WRC

Wales Rally GB post-event press conference

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FIA press release

WALES RALLY GB

Present:
1st - Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
1st - Miikka Anttila, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Mads Østberg, M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team
2nd - Jonas Andersson, M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team
3rd - Henning Solberg, M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team
3rd - Ilka Minor, M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team

Q: Jari-Matti congratulations on the fifth win of your career and your first this year! Is it a good feeling to be back on that top step?

J-ML: Miikka was calculating that it is over 15 months, so it is a long period. Honestly, it's been a difficult year for me. Okay, in previous seasons I have made mistakes, I have been going off the road. But now I was able to keep it on the road but losing by so small margins, and that is like killing you inside. When you go 0.2 seconds in Jordan and 8 seconds in Finland, your home territory, so at some point you think it is starting to look like you are not going to win anything this year and it's going to give me even more pressure for next year. This victory opens the box for 10 times to do this rally before I can win it!

Q: After your team-mate Mikko Hirvonen retired the team were looking to you to go out and win against Sébastien Loeb. This morning things were not going quite right, there were a few mistakes creeping in. Why was that?

This victory opens the box for 10 times to do this rally before I can win it!

Jari-Matti Latvala

J-ML: The rally started well in the Great Orme stage, then on the forest stages I was a little bit behind Mikko and Loeb, but when Mikko retired I realised then the situation was that we need to get something for the team at least. I got the spirit – I want to fight back and I want to get something from this rally now. I had been waiting for victories for a long time so I wanted to fight for that. I started and it was really hard. Yesterday morning when I saw on the Hafren stage I was ahead of Loeb by over five seconds I started to push, maybe a little bit too much. It was really my fault; I went on top of the mud and got worried I was carrying too much speed. It was a medium, medium combination of corners and a 9-left and I was worried that I couldn't turn for the next left hander, so I saw an access road so I went straight to the access road. I had to reverse and I lost 10 seconds. Again we were five seconds behind Loeb after that so we needed to start catching him a bit.

Q: This weekend for the team meant a possible drivers’ title for Mikko Hirvonen, that didn’t happen. What did you think when you heard the news of Loeb’s retirement?

J-ML: We were already putting our helmets on and were just about to start the stage. It was messaged to the car that Loeb had stopped. We thought “what is happening?”. We couldn't understand why he had stopped because he finished the stage. We saw Mads Østberg and he said that Loeb had an accident and said “I promise he won't come back!”. It was an easier stage after that!

Q: What does this win mean for you after a difficult season?

J-ML: It enormously helps for next year. I was really happy when I was awarded with the “Spirit of the Rally”, it really means a lot to me.

Q: Miikka you said that statistically it is good to have a win every year, what do you think about it?

MA: Yes for sure, I feel relieved. When we look back to the history and you have a bad year and your name is not there… I'm very happy and it is also a good moment at home; I promised that we have to win this rally because it's Father’s Day at home now in Finland and I'm now covered!

Q: What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of this weekend?

MA: The changing weather conditions, absolutely. When we started at the Great Orme it was sunshine, then we did a stage in the darkness. The next day it was misty and rain. It's tough when the weather is changing and we need to read the road where there are slippy places and then of course when we do the first couple of stages, we have to mark all the slippy places, so all in all, the rally is so demanding.

Q: Mads, congratulations on securing second position overall, equalling your best result from the start of the season in Sweden. How does it feel for you to end the season with a podium?

Mads Ostberg, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team
Mads Ostberg, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team

Photo by: xpb.cc

MO: Well I feel very great. I told you I would get back there and I was getting a bit stressed to be honest during the season. Not every rally has gone the way I planned it to. It has proved to be quite a strong field of drivers, so it's not very easy to be on the top. We try to improve on every rally and I'm very happy to end the last rally like this. It means a lot for next year as well. I'm very, very pleased to show that I'm able to go back to the podium.

Q: There were some engine concerns along the way, especially yesterday. What was going on?

MO: We had an issue with the engine, I don't know exactly what it was. For me it felt quite bad in the beginning. I stopped the car, I felt it at the refuel actually, where I stopped the car and when I restarted it, it was on three cylinders. I think I forgot for a moment that I was driving a Ford as when you are driving a Subaru and it goes down to three cylinders, that means the end. These are strong cars, even though it's on less cylinders.

Q: Were there any nerves this weekend thinking that you could take away a podium position?

