RALLY RACC CATALUNYA – COSTA DAURADA – RALLY DE ESPAÑA
1st – Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total World Rally Team
1st – Daniel Elena, Citroën Total World Rally Team
2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Miikka Anttila, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Q: Sébastien, congratulations on win number 67 of your career! We haven’t seen you on the top step of the podium since Finland – with your high standards, it’s been a while! How are you feeling about the win and the fact that Citroën has secured the Manufacturers’ Championship here (subject to official confirmation of the results by the FIA)?
SL: For sure it’s good to be back. We had a difficult time since Finland; a puncture in Germany, a mistake from myself in Australia and a problem with the engine in France on my home rally. For sure I was a bit disappointed. We had quite a good lead in the Championship but we lost everything in three rallies. Now we started from zero again and with this victory it couldn’t start better than that.
How has the weekend gone for you, how have you enjoyed Spain?
It was a good fight with Jari-Matti nearly all the time.
SL: I enjoyed for sure. It was a good fight with Jari-Matti nearly all the time. On Thursday I was not so confident when we saw the road on the recce because there was a lot of gravel and it was going to be really difficult to open the road. Finally I had a little bit of help form the weather conditions and maybe it made it easier for me. From that point, driving on Tarmac I was more confident with a 30 second lead. I knew that on Tarmac normally I am not so bad so I could take it a bit more easily.
Q: Not too bad on Tarmac is probably the biggest understatement ever! You mentioned your battle with Jari-Matti Latvala. Were you surprised by his constant pace this weekend?
SL: Yes he was really fast on the Tarmac stages. He was really pushing hard especially yesterday and we had to drive on a very high level rhythm to match his time so it was really a good fight. It made it good for me because I had to stay in the right rhythm. It was interesting and I think he is a good driver for the future.
Q: You’ve become the most successful driver in terms of stage wins this weekend. What do you think can be done in GB because you don’t have to win there…
SL: Exactly, that’s the situation. If he’s [Hirvonen] winning I have to be second with some good points from the Power Stage. For sure I will try to fight with him and not to be behind. It’s a very open situation and it’s not easy. We will have to fight hard in GB. We know it can be very difficult so we will see what happens. It will be interesting.
Q: Congratulations on the win Daniel. It’s very important for the team that the Manufacturers’ Championship is sealed for Citroën. That must feel good for the whole team?
DE: Sure I am very happy for the team because after three races with a lot of problems and today the problem with the engine of Ogier too. This is a mechanical sport and it’s not easy. Now the title for the constructor is okay and now we fight again the same as in 2009 with Mikko and Jarmo.
Q: How much are you looking forward to that battle in Wales?
DE: It’s not a problem; it’s good fun!
Q: Mikko, you take second position overall here, it would be third if it was not for Jari-Matti Latvala taking a penalty for you. What are your thoughts on the weekend?
MH: For sure it was tough and here I was really struggling with the pace on Tarmac. Yesterday evening and this morning I realised what I was losing for that. I found a solution for that and that gave me more confidence of how to drive on Tarmac. That was good. Of course Jari-Matti has again done a big favour for me, which is really nice, and gives me a chance to fight again in GB.
Q: You seemed to find pace in the car today, why was that? Did you make changes?
We didn’t change the car at all through the whole weekend. I was driving the car like I did the Focus, very nice and smooth. I realised with the Fiesta and the set-up we found on Tarmac you can’t do that. I had to be a lot more aggressive, which is not usually the way I drive on Tarmac. I finally got my head around it and managed to do some good times so it was going a little bit in the right direction.
Q: Rally GB will be a big fight. We have seen you go head to head with Loeb back in 2009. Can you change the outcome this time around?
MH: We’ll see. It’s going to be a tough one. Everything needs to be perfect there. The only thing I can do is win the rally and the Power Stage as well. That’s the only way I can try to fight for the title. In previous years I have always had really good pace over there so I believe that will be the same this year as well. We will have a good fight. I just need to make sure the bonnet pins stay closed and we don’t have any problems like that this year.
Q: There’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders…
MH: We have nothing to lose so we just need to go for it.
Q: Was there a sense of frustration in the car this weekend watching your team-mate setting some amazing times but you guys just weren’t there…
JL: That’s true, especially yesterday morning. It was frustrating because the feeling in the car is like it used to be when he was at his best in the Focus. The driving felt good and he had the confidence with the car. I was really shocked when I got the first split on stage seven yesterday morning; I thought ‘what is going on’. I felt it was good as well and it took some time to get our heads around that. Luckily we managed to find a solution.
Q: What can you guys do now to be ready to fight to the absolute limit with Sébastien in GB?
