FIA press release
ADAC RALLYE DEUTSCHLAND
Mads Østberg, M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Peter van Merksteijn, Van Merksteijn Motorsport
Q: Mads, this will be only your second time competing in Germany, how have you prepared for this weekend?
MO: We have done some different things. We have spent two days of testing, a total of 100 kilometres. It was quite good, a big test for us. I am happy with the set-up. I am not very experienced on Tarmac, so I did some go-karting before going to the test. Maybe not the best way, but it was a way to get used to it. I also worked hard with my engineer. I also watch some You Tube inboard videos from the guys in front of me here to see how they do it.
Q: In Finland, you said your aim was to challenge the ‘Big Five’. What is your aim here?
MO: I haven’t done any WRC Tarmac events since 2008. I don’t know where I am. For me, it will be more difficult to fight the ‘Big Five’ on Tarmac than on gravel and snow, but we will definitely try. I had a good shakedown, I am confident that it is possible to get a good result.
Q: What result would you be happy walking away with from this event?
MO: Top six would be good for me, it would give me a lot of confidence, but it is still tricky.
Q: What is the situation for the rest of the season? You miss Rally Australia; will there be any more events after this?
MO: I hope so. At the moment, this is the last event we are doing, but the guys back home are working hard to put together a budget for the Rallye de France as well. Our basic plan was eight rallies, so Finland would have been our last rally, but now, we are here too. Now our next goal is to try and make France, then there is a little bit more time before Spain and then hopefully Wales at the end of the year. Maybe a good result over here helps us.
Q: Is there anything you can tell us about next year and your plans?
MO: I will be back for sure, I won’t sit at home. In fact, it looks more positive for next year than it has done for this year. Hopefully we will be back with the same car. I would love to stick with the Fiesta.
Q: Jari-Matti, the Championship returns to Tarmac and it will be the first time we see the new WRC cars on this surface. After all the testing you have done how are you feeling about the Fiesta’s debut on this surface?
J-ML: Basically, the car is really good to drive. With the Focus, we were struggling with under steering. The Fiesta is turning always; you know it will turn when you turn in. The balance is very good. On the other hand, like Sébastien [Loeb] mentioned, the car is a bit more nervous than the old car. I could feel that, too, also this morning in shakedown. That is the characteristic of this shorter wheelbase car. But in general, this car is so much better, especially when turning, it gives me much more confidence.
Q: In Argentina, with the Tarmac sections, you were quite excited about going to the Tarmac events. Now that we are here, how are you feeling?
J-ML: I am much more confident than last year. I am looking forward to starting the rally. In order to win here, I am well aware I have to beat Sébastien [Loeb] and Citroën and all the other drivers; it is essential to win on Tarmac. You have to be absolutely perfect to win. If I manage to finish on the podium, I would be really happy after my fourth place last year.
Q: How are you feeling about your overall performance this year?
J-ML: I had big hopes for this year. After four rounds, I was only eight points behind Sébastien [Loeb]. It was very tight at that time, but then I had three bad rallies in a row. Second place in Rally Finland helped, but spring was very disappointing for me. The car is very competitive, very fast, but we have been unlucky with some other things. We lost three rallies with very small margins.
Q: Could you explain what these other things you mentioned were?
J-ML: For instance in Argentina: there was a massive rock in the middle of the road, hitting weak point of the suspension. The suspension broke, which put us out of the rally. Then there was the turbo problem in Greece. Obviously, the turbo is the same for everybody, but it was just my turbo that broke. Then in Sardinia, my co-driver made a little mistake, something he had never done before, so that cost us the chance of doing well in one of our favourite rallies.
Q: Do you reckon that Ford can win a Tarmac event this year?
J-ML: The car has much more potential than the Focus did. During the last few years we were struggling. The Fiesta really is a big step forward. You just have to be confident with it. In order to win, you just have to have no hesitation anywhere.
Q: Sébastien, we have been asking you for weeks about your decision for the future and it seems it has been made with you remaining at Citroën for another two years – what made you decide to stay and why did you decide to stay with Citroën?
SL: I have decided to stay in rallying. I was trying to get some contacts in racing teams, as I really wanted to continue in motorsport, because I don’t want to stay at home when I retire from rallying. Then the decision was getting closer, and as I was still getting some good results, I reckoned that it may be a bit early to retire from rallying. Then the choice was between Citroën and Volkswagen. I had a proposal from Volkswagen. It was interesting, but it was also a hard choice. Developing a new car would have been a nice challenge, but it would mean a quiet season next year and a come-back the season after that, but finally, Citroën showed me how motivated they were to keep me in the team. I had some discussion with the manager of the group and he explained to me how important our relationship was for them. I reckoned that having one year off and then coming back would be very difficult. Here, I know the team, I have a good car and I know that I will have a good car for next year, so all this made me decide to stay.