MO: No it was a lot better today than yesterday. I was really keen and really ready to fight with Petter [Solberg] and we just got the message as we were on the start line. I had all this energy and all this fighting that I wanted to do, but I couldn't use it. I had to calm down and everything. I was bad on the stage really, I was not focussing correctly. Saturday was like that all the way. I was struggling a lot, I just went slower so I didn't do any mistakes but I didn't go quicker because I was basically too nervous. But today it's been a lot better, pace notes have been better today and we have quite good control inside the car, so even though we were up to second it didn't put any more pressure on. Podium is podium for me, and third or second wouldn't matter too much, I'm just happy to be back on the podium. Unfortunately for Sébastien he was in the road accident and that put us in second position, that's obviously good and maybe the most positive thing about that was maybe that I can stand on the podium together with Henning [Solberg], because Henning is such a nice guy. It's nice to be on the podium together with him, also Jari-Matti of course, he's a great driver and really deserves this victory.

J-ML: Scandinavia time!

Q: Jonas, congratulations on your second podium this year, what does it feel like to the end the year on a high?

JA: It is of course a really nice end to the rally, it is one of the events that we know best. It just shows that it's good that we have done more or less all the events this year now, except for Australia, so we can try and push a bit harder next year and try to be on the podium a bit more times.

Q: Were there any big moments out there for you? Anything you want to tell us?

JA: There were a few moments for sure, especially on the Friday when we really pushed a lot and there was a few moments in the fog and in the dark. We were a bit close a couple of times, yes. The car is in one piece and we kept it more or less on the road so it wasn't too bad.

Henning Solberg
Henning Solberg

Photo by: xpb.cc

Q: Henning, the last time you were on the podium was in 2009 in Poland – it’s been a long wait till now, how did it feel to win the battle with Kris Meeke?

HS: It was a good fight from the morning as he was actually much faster on all the stages, but I tried to keep calm and I tried just to set good times.

MO: He wasn't calm!

HS: I was so calm, I tried not to do anything stupid!

J-ML: He was nervous, he was really nervous!

MO: One of the things about Henning, if he stops talking about diffs and springs and set-ups, he is nervous, and he hasn't mentioned anything about diffs or springs or anything so we knew something was a problem!

HS: The good thing was these guys, especially Jari-Matti was coming to me saying “do this and this and that” and saying “this and this” because we have an agreement. I help him with a new wife, I help him find a new girlfriend or wife, and he helps me out on this rally. So we have an agreement!

Q: Okay, so you were feeling nervous, talk to me about the middle stage. You seemed to be doing a great job at keeping Kris Meeke behind you and then toward the end of the stage you dropped a lot of time, what happened?

HS: I just went straight. I don't know what happened, I think I pulled the handbrake when I was braking, so I just went straight in to a ditch. It has been a very difficult week, I have been exactly on the road position when it was dark and foggy, very foggy. So I was close to Petter and Mads except in the last stage I lost over 40 seconds in the dark and foggy stage. After that I tried to drive to my pace and have fun.

Q: The boys mentioned that you like to change settings and tinker a lot with the car, I take it you found a good setting in the end?

HS: Yes it was quite good, it was okay.

Q: What does it mean to you to take a podium on the final round when you are trying to secure funding for next year?

HS: I speak with sponsors all the time and I hope I get a good deal for next year. That is what I do every day now after the rally. I hope to get a good deal for next year. We will see.

Q: Will we see you in a Ford?

HS: I don't think any other team can offer me that money, so I think I will stay with Ford!

Q: So when will we know what your plan is for next year?

HS: Before Christmas! Malcolm [Wilson] always calls me before Christmas and before then I need a new deal!

Q: Ilka, it’s your first WRC podium since 2006 – it’s been a while!

IM: It is an absolutely great, great feeling. Because it was 2006 the last one. Of course it was only 1.8 seconds between Kris Meeke and us before the last stage, and because we got his stage time just before the start of our stage, and so we were really really pleased to have finished like this.

Q: Did you notice Henning’s nerves?

IM: Because he was not talking so much I had some sign from him.

Q: You also won the Michael Park Award at this event, what did that mean to you?

IM: I'm very proud of this because Michael Park was a very good guy and I really have to say thank you that people voted for me. I don't know why I deserve it, but obviously there is something right with me.

Q: Malcolm, three Fords on the podium but the team came here wanting the drivers’ title. Unfortunately this hasn’t happened, is this now any conciliation?