JL: I’ve been happy with our gravel pace all year and we don’t need to do anything different. We just need to go quicker again. It’s going to be a tricky rally, normally it’s muddy and slippery and the grip level is changing almost every corner. There are new stages for nearly all of us so it’s going to be a good fight for the title and a good show for the fans.
Q: Jari-Matti you have described this weekend as one of the best performances of your career on Tarmac, do you still feel this is the case?
J-ML: Yes definitely. It’s a completely different feeling. I remember on Saturday on the long stage, El Priorat, I lost four seconds to Sébastien Loeb. I think if I go back to 2010 I was 20 seconds down after the first time and if I go back to 2009 I was maybe 30 seconds down, so it’s a big step forward for me. I have never driven so well in Catalunya as I have done this time. The main thing for me is our car has done a big step forward. The second thing is the things I have been practicing on Tarmac, they finally start to pay me back, all the hard work done is showing in the results. I am still making stupid mistakes all the time and when I see Sébastien’s splits he’s consistent. When I push too hard I lose every time so that’s the area where I still need to work on.
Q: Well with those statistics next year everybody better watch out, yeah?
J-ML: It would be good next year if I could be 10 seconds ahead...
Going into the final stage on Friday you were 16 seconds in the lead, tell me how tough conditions were in that stage?
Of course when you lead the rally and when you lose the lead because of your mistake it feels incredibly bad.
J-ML: It was a nice gravel stage, I really like driving on gravel and for me the rally has very nice stages. Okay Sébastien was losing time with the road position but on the other hand I think he benefitted from being first car on the road. Okay we were gaining in the afternoon and I started to attack. It went really well and it was a good feeling and it looked good. But then in stage six when we went in the darkness - I like driving in the darkness - it’s nice but the thing was after every car the dust was standing and when you are driving with the lights you have like a wall in front of you and basically you don’t see everything. I got a little bit the old Jari-Matti back and I didn’t give up. I didn’t want to lose so I attacked. I know it was dangerous but I had to try and finally I did a mistake. I got mixed up with the corners and didn’t know where I was going so we spun between the trees. We waited for the dust to settle down, finally we managed to keep going but then I hit a rock and I got a puncture as well. There were a lot of happenings on that stage. It was my mistake but I think the conditions were a bit too difficult there.
Q: You said at the end-of-day press conference on Friday ‘I hate myself’. Hopefully you don’t feel like that still?
J-ML: No I don’t feel like I did at that moment. Of course when you lead the rally and when you lose the lead because of your mistake it feels incredibly bad. Like Sébastien said, he’s not a bad Tarmac driver and with a 30 second lead I knew it was impossible to catch 30 seconds to the best driver in the rallying history and the best driver on Tarmac on rallying history. To catch 30 seconds I need to be flying on the stage with the best time ever. But still I couldn’t catch him.
Q: Miikka let’s turn to you. Before we talk about the rally you must have been slightly distracted before it got underway because your wife was giving birth to a baby girl back in Finland. Were you slightly not with us before the rally got underway?
MA: Not really because things at home did not distract me. Finally when she was born very early on Saturday morning it felt like a relief because the few last weeks have been on standby. The due date was on Sunday before we left for the rally on Monday. We thought the baby would be born before I came here and of course it put big pressure on all the time. But I have to say my emotions went from one end to the other end on Friday night because I was so disappointed with the hanging dust and the lights. It was very dangerous and very unfair. We had a very good battle with Sébastien and Daniel before this stage and basically we lost everything over there. But a few hours later I got the news from my family that my baby was born so I was really, really happy about that.
Q: How much have you noticed the improvement in Jari-Matti’s driving on Tarmac?
MA: For sure it’s from a different planet, let’s say. But of course the driving is good but the car is good. It’s much, much better than the Focus was on Tarmac and also the Michelin tyres are good on Tarmac as well. The performance of the tyre is more than it should be on Tarmac. Okay Pirelli was a good strong tyre but it was not a racing tyre like the Michelin is now.
Q: Congratulations to Citroën for winning a seventh manufacturers’ title. It’s a great result, how is the team feeling?
OQ: The team is very proud because this is the seventh title Citroën has won and for once we are on the same level with Sébastien with seven titles. But I hope in three weeks he will get another title so we are back to eight-seven.
Q: What happened to Sébastien Ogier on the penultimate stage today?
OQ: He got an engine problem but actually we can’t tell what it was until we get the car back to the factory. I think pretty sure it had nothing to do with what happened to Sébastien in France. We have to see what it is, but we think there is nothing together between both engines.
Q: We’ve got a real battle on our hands going to Rally GB. How do you think it’s going to play out in Wales?
