2011 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Mikko Hirvonen, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Dani Sordo, MINI WRC Team
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Kimi Räikkönen, ICE 1 Racing
Q: Mikko, you are second in the Championship going into your home event. With Sébastien Loeb ahead of you by 17 points is it essential that you take a win away from here?
MH: I’m sure the home crowd and media is expecting me to be really fast. Championship wise I need the win to fight for the title, but it’s not a big deal – this pressure is always around. I need to get out there and go as fast as I can.
Q: You tested last week using part of the legendary Ouninpohja stage – how did the test go and are you feeling positive ahead of the start?
MH: I had a really fantastic day – I enjoyed every metre. The car felt perfect, let’s hope everything goes well.
Q: Last year you retired after what was the biggest accident of your career. Do you feel any degree of caution going into the stages after that?
MH: No. There’s not. I’m sure all of us have had big accidents and we’re going to get more. You’ve got to put it behind you. I said to Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] that the car feels so good we’re not going to slow down over that jump!
Q: With three tarmac events coming up do you feel more pressure to perform, especially as Sébastien Ogier is so close to you? Is the Championship still alive for you?
MH: The Championship is definitely still alive, but we have to improve and we have to be strong on tarmac. We need a lot of testing and a lot of work.
Q: The Finns say that you need a lot of ‘Sisu’ to compete here – what does that mean?
MH: It means big balls! It’s like saying no matter how many times you fall down you will keep getting up.
Q: What do you think of the stages in the south? Is it a good idea to include them?
MH: Why not? It’s nice to see new areas and new stages. The stages are a bit more straightforward. The first leg on Friday is really tricky, but overall they are faster and easier. They’re not as technical as the roads around Jyväskylä.
Q: What will be the approach for this rally? Will you be pushing for a good result or taking a measured approach?
DS: We need to push and we need to try to do the best with this car. We need to fight with the team-mates and the other Minis and we need to be in the top five. It’s very difficult here with the new stages, but it’s the same for everybody.
Q: Does the car feel better than it did on its debut in Sardinia?
DS: I feel much more ready than the first rally, where everything was new. We know the team, the mentality is good, everything is very nice.
Q: Is there anything new on the car since Sardinia?
DS: There are no new parts. Everything is working, the engine, gearbox, everything is better than Sardinia.
Q: You were at Citroën for a long time. How does it feel to be in a new team?
DS: It’s nice, I’m still at work. Both teams are really professional but at Mini, there are so many young mechanics and engineers – the atmosphere is really nice; it’s a good, strong motivated atmosphere.
Q: How many more rallies will you do this year?
DS: We do the three tarmac rallies and GB, I think that’s everything. This year, we do six rallies with Sardinia and this one.
Q: You must be looking forward to getting the car on tarmac in Germany?
DS: It will be nice to come back on tarmac with the new car. The sensation was very nice in testing, the car and chassis are very nice. We will see in Germany, but don’t forget in Germany, there are three different days.
Q: Sébastien, three wins under your belt so far this season and you are now just five points adrift of Mikko Hirvonen in the Drivers’ Championship. You have yet to take a win here though; will that be your objective this year?
SO: It was a good surprise to be only 10s behind Jari-Matti [Latvala] last year, but now the goal is to try and improve it. It will be difficult, it’s always difficult against the Finnish drivers here, but the goal is to fight for the victory.
Q: You tested before this event and there was an accident, what happened?
SO: The test was okay. We had many good feelings with the car. I did a mistake at the end, but it was not so important. The test was nearly finished. We are ready.
Q: What do you think of the Lahti stages?
SO: All of the stages are fast and beautiful, but maybe not the first one. The first one has a very fast section and then it’s very narrow at the end, like two stages in one, maybe the most difficult of the rally.
Q: At this point in the season how do you rate your chances of securing the Drivers title?