Jari-Matti Latvala and Malcolm Wilson
Jari-Matti Latvala and Malcolm Wilson

Photo by: xpb.cc

MW: Yes for sure, I mean it’s a real conciliation and obviously I’m very very happy for Jari because the season that he’s had, and the team role that he has played for supporting Mikko for the position he has had in this event to actually challenge for the title. So it’s been great; everybody knows how his performance has improved over the year and to get to the final stage sets him up for next season. But I think it’s also really important from a Ford point of view that we’ve actually got eight Fords in the top 10, and I don’t know when the last time was that that happened. I have a feeling it might even go back to the great days of the Mark II Escorts. It’s been a great weekend for us all and the cars have performed really well and the guys have done a great job.

Q: What about next year Malcolm? What will we see happening with Ford, what will we see happening with the driver line-up next year?

MW: Well I think my first priority is to make sure we keep Ford in the WRC and there is no question they want to be in and there is no question about myself and M-Sport, so we’re in discussions and hopefully we will have a decision before the closing date for the entries on 12 December. Of course everybody knows that Jari is contracted to us next year and my priority at the moment is that we keep Ford in the WRC.

Q. Could Jari-Matti be real challenger next year do you think?

MW: I think there is no question; you just have to look at how he’s improved throughout the season. And I’m sure a lot of people here have also heard Sébastien [Loeb] on the last stage last night when he said that he’d driven the absolutely perfect stage, that he’d driven the perfect rally and yet Jari took five seconds off him. I think if you look at that with Jari’s tarmac performance in Spain, he’s definitely got to be one of the main guys for the Championship next year.

Q. What have you thought of the new look Wales GB?

MW: To be honest I’m sure these guys have enjoyed the stages because there are some great stages to drive on. I think it’s a shame that some of the conditions were a little bit difficult and tricky. I have to say from a team point of view it’s certainly been a logistics challenge and I really personally don’t feel that it’s the way that the manufacturers and everybody else wants to see the WRC go.

2011 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONS

Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA

1st - Sébastien Loeb
1st - Daniel Elena

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team celebrate 8 WRC championships
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team celebrate 8 WRC championships

Photo by: Citroën Communication

Q: Sébastien, congratulations on your eighth FIA World Rally Championship title. Before we talk about what happened today, tell me what it means to secure Championship number eight?

SL: For sure I feel very happy. It’s a new record and until this week it was Michael Schumacher with seven and now we are eight. I know it’s unfair to compare but everyone is speaking about it, but for sure I am proud of it and it’s very special and it was also a special season. It was a really difficult one and there were a lot of battles everywhere. With every rally we had to fight against a rival, either Mikko or Seb Ogier, sometimes Jari-Matti. So to finish like this with some proud moments that we had, like in Germany, Australia and in France where we finally lost a lot of points and we had to start again from zero with two rallies to go. It is a proud moment to be here. It was big pressure – we had to give everything all the time.

Q: Today we saw you retire on the road section heading toward the second stage of the day, describe what happened?

SL: We had a narrow road section between the two stages with some crests. I was just driving and over the crest was a car in front so I brake and go to the side. But the problem was it was a Spanish driver and she went on the wrong side so she just had a bad reflex and we hit two cars at the front and broke the radiator.

Q: How disappointed were you?

SL: Daniel asked me in the car “are we finished?” and I reply “Yes, I think so.” But never mind, we are still World Champions. So we say “No problem!” We were not so disappointed. We came here to win this title, and that is done and that’s the most important. For sure we were in a good fight with Jari-Matti and we had a lot of pressure, but it was just for fun. We have to accept it. If I had to choose one rally where this thing happens I would chose this, so it’s okay.

Q: How strong is your passion still for this sport?

SL: For sure I started rally for passion and quickly I was able to drive for a manufacturer. And today I still feel the same sensation when I drive the car. I would say I really like driving, and the rallies, so that’s my main motivation. It will not change my life if I have seven titles, eight or nine. It’s just because I enjoy the moment and I like what I do.

Q: Daniel, what does it mean for you to have your eighth world title?

DE: It’s special because on this event we really had to keep our concentration. We didn’t know if we were fighting with Mikko or Jari-Matti and now I am very happy for this title.

Q: Is co-driving still exactly the same than when you first started?

DE: Yes sure. I love my job and it is my passion. When you are born in Monaco you have the Formula One and the rally, and I chose Rallye Monte Carlo because it is easier for me! I am very happy – I hope to continue for more years.

