RALLYE DE FRANCE
1st - Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total World Rally Team
1st - Julien Ingrassia, Citroën Total World Rally Team
2nd - Dani Sordo, MINI WRC Team
2nd - Carlos Del Barrio, MINI WRC Team
Olivier Quesnel, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson provisionally finished third. However the crew was excluded from the event when it was deemed by the Stewards that the car weight did not comply with Appendix J Art. 255A-4.
Q: Sébastien, congratulations on win number seven in your career and on home soil! How are you feeling?
SO: Very good for sure. There is a lot of stress coming out now. This weekend was very long for me after the problem of Seb [Loeb] and there was a lot of pressure on me. I absolutely had to finish this event and I absolutely had to score points for the team. Dani [Sordo] and Petter [Solberg] made life a bit difficult for me and it was very difficult to take the lead and difficult to beat them. Congratulations first to Dani, he was very fast all weekend. Petter unfortunately had a puncture but he was very fast before then.
You mentioned pressure. How much pressure were you feeling this weekend to achieve a good result for yourself and the team after Loeb retired? It must be a great sense of relief that you won?
I’m really happy with the outcome of this race. I did exactly what I had to do by looking at Dani and the split times.
SO: I’m really happy with the outcome of this race. I did exactly what I had to do by looking at Dani and the split times. I did the minimum to take the lead but not to take the risk. In the past it has not been about pressure situations. In Argentina when I was 50 seconds in front I just made a stupid mistake. In rallying it can happen all the time but this weekend all the things were perfect for us. It was a big shame for our team-mate because it was his home rally but that’s motorsport.
Q: This result puts you just three points behind Sébastien Loeb in the Championship. What do you think your chances are?
SO: You can see now the Championship is very close between three drivers. Everything can happen for sure this weekend. There was a lot of drama especially on the first day and anything can happen to anybody on the next event. For me I continue like this to try to do my best behind the wheel. Then we will see what happens.
Q: Julien, talk to me about the pressure of competing here, knowing that the team needed you to finish in the best position possible, how was it?
JI: You are speaking about pressure, well from the guys who put the pressure in the tyres to the bosses who put the pressure on our shoulders we spent a difficult weekend but it was amazing and we are very glad to win here in France. There were many people on the roads with perfect weather and perfect conditions. It was fun because we had a big fight. There was a lot of pressure this weekend but for sure it’s a very good feeling.
Q: How tense was it inside the car?
JI: It was really a big fight. Each stage it was always a fight from the first corner to the last one. Inside the car we tried to keep cool and to get the win but it was not easy with those guys. This morning for example when we lost a bit of time on Dani it’s always something disturbing you.
Q: Dani, an amazing battle throughout the weekend and you walk away with your second podium of the year, how does it feel?
DS: This weekend was really nice and a really nice battle with Petter and Ogier. Yesterday was really close and we were pushing really hard. It was difficult to catch him, we tried in the morning but it was difficult.
Q: You led at the end of day one and kept the battle going with Ogier throughout day two – were you on your absolute limit through the stages? Were there any big moments?
DS: Every risk I take was all risk. For [Ogier] it’s difficult for the Championship because he needed to take many points for the manufacturers. For me there was nothing to lose, just drive flat. I saw he was struggling in the first stage this morning. I took three seconds and I was fast but it was not enough. It was difficult but we tried. In the second pass he was always faster.
Q: Did the car feel better than it did in Germany?
DS: There was not any big difference, only the set-up was modified for this rally. We need to do some better things in the engine and the gearbox but the chassis is fantastic for the confidence for going maximum attack on the stages. In the corners the feeling of the driving is very good.
Q: What of your chances at your home event of Rally Catalunya?
DS: I live five hours far away! For Spain it will be good. We tried to finish in the top five in Germany and we finished third. Maybe on the next rally we thought we could be fighting for the podium in France. Now if you are asking if we can win I say ‘slow down’! We will try of course in Spain but here we saw it was so close so why not in Spain. We take a bit of an advantage on gravel because the road will be cleaning for me. We will see.
Q: Carlos, congratulations on your second podium this year. What has the weekend been like from your perspective?
CDB: Very good, we had our third overall in Germany and here we are second but the most important feeling we had was on Friday night when we could finish in the top spot. It was a great achievement for our team. After that we could continue with the pressure from our contenders. We had a great pace, we are very happy with the second spot. The most important is we tried very hard to get the win. We couldn’t but we tried 110 per cent and that’s the most important thing for me that we tired.
Q: What was the reaction in the team like on Friday when you were leading the rally?
CDB: It was fantastic. We saw your mate Colin [Clark] jumping at the stop control of the last stage. He was incredibly happy for us. It was a great achievement because the team has been working so hard for the last two yeas so it is very nice for our guys. We are looking forward to the future. I said in Germany we would push hard on the coming events. We will see.