Q: So, staying for another two years means that you have the chance to get your number of Championship titles to double figures…
SL: Yes, but I didn’t really think of that. It was just the best decision I had to take. I never expected seven titles in the first place. It is nice to continue, but I have no precise goal.
Q: Now that you have made your decision, does that take some weight off your shoulders?
SL: I will now be getting less questions about my future, which means I will be able to concentrate more on the rally and then forget about the business.
Q: Let’s talk about the rally then. Has testing gone well for this event? What do you think of the DS3 on Tarmac? Is it better than the C4?
SL: It is difficult to say. The car is different, the tyres are different. It’s difficult to compare with the C4. I was pleased with the C4 on Tarmac. The DS3 is shorter, the tyres a bit harder, maybe the car is a bit more nervous, more difficult to drive in general. But the feeling is still good.
Every year I come here and know maybe one day my series of wins will stop, so I just prepare this one like all the other rallies.
Q: You have dominated this event since its inclusion in the WRC. Do you feel pressure to try and keep that record, and which driver do you feel could challenge you most for the win this weekend?
SL: There is always pressure. Every year I come here and know maybe one day my series of wins will stop, so I just prepare this one like all the other rallies. About the other drivers: we have seen some good times in the shakedown by Jari-Matti [Latvala], Hirvonen and especially Ogier, so my main rivals are these three drivers.
Q: Peter, a different co-driver for you on this event, Erwin Mombaerts steps in for Eddy Chevaillier. Firstly how is Eddy’s recovery going?
PvM: Of course, Eddy’s recovery will take a lot of time. He broke his back, he has to do everything new, he has to start up again. Initially, he had to lie flat for four weeks, now he can walk again and it is getting better and better. Only sitting in the car is very difficult. But he is coming to the rally today, so that is great news!
Q: Erwin Mombaerts is now your co-driver, he would normally be Van Merksteijn Senior’s co-driver. How is the relationship between you and Erwin working?
PvM: We have known each other for a few years. He is also a Belgian, so in a way it is similar to Eddy, and they are also friends, which is nice. Erwin is different in the car, more calm. He has experience with Kevin Abbring in WRC, he knows his way.
Q: I believe you have been testing before this event – how did that go?
PvM: We did quite a lot of testing. I took an extra test day from my father. Two days in the vineyards, half a day on the Panzerplatte. That was going quite well. I also did my last Tarmac rally back in 2008, but I have competed here twice, I know Germany well. In testing, you see what the other guys are doing. My biggest problem is late braking, but the other things are going quite well.
Q: What do you think will be the toughest challenge for you this weekend?
PvM: After a horrible start of the season, I need to get to the finish. That is the main goal. A top 10 finish would be great.
Q: And what about next year, will we see you back?
PvM: It also depends on how the remaining five rallies will go. If I don’t see any progress in my speed and I am not getting closer to the top drivers, then I don’t know whether to go on, but if it goes faster and better, then we might see each other again.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
Q: Sébastien, do you have some plans for circuit races?
SL: No, I don’t have any particular plans, like racing at Le Mans or something. For the moment, I am concentrated on the rallies. Maybe sometimes a one-off race, but no particular plans at the moment.
FIA SUPER 2000 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Hermann Gassner Jnr, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Nasser Al-Attiyah, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Q: Hermann, home event for you of course, you lie in fifth position in the SWRC at present. What is the plan for this event?
HG: We have been looking forward to this event all year. We are well prepared, it can start.
Q: How do you evaluate your season so far?
HG: The speed was there, we made no big mistakes. Now we go to Tarmac, we now want to do well here, and then carry that on to France and Spain.
Who do you think will be your main rivals and do you reckon you will be able to win?
When it is raining, it will be really slippery and difficult in the vineyards.
HG: Always the same guys challenging for the win: Juho [Hanninen] and Tänak and also ourselves. We try to push, maybe not from the beginning, but a podium finish would be okay and we will try for it.
Q: Are you getting any advice at all from Mr Hanninen or is he keeping it all to himself?
HG: He gave me advice for Finland, I am trying to give back some advice here. We also talk about the set-up a lot and work together quite well.
Q: What will be the most difficult part of this rally?
HG: It depends on the weather. When it is raining, it will be really slippery and difficult in the vineyards. Panzerplatte can be quite a challenge, too, but it is a stage I like very much.
Q: Your name has been linked with Volkswagen. What can you tell us about your links with Volkswagen, and will you have any opportunities to test with them?
HG: We will see. When I show a good speed, there may be a possibility. I would like to do it.
Q: Nasser, it wasn’t the best start to the Championship season for you, what is the plan now - targeting as many wins as you can?