Q: We kick off the new season in Monte Carlo. You must be looking forward to that?

DE: Yes, Monte Carlo is my home rally like France is for Sébastien.

Q: Sébastien, what is the next goal for you?

SL: Second place next year! I have eight titles in a row and I can only have one goal and that is to win another title next year. I have no precise plan for what I do when I retire. I just hope I will stay in motorsport.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Greg Strange
World Rally Radio, UK

Q: Sébastien, you have a contract for another two years with Citroën. Does that mean you are going for 10 world titles?

At the moment my goal is next year and after that I will see. For sure everything is possible

Sebastien Loeb

SL: If you are asking if I can, I say I hope! I don’t know. At the moment my goal is next year and after that I will see. For sure everything is possible

Q: Do you mind who [team-mate] you drive with next year?

SL: With Daniel no?!. No, it matters not who I drive with.

Martin Holmes
Martin Holmes Rallying, UK

Q: Can you tell us about your plans for your Porsche team?

SL: At the start of the season I was trying to get some contacts for racing, maybe next year, I just wanted to have the door open in case I stop rallying. But I decided to continue so I close this door. In the future I think the day I retire from rallying it will be difficult to stop competing completely. I would like to continue to drive a bit in different races. I have a little experience in racing and for sure I would like to drive something just for fun. It would be nice to live off my fortune, manage my own team and to continue to be in motorsport.

FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
1st - Patrik Flodin
1st - Timo Alanne

Q: Patrik, two wins in a row seals the runner-up spot in the PWRC, a good end to the season?

PF: So, now we are here at the end and we are very happy to have won the last two rallies. This rally was getting difficult because we had already got a big lead at the end of the first leg when Nikara went off the road and after that we were just cruising around.

Q: You won with a lead of five minutes, but there was a big battle with Nikara on the opening day; how many risks were you taking out there?

PF: I didn’t take any risks at all because I thought that guy was going to go flat-out, so I was going to wait for a mistake. But he was really fast in the fog and then finally a mistake. But it was frustrating because the stages had been good and it would have been nice to have had a battle with him in them. It’s often better if you can have a race and push instead.

Q: On the second running of the Sweet Lamb stage you almost rolled in a rut after one of the jumps, how big a moment was that?

PF: No, not after seeing the video, but it felt like a real crash because the impact on the car was so huge I saw stars. Even Timo couldn’t catch his breath for the next note because it was a huge impact in the car.

Patrick Flodin and Goran Bergsten, Mini John Cooper Works WRC
Patrick Flodin and Goran Bergsten, Mini John Cooper Works WRC

Photo by: xpb.cc

Q: What have you thought of the new structure to Wales Rally GB this year?

PF: They were nice stages, I don’t know what to say about them! The weather was tricky and for me it was really hard to go fast in the fog, especially in the darkness. But other than that it was nice stages.

Q: You have a new co-driver for this event – how has that relationship worked out?

PF: It was very very good. I’ve known Timo for a few years, back when he was co-driving for Anton Alen. And I was competing against them both, so now I have him in the car next to me, which is very good.

Q: Timo, congratulations on the win! A great result for you both! What’s it been like in the car with Patrik?

TA: It has been really good fun and I have enjoyed every second. With the fog it wasn’t so easy on the first day, but Saturday and Sunday with the sunshine it was really really nice stages and I have been enjoying every moment.

Q: What would you say is the biggest challenge of Wales Rally GB?

TA: Fog, and the darkness!

Q: What was the feeling like in the car? Because you had that huge time gap behind you - five minutes back to Martin Semerád - were you relaxed in the car over the last two days?

TA: No absolutely not, because it is not so easy to concentrate and write because you can make mistakes when you are not under pressure, and he really wanted to push and push and for me to tell him to slow down would have caused a mistake.

Q: Patrik was just talking about that moment when he went over the jump at Sweet Lamb. Were you shocked by that and did you lose any place in your notes?

TA: I called the next note but it was really hard because it was just behind the press stand and the jump came and then it was just one short moment and then we continue.

Q: Patrik, any more clarity on where you are for next year?

PF: No, not yet. I have to try to do something else there. I really want to do some rallies in an S2000 car and my dream would be to do the whole Championship in S2000, so I have to work very hard for it. We shall see.

FIA WRC ACADEMY CUP (overall Cup winners)

Present:
1st - Craig Breen
1st - Gareth Roberts

To give a young guy like me a prize of basically two years more in the sport that I love is incredible.