SO: It’s still possible for Mikko and me and Seb [Loeb] of course. I want to try, we know there are three tarmac events left and it won’t be easy – like here against Finnish drivers, but as long as you’re in the race it’s possible.
Q: Kimi this will be your third attempt at Rally Finland, the second time in a WRC car – what is the aim this year?
KR: I think it’s the same than all the other rallies; we try to drive as fast as we can and hopefully improve. I know some stages a bit now, but last year was like the first time again and tomorrow is new stages, which will be difficult again. It’s good, it’s nice and fast, we’ll see how the pace notes go.
Q: What do you think of the stages in the south?
KR: Of course they are a little bit different, but there are fast places and some smaller roads – they are nice stages.
Q: Do you feel you have clicked in WRC yet?
KR: We have improved a lot, it feels more normal sometimes. When you get above a certain level it becomes normal. The pace notes, this is the area where we can pick up a lot of time.
Q: Are you still enjoying it?
KR: I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.
Q: Will you stick with just rally this year or will there be more racing?
KR: The plan is to do the rest of the rallies, the other things, there’s nothing planned.
Q: Do you know anything about next year yet?
KR: No. Not yet. There are some options, but I have to decide.
Q: When do you make that decision?
KR: No idea.
FIA SUPER 2000 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Bernardo Sousa, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Juho Hanninen, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Q: Bernardo, this is your first time competing in Finland. A massive challenge ahead! Are you looking forward to it?
BS: I’m feeling quite okay. It’s my first time in Finland, it’s gong to be very tough – I’m here for experience. The Championship is going well, I’m in third position. I know I’ll lose some points here, but on tarmac I think things can go a little bit different and I can fight back.
What have you done to prepare for this event? Have you managed to test?
It’s my first time in Finland, it’s gong to be very tough – I’m here for experience.
BS: We did 25 kilometres, which is really nothing – and that was not on a road like these stages. We didn’t test as much as we thought we would. We did five laps at shakedown with some problems, but it’s okay now – it’s going to be a long weekend.
Q: With no experience on this event, what will your approach be here?
BS: I’m not going to say I’m not going to try, but I need to be smart this time. I’m in a good place in the Championship. I’m going to stay cool and let the guys go a little faster and see what happens.
Q: You are third in the Championship overall, what is the plan from you now until the end of the season?
BS: I was a little bit lucky with my win [in Jordan] – I knew I couldn’t win there, so I concentrated on second position. My problem was Sardinia, I wanted to keep the points and then lose them here – before getting them back on the tarmac. I’ve got to be smart here.
Q: Juho you’ve been very successful on this event, winning your class, that’s the intention again this season…
JH: Thank you for that. I would like to win again, I have been quite successful – but this year will be more difficult than it has been in the past. On the three events we’ve done so far this year, there has been a big, big fight with [Ott] Tänak and some of the other guys. The other drivers are doing better and better.
Q: What do you think of the route this year? Is it a good idea to take the rally down to Lahti?
JH: It doesn’t change so much when we have new stages. I have experience of those [stages] from 2004 and 2005 in the Finnish Championship, but not so much. But the other guys, the new ones, the young ones, they’re always doing new stages – it won’t be a problem for them.
Q: Is there a key stage here that you have pin-pointed as being especially difficult?
JH: Those stages in the south, they’re not so difficult, but Hassi is most difficult. On this day, there is only remote service, so the risk is that we can damage the car. You need to think of the whole day, but you can make a big difference if you have a good run.
Q: You come here after a win in Greece and you lead the SWRC, how confident are you feeling about claiming the title or is it too early to say?
JH: It’s way too early to say. There are four rallies to come and if you get one zero then it’s very difficult to come back from that.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Jukka Ketomaki, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Dmitry Tagirov, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Q: Jukka, home event for you of course! You lie in ninth position in the PWRC after a second place in Portugal this year. Is the target the win here in Finland?
JK: I am not going to be at the maximum attack, maybe 90 per cent speed.