NA-A: We started the first rally, had a good result, but were excluded and then had some problems in Jordan with the engine, but we know we have the speed to win. Germany will not be easy for us, because we haven’t done many Tarmac rallies. The last one was probably three, four years ago. We had a good test here last Monday and shakedown went well. If the times are good, we keep going and if not, we try just to stay where we are.
Q: This year, competition in Super 2000 is very strong, particularly Juho Hanninen has proved strong this year. What do you think of your rivals out there?
NA-A: This year is really strong: Juho, Tänak, Prokop… There are many good drivers. It is not easy for them here, because you need to be a clever driver to score points here. This is a hard rally. I hope that everybody will have a good race.
Q: What will be your approach?
NA-A: Just get the feeling from the beginning. If the times are close to other drivers, we keep going and if not, we just wait and see what happens during the rally.
Q: What lies in the future for you; what are your rally and cross country plans?
NA-A: The situation for cross-country is very difficult: after winning Dakar this year, I want to go again to defend the title, but Volkswagen has stopped its Dakar project. Now I have a good chance to get the MINI from X-Raid, which is the team I have spent three years with. I hope to finalise the deal next Monday. For WRC, the Qatar government is looking for a big manufacturer to give support to, like Abu Dhabi, and we are also looking for other drivers. That is very good news from my country.
FIA WRC ACADEMY
Craig Breen, WRC Academy
Timo van der Marel, WRC Academy
Q: Craig, you currently lie in joint second position in the WRC Academy. We have seen some strong performances and great battles from you this year but a win has eluded you; when is that going to happen?
CB: Yes, I am still looking for that win. The season on a graph would be like Finland, up and down. I am quite happy with my speed and consistency; that is the most important thing. We have always been fighting for the win, which is very pleasing concerning the Championship and the environment and the status of the events. The only thing I still have to do is win, but I am hoping to change that.
Q: Egon Kaur has won three rounds in a row, he is incredibly strong. What can be done to beat him?
CB: I don’t think it is something special. Of course, he is a very good driver, he proved his potential in Finland. We move to Tarmac now. I have done a lot of Tarmac back home in Ireland and in the British Championship, although in Ireland it is a lot bumpier and a lot more narrow. We don’t have wine, we have Guinness! The vineyards are something very new to me and the Baumholder stage on Saturday is a new challenge to everybody in the Academy. Of all the events, I think this is the one where we can really turn it around. Everybody is on a level playing field.
Q: Have you managed to test at all before this event?
CB: Yes, we have done a small Tarmac event in Ireland two weeks ago, but it was completely different. It was Tarmac, but wet, muddy, slippery. If it rains here, it is beneficial, but the set-up of the car can only be done here in Germany. Shakedown went well this morning, a stage with different characteristics, which is what you want in a shakedown, so you get a feel of what each aspect of the rally will be like. I am quite pleased.
Nobody knows the speed of the others as we haven’t raced each other, but I hope our speed will be good and we can get a good result here.
Q: Timo, this will be your first time competing in Germany and your first time in an R2 on this surface. How much are you looking forward to this weekend?
TvdM: We are officially Tarmac drivers, we did only three gravel events this year, which were the only three in my whole life, so we are very much looking forward to our first Tarmac event we are doing for the Academy. Nobody knows the speed of the others as we haven’t raced each other, but I hope our speed will be good and we can get a good result here.
Q: You were on the podium in Finland, has that been a good boost to your confidence?
TvdM: It seems that the best strategy this year is to drive consistently and stay out of trouble. We tried it in Finland and it seemed to work, so that is our aim for Germany as well. We will try to keep up the speed on Friday, see what happens and then hopefully some other guys will have troubles and we can go in front.
Q: How do you evaluate your own performance this year?
TvdM: Portugal was our first-ever gravel event, we tried to find the rhythm on gravel. At Sardinia, we tried to push, but the car broke down after a few stages, so we couldn’t measure our times with the front guys over there. In Finland, we saw our speed increasing on gravel. We didn’t really push there. Apart from the Tarmac events that are coming, I am really looking forward to Wales, I will try to push there on gravel.
Q: Do you think a win could be on the cards for you in such a strong field?
TvdM: Sure, why not? Like I said, we haven’t raced each other on Tarmac, but we try to push. If it’s not enough, we have to find speed between Germany and France, and if we have the speed, we need to find a good rhythm and stay out of trouble, and hopefully that will be enough to be on the podium again.
Q: I hear that your father and your co-driver’s father competed here together? What advice have they given you?
TvdM: They drove together for a lot of years in the 1970s and 1980s. Erwin’s dad is giving him advice about co-driving, and my dad is giving me advice about the driving. There used to be three rallies in the past which are now one. Of course, Panzerplatte is a very particular stage; we got some very useful advice for that.