Craig Breen

Q: Craig, congratulations on becoming the first winner in the FIA WRC Academy Cup. It was a really thrilling end to the season, how are you feeling about the result?

CB: It got to yesterday evening and I really started to feel the pressure. The feeling now is very difficult to put into words. To give a young guy like me a prize of basically two years more in the sport that I love is incredible. I’d already got the budget together to participate next year, so that budget will go towards the following year which is a fantastic opportunity and it’s just unbelievable.

Q: What was going through your mind yesterday afternoon when you had to win every stage?

CB: When we were in Service the task seemed huge. Egon [Kaur] went exceptionally well on the first run over Hafren that morning and we were really having to push. But when we got to the start of Hafren there was a calmness that came over the two of us, I can’t explain. It just seemed natural to push and we perhaps pushed too hard because we took near enough 18 seconds out of Egon. I knew once we got through there that we had got through the danger one. That was the bigger hurdle of the three [stages] so we knew we just had to keep that rhythm and go into the next two stages. Then we went to Sweet Lamb and the famous jump there where we got caught out before. To get to the end of Myherin with that final 10 or 11 minutes of waiting just felt like hours.

Q: But then the moment came when you realised that you had it. How did that feel?

CB: It was just like someone turning all the pressure off. That was it, we had done it. Everything that I had dreamed of at the start of the year in Portugal had finally come together. Everything that I had prepared for, and put so much effort into, it had all paid off. That feeling was just fantastic. I’d finally paid back the people that had believed in me from the very beginning. With Gareth beside me, in fairness to him, he has always kept the faith. Even when I was struggling to believe that I could do it, I’ve paid him back and paid myself back too. I’ve proved to myself that if I put my mind to it, I can really drive.

Q: How much did he [Gareth] keep you calm during the weekend?

CB: You have no idea how much. He’s a little man and you wouldn’t think he could do much [laughter] but mentally speaking he can control my mind in ways that people can never imagine. Any co-driver can read out notes well but it takes an exceptional talent and an exceptional man to be able to control me psychologically in circumstances like that.

Q: Question is, now what do you do with the prize of a €500,000 scholarship?

CB: I think we need to go to Monte Carlo and try to win the SWRC. Maybe it’s being a bit too ambitious but I’m a young guy that’s got big aspirations and I won’t do anything but do my best. Some people may say that’s foolish but I want to win. If I can put my mind to it and prepare for it like I did for this year I can’t see why it’s not possible.

Q: Not a lot of time for you to celebrate though. You’re heading off to Austria tomorrow…

CB: No rest for the wicked, no. Tomorrow morning I catch a plane to Austria to try and get a place in the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy. It’s just as important as this one. It’s a massive opportunity for me to try and get onto it but I am confident and I am prepared enough – okay, I might be a little bit tired from the rally but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Q: What have you thought of the WRC Academy this year?

CB: It’s a fantastic initiative and whoever came up with the idea is a genius. What better way for young drivers to prove themselves, in identical cars, identical machinery – all the same mechanics. There is no room for any advantage – it is purely about who is the best driver. Long may it continue and I really want to be an ambassador for this scheme and show that with Ford it really can lead to bigger and better things.

Q: Gareth, it’s a win and a win at home for you, tell me how you’re feeling?

GR: It’s absolutely fabulous. Craig has covered a lot of things, and at the start as Craig has said, when we went off in Portugal and when we had a few problems in Sardinia, looking back at the Championship now we would never have thought that we were going to do this. We came into this rally and thought over 13 stages the pace is going to be fine and let’s take it stage by stage and do it calmly and see what we can do. I was getting nervous towards yesterday afternoon when we had to win the three stages and with the phone signal being very limited in mid-Wales we didn’t know what times we’d done in Sweet Lamb and Hafren, so literally we just said to each other, ‘listen, it is what it is, let’s just go in and do what we’re doing and you know, hopefully, we’ll come out on top.’ I believed we could do it and I told Craig that he could do it, and obviously everything went all right in the end.

Q: Craig talked about the wait at the end of that final stage. He said it felt like hours or even years, what was it like for you?

GR: It was exactly as he said. The wait to hear the split times for myself was the only way we had any sort of idea of times. I don’t know, it may be a co-driver sort of thing but it wasn’t until I clocked into that last time control at the Parc Fermé that I felt relieved. I had everything crossed.

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