Q: Olivier it is a Citroën win here in France, but not for your Championship leader. Ogier’s win puts him three points behind Loeb in the driver’s standings, will he still be support for Loeb or allowed to fight?
OQ: Anyway the objective is to beat the blue [Ford] and the blue is Mikko Hirvonen. In this case we have to focus on him. He can be really fast on gravel, not as fast as us on Tarmac but in this case we have to take care of him. For us it’s very clear, we have to beat Mikko.
Q: But if it’s between the two Sébastiens what will happen?
OQ: Anyway they are driving each behind the other so they won’t be fighting. The team order will be Sébastien Loeb then we will see whatever happens.
Q: Loeb retired on the first day, do we know the exact cause of the retirement yet?
OQ: Sébastien had a new engine in France. I think we did a mistake when building the engine. It didn’t happen in more than 10 years but it happened this time and it was Rallye de France in Sébastien Loeb’s car. We are very sorry but this is rallying.
Q: Sébastien, Olivier has just said the team will still favour Loeb over you for the title. What is your feeling about this?
SO: Honestly for the moment I just want to celebrate this victory and think about this perfect weekend we have just done. Then I will have some holiday before Spain and take a lot of relaxation and see what happens in Spain.
Q: It’s been an intense battle between you, Sordo and Solberg. What has the atmosphere been like between you all at service, regroup etc?
SO: Of course most of the time it’s like this in rallying and that is one reason why I like rallying because it’s always very close between the drivers. We’re not fighting each other like on the tracks in Formula One so maybe it is more easy but it is good fun and normally we will have a party tonight.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Martin Holmes Rallying, UK
Q: There was a lot of talk before the rally about the spikes by the side of the road to prevent corner cutting. What do drivers have to say?
SO: A good question. In one way when you see the conditions we had last year it was incredible, very difficult to drive, muddy everywhere and not fun to drive. This year the road conditions were much better, the weather was perfect. With these poles it was not ideal but I have two solutions. You do not put any poles because with small poles like this it is easy to take out and the line is changing all the time. On the second loop it is a big problem. On the first day on the second pass the corners were completely dirty, full of gravel and we saw Mikko lost a lot of time. I lost a lot of time and it was not fun like this. We should put big poles or big rocks so nobody can cut or you put nothing.
PS: If you use hay bales then it is much better because you can see them first of all. Sometimes you don’t see at all and if you are unlucky you can hit a radiator or the pole can go away quite far and hit somebody. It’s a good idea but to use a different material.
DS: It was a little bit bad on the second pass for the corners there was a lot of problems. We were really lucky on day one when this post came close to us. It’s also bad for the driver when you don’t have it in the pace notes. After many cars it will be dirty. I think it was a bad idea.
North One Television, UK
Q: There have been reports you have signed with Ford. What are your comments?
SO: I have no comment for that, where did you see that? It’s absolutely wrong. We are still working with Citroën and I am still happy with them. There is nothing more to tell you.
FIA SUPER 2000 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Ott Tänak
1st - Kuldar Sikk
Q: Ott, congratulations on your third win of the season, this puts you closer now in the battle for the SWRC title!
OT: For sure it will be quite a big battle in Spain. It’s very close but anyway we need to go there and fight for everything. There is nothing else we can do.
Q: You have stated that Tarmac is not your preferred surface, are you changing your mind after two wins?
OT: I don’t know, we’re still quite far from being perfect on Tarmac but we’re moving in the right direction.
Q: There is gravel on one day in Spain and Tarmac on two days. How will you cope?
OT: It looks quite fast on gravel and Tarmac also. I don’t know. We will see but I hope it will be okay.
You didn’t have much of a battle after Hanninen picked up a puncture on day one - no need for risks but there was spin yesterday?
It was bit boring maybe but the stage times were still good and it felt quite okay.
OT: For sure we have just done our own job. Until the third stage it was quite interesting for us. The feeling was quite good and I was quite confident we could make it. It was bit boring maybe but the stage times were still good and it felt quite okay.
Q: What happened with the spin?
OT: We were a bit lucky, it was quite scary, but it was okay.
Q: It’s been a good result for you this weekend and for the Championship. How are you feeling?
KS: Look at the points and the results; we won the rally and this is most important. We had a good fight with Juho [Hanninen] and after what happened to him it was not so interesting. But it was a very good weekend.
Q: Is it high pressure now for Spain or are you feeling quite relaxed?
KS: For sure it was good for the Championship to score more points than Juho. It’s more tight and there is more pressure because one of us has to win. Whoever is in front will win the Championship. I don’t think it will make so many big effect because we are used to the pressure.
Q: What did you think of the rally?
KS: It was quite a good rally and the organisers have worked hard over the year to make the route more safe with not so much cutting. The stages are nice and for the driver it is a very good rally.
Q: How will you prepare for Spain?
OT: I will have a chance to drive a Focus on my home rally in Estonia next week. It’s a good car. From there we will get some feedback from here and get ready for the gravel on the first stage in Spain.