OQ: We remember what happened in 2009. It’s a little bit the same but it seems a little bit better because Seb is leading by eight points. This time Mikko will have to drive fast so we will see what will happen. We can be sure he will be fast but we are confident because the DS3 is really good and Seb is still Seb, and Ogier can be there to help us, so I will say I am confident.
Q: Finally Mikko let’s turn to you. I think the whole service park was saddened by the death of Marco Simoncelli. You spent some time with him in a rally car just a couple of weeks ago. What was your experience like with him?
MH: He was a really nice guy and I spent two days with him in a rally car and it was great to see how he enjoyed the new experience he had. It’s really unfortunate what happened and for sure it makes many people very sad. Unfortunately in motorsport these things can happen. As a driver we have to accept that. At the same time, in all motorsport, people are developing the safety side and a lot of work has gone on in this, but these things can still happen so it’s really unfortunate.
FIA SUPER 2000 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Juho Hänninen
1st - Mikko Markkula
Q: Juho, congratulations on sealing the win in SWRC this weekend and of course the Championship win too (subject to the official confirmation of the results by the FIA)! How are you feeling?
JH: Thank you very much! How can I say, it was quite a difficult rally? At one stage we were really trying and when Tänak made a mistake there was almost 400 stage kilometres to the finish. We were just waiting and avoiding the mistakes so it was not so easy a rally.
Q: On the opening stage Ott Tänak hit a rock and SupeRallied; how much did your approach change after that?
JH: On Friday it was very difficult because the road conditions had a lot of dust. It was slippery and there was a lot of loose gravel. Then we had the stage in the night time. It was not so easy because I had to slow down a bit from my normal pace so it was very demanding.
Q: But you were still in a battle with Nasser Al-Attiyah?
JH: On gravel it was difficult on Friday but then we went to Tarmac on Saturday morning and I formed some sort of rhythm. With that rhythm I was able to fight with Nasser. Today he had a few problems with the brakes so from that moment we got the lead and we were able to keep it.
Q: But no risks out there Juho?
JH: No, it was very much on the safe side all the time.
Q: Were there any nerves going into that opening day for you?
MM: Of course you think about the Championship but on the other hand you focus on the event and every stage by stage. It’s difficult but you need to do it like that.
Q: What was the reaction when you heard Tänak had put his car off the road?
MM: In some way it’s a relief but in the other way it’s not. Like Juho said, it’s difficult to concentrate and keep the good rhythm and for that way it made the rally for us very difficult.
Q: Were there any tense moments today or has it been quite a relaxed day?
MM: It was relaxed I would say because we never needed to win this rally, and the fight with Nasser was a bonus and it gave us a good rhythm for the driving but there were no tense moments.
Q: Are there any more details you can give us about what you will be doing next year?
JH: No, it’s very difficult to say. I still don’t know if we are doing more rallies this year. We are not concentrating about next year yet. The Championship was the main target this year, to win this title. We win and I believe that people around us will be happy with this. I hope it helps for the future.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Patrik Flodin
1st - Göran Bergsten
Q: A fantastic battle with you and Kosciuszko in the PWRC. He was putting a lot of pressure on you; how did you manage to keep him behind?
PF: We were really struggling yesterday with the driving on Tarmac. In the end we started to think and discuss what can we do and what are we doing wrong. Finally we couldn’t find a thing what was happening. Last night we reset everything and tried to do our best today, and the driving was working better. When we still had 10 seconds at lunchtime I thought it was possible to continue but it was very, very close in the end.
Q: Did you reset something in yourself or in the car?
PF: In my mind. In the beginning when I drove it felt very good but the times were bad and we had no idea why it was like this. Then we tried different things and we try to go a bit smoother, braking earlier and really focus on the exit of the corner. I saw in the fast sections we were faster than him and we could see that on the split times. It was just enough. We had a puncture on the second last stage, otherwise it could have been quite safe but we lost 10 seconds there.
Q: What about next year? Do you know what you are going to be doing in 2012?
PF: I really have no idea – I don’t know anything. I drove the MINI in two rallies, that was really good fun. I would like to do more rallies and maybe start with Sweden or something. We will see what is happening. Maybe we will continue in Production or something else.
Q: You had to wait for Kosciuszko to come through. Did you think you’d done enough?
GB: We didn’t know if he had soft tyres so we just try to set our car as good as possible for the stage. It was full wet but 300 metres before the stage it was dry so we jumped out before the time control and switched everything back, but in the first corner it was really slippery again and I was sliding a lot on that one.
Q: What was the biggest challenge?
GB: For us it’s the set-up and driving style on Tarmac. I think we were thinking too much. I told him don’t think, now just drive, just try to do what you normally do. Don’t think about the Tarmac and do what you normally do. That was one of the reasons.