How much experience do you have on the roads south of here in Lahti?
Hassi is the most difficult stage, it’s very fast, but then the last eight kilometres are on a very little road.
JK: I drive some in the Finnish Championship, but not the same direction. Hassi is the most difficult stage, it’s very fast, but then the last eight kilometres are on a very little road. You can make good [time] here.
Q: What do you think of the new stages? Some drivers are saying that they may be higher in speed, what do you think?
JK: I enjoy them, they are good roads. I know some stages – that’s good for me.
Q: How has your year been so far?
JK: The Swedish was not so good for me, but now I need some good points. The aim is to be on the top step of the podium here.
Q: Dmitry, you achieved your best finish this season in Argentina, what result will you be aiming for here?
DT: I can say we can display our speed here, but we have to be cautious – it’s quite dangerous here.
Q: Have you managed to do any testing before this event? If so how did it go?
DT: We are quite okay with testing. We had a special stage in Estonia last week, so we have found a good set-up.
Q: Is this one of the best events in the Championship?
DT: Finland is the best place for running. People say, rally starts from Finland – I think the same.
Q: Where do you hope to be at the finish on Saturday night?
DT: We have almost all the drivers here, the fight will be really hard – everybody wants the points. I don’t think I will be 100 per cent cautious; you need to take some risks.
FIA WRC ACADEMY
Victor Henriksson, WRC Academy
Fredrik Åhlin, WRC Academy
Q: Victor, we have seen you compete here previously as part of the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International, with great success. How are you feeling this time around as part of the WRC Academy?
VH: It’s one of my favourite rallies, we did it last year and we know the roads quite well. The roads are quite similar [to home] for me – the speed and the surface are similar. The thing here is the jumps, they’re huge – that’s the big difference between here and home.
How do you master those jumps?
The thing here is the jumps, they’re huge – that’s the big difference between here and home.
VH: It’s difficult, sometimes you jump and you don’t know you are going to be jumping – it can come when you don’t expect it. You drive on the recce and think it will be okay and then you are jumping. Everybody knows the famous jump in Urria, but in other places there are also some very big jumps.
Q: You lie in fourth position in the WRC Academy Cup; do you feel you could win the category this time around?
VH: The season hasn’t been perfect so far. We were in the lead in Sardinia, but we retired and we were second in Portugal. It’s not perfect, but there’s a long way to go.
Q: From what you have seen so far in terms of competition, who are your main rivals within the Academy?
VH: Frederic [Åhlin] will be quick and also Craig [Breen] and Alastair [Fisher], they are quick as well. There are so many names, so many of the drivers who we have to watch out for.
Q: What do you think of the new route here in Finland, what are the stages like in Lahti?
VH: They’re quick, but also there are big jumps – the first one on this day is flat without so many big jumps.
Q: Fredrik, this will be your first time competing at Rally Finland – how are you feeling ahead of it all?
FA: The surface and characteristics are quite similar. We did a test which went well, but the jumps are massive. We have five or six [jumps] where we are flat out.
Q: What will your approach be?
FA: In Sardinia and Portugal we were pushing at 70 to 75 per cent to get experience. Unfortunately we retired in Portugal, but we were third in Sardinia and we got experience – here I will push.
Q: As part of the WRC Academy you have been given a lot of advice from drivers and team personnel, including Mikko Hirvonen. What kind of advice have you had this week?
FA: It’s very helpful and he’s got a lot of experience. When he started in Finland he was driving the similar car [to us]. But now it’s different for him, his approach is different in a World Rally Car.
Q: You have been on the podium so far this year, in Sardinia. How do you feel your Academy experience has gone so far?
FA: Sometimes I feel I’ve been too cautious in some places, but I still have time in front of me – the aim is to finish every round.
Q: What do you think of the new stages?
FA: The Hassi stage, stage four, is instantly fast, but there are places which could be quite rough. The first few kilometres will be very, very fast.