a good car, we had a good shakedown; we had some engine problems, but hopefully they’re fixed now. As you can see from this [plain black overalls], I had some problems with sponsors, you can see we don’t have the same colours [on the car]. We have a new sponsor for this event here, it’s a big challenge this year, but we should get it all sorted.
Q: What’s possible for you this year, how’s the budget looking?
HS: Honestly, I want to do all of them. Things can happen, but hopefully we can do everything.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Michal Kosciuszko, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Hayden Paddon, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Q: Michal, you have switched from the SWRC - where we saw you last year - to the PWRC this year. Why the change?
MK: I used to drive the super cars, Super 2000 and Super 1600, but now it’s time for the PWRC. It’s a huge change and I need to change my style. I’m ready, the competition will be tough but my aim is to follow the team’s tactics and make rally by rally.
Q: You will compete in a Mitsubishi Evo X. You tested this week, how did you find it?
MK: This car is really, really good. It’s not necessary to say how it is, it won the Championship twice. I would like to know how to use this car properly and to find the speed. It’s more important to take care of the car and to bring the car to the finish in one piece, it’s not like the S2000 cars which we could drive flat out all of the way. You need to use your head more in this car.
Q: The PWRC always provides great competition and there is a strong field again this year. Who do you think your main rival is?
MK: We’ll see after here. In Sweden, there were some very fast drivers, but here there are some more – including my colleague… [Paddon]
Q: And what will be your approach to the stage here in Lisbon?
MK: I love it, the atmosphere will be crazy. It’ll be easy to make a stupid mistake, so we’re going to take some power slides and enjoy it and the atmosphere.
Q: Hayden, we saw you compete last year under the Pirelli Star Driver banner and also within PWRC, in which you finished third in the Championship. What did you learn last year that can help with your quest for the title this year?
HP: This event is a bit rougher than others, it’s not a 110 per cent event. We have identified some stages and some rallies in the season [where we can push], but we have to accumulate points. Patrik [Flodin] and Anders [Grøndal] taking zero points in Sweden has opened the doors for us, but we have to make sure we leave here with points.
Q: Last year, you did an awful lot of travelling. Do you have any advice for the long-haul flights your colleagues will be taking?
HP: Yeah, take a pillow on the plane!
Q: You competed in a Mitsubishi Lancer last year, but now you switch to a Subaru Impreza. What have you thought of the car so far?
HP: It’s really good, after four years in a Mitsubishi it was a big decision [to switch to Subaru]. Subaru has come on board and want to support us along with Subaru in Japan. The budget is going to be tight this year and any help we can get is going to be good. At the end of the day, the car has four wheels and a steering wheel, when you put the helmet on, they’re the same.
Q: Talking about your budget, I believe you’re selling shares in yourself?
HP: It’s quite unique, a lot of circuit racers have done it – Scott Dixon (2003, IndyCar Champion) did it at home. We sell shares and investors gain financial benefit in the future. Rallying is hard to make a living and, while I’m not in it for money, we need to make sure we have the right budget. Anybody who comes along will enjoy the association with us. I’m lucky to be involved in this sport, it’s great to be here.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Martin Holmes Rallying, UK
Q: Michal, are you disappointed to have passed over the chance to drive an R4 car this year?
MK: I have already done a full test of the Evo10 and Evo 9 R4, car. It seems very competitive and could be quite equal in rough conditions. At the moment there is still some work to do, but the car will be very fast; at the moment 0.5s faster than the Group N which is pretty impressive.
FIA WRC ACADEMY
Miguel Baldoni, FIA WRC Academy
Brendon Reeves, FIA WRC Academy
Q: Miguel, what are your feelings about the WRC Academy? MB: I’m very happy to stay here with the other young drivers. It’s very important for all of us, we’re grateful to the FIA, Pirelli and Ford to make this dream come true. In Argentina we have young drivers, but the situation is complicated. I feel very honoured to be part of this programme.
Q: What do you think of the roads in Portugal?
MB: [The roads are] Excellent. They’re very technical, sometimes they’re like New Zealand and sometimes it’s Argentina, we can put the mind blank and the person with the best pace notes can win the race.
Q: What do you think of the Ford Fiesta R2?
MB: In Argentina I drive with the turbo and four-wheel drive, it’s very different. I’m surprised with the good power and chassis. The guys work very hard on this event.
Q: Brendon, you were selected to be within the WRC Academy back in Spain last year; it has been a long wait for competition to start! What preparations have you done to be ready?
BR: It’s been a five-month wait, it’s amazing to come here and get started. We’ve worked really hard. We got to test the car last night and the whole team has done such a great job.
Q: How have you prepared for this year?
BR: At home I have mainly driven turbo, four-wheel drive cars. I did test an R2 car in Spain and then we were up at M-Sport for two days last week. That was really useful, we had a session on sports science and nutrition, those kinds of things. After that, I wanted to get to the rally here early to have a look around the service park and familiarise myself with everything.
Q: How do you achieve the goal of winning the Scholarship at the end of the season? B R: The prize looks amazing, for me I’m going to take it rally-by-rally. On this event, the recce looks quite tough, especially as we’re at the rear of field. The second pass over the stages could be tough. We just need to work out how we’re going to get to the finish.
Q: Do you think we’re going to see some pretty aggressive driving in the series this year?
BR: When you have a Championship point on offer for the stage win, there will be a lot of aggressive driving from the guys who want those points. Like Hayden said, we’ve got to look for the stages and then make it to the finish as well. I’m really looking forward to it, nobody knows much about who’s going to be doing what