BP ULTIMATE ACROPOLIS RALLY OF GREECE 2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Post-event FIA Press Conference 06.01.2008 Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Petter ...
BP ULTIMATE ACROPOLIS RALLY OF GREECE
2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Post-event FIA Press Conference
1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Petter Solberg, Subaru World Rally Team
2nd - Phil Mills, Subaru World Rally Team
3rd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Team Principal, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.
Q: Congratulations Sebastien, win number 41. Has this been the toughest Acropolis Rally you have experienced?
SL: It has been really a tough and long weekend. It's been rough for the cars and mechanics and the tyres. It was not only a question to go fast, but also where I can go fast and push. The car was strong, we had no problems. We even managed to finish the rally with a little speed. I was happy with the speed of the car, it was tough to fight with the Fords on this rally [in the past], but we changed the settings and it worked. I am happy to finish this rally; it's been a long event.
Q: Sebastien, you lead the Championship by one point, but now there is the new Subaru coming with more pace. It's going to be a tough fight this year?
SL: I hope so. Only one point between Mikko and me makes it much more interesting. It's better if there are a lot more drivers fighting. Subaru has shown the car has a good future.
Q: You picked up just one puncture during the event. The Pirelli Scorpion tyres worked well on this event?
SL: It was really hard. When you look at the stages it was really hard for the tyre. For me it was okay. For some other drivers it was difficult. We just have to lift off one stage so we don't destroy anything, but on this kind of road it was good.
Q: You are back in the lead in the Championship by one point over Mikko (Hirvonen) and it's very close between Citroen and Ford in the manufacturers. Does being in the lead give you a psychological advantage?
SL: No. It doesn't change. I am happy to be leading, but I hope I will keep the lead a bit longer than last time. It's good to take the lead before the second half [of the season]. We will be first on the road in Turkey, which could be difficult, but it will be raining in Turkey so it will be okay...!
Q: We have heard that the rally may go back to its old base in Lamia next year. What would be your thoughts about that?
DE: It's okay. For us it's a very good result last time there. In Athens, in 2006, we finish with two wheels and 2007 we have an exploded tyre when we fight with Marcus [Gronholm]. Here it's rough, but in Lamia you have the good stage and the beach!
Q: The last time we saw you on the podium was at this event last year, just a day over a year to the date. It's a great start for the brand new Subaru Impreza; you must be pleased?
PS: Obviously there have been quite a lot of nerves before the rally. There's been a lot of hard work behind the scenes, but they have done a brilliant job. It's not like anything happened. We have been able to keep up on these very tough roads straight out of the box. Of course you always hope, but this is more than I expected.
Q: Was the plan today to try and catch Loeb or keep things as steady as possible?
PS: I had a strategy all rally to get the car to the finish. Sometimes you give a little bit and sometimes you take some. This, it was about being consistent with nothing crazy. I can't say I was ready to fight with Sebastien yet, but we took a good result with no mistakes and no punctures. The pace of the car is there and it's going to be a very interesting future with the new Subaru. I'm very happy with the start with this car; definitely.
Q: Turkey is just over a week away; could we see a repeat performance there?
PS: The guys are all working very hard; we have to do a little bit more to win, but hopefully soon. Hopefully soon. I think we can win.
Q: Are we seeing the start of new era at Subaru now Phil?
PM: Absolutely, yes. We've had enough disappointment over the last two or three seasons. Finland was the debut date for this new car. Four weeks ago the team took the brave decision to bring that date forward to this rally and since then the team has been working 24-hour shifts to get the car sorted out. I think we have rewarded everybody with this result. Hopefully this is going to be the turning point. The team has been working flat-out at the base, I mean literally 24-hour efforts. The whole project has been brought forward by 12 weeks -- we're so pleased for what has been a team effort.
Q: It's been a difficult weekend for the team but you have managed to get a podium out of it!
MH: I'm glad it's over. I definitely didn't think a podium was possible on Saturday afternoon when I had the problems with the brakes and suspension. But we finished and took six points.
Q: Problems on the opening day; was it driver error or the conditions that led to the problems you took into the super special?
MH: On Saturday yes, it was my fault. On Friday, there was nothing we could do about it. On Saturday we ran wide and broke a brake disc. I thought we could survive, but it wasn't that way.
Q: Ford still leads the Manufacturers' Championship, by a narrow margin. Does that create more pressure for you and Jari-Matti (Latvala) for Turkey?
MH: Well, for sure it's getting closer and closer. We need to score more points in Turkey than here. We need to be better prepared for Turkey than here, we suffered for that. When everything is working well we have a very good pace. I'm confident with the position.
Q: Sebastien has gone into the lead of the Drivers' Championship by one point, so you are still not far away and it means you are not first on the road for Turkey. Will there be any changes before Turkey?
MH: There's not much time, maybe something we can do. I have struggled being first on the road; we'll see how it goes for him [Loeb].
Q: Jarmo, overall, what have you thought of the event?
JL: For me, it's my fifth time in Greece and third time in Athens and I never saw it [the roads] so bad. I don't know if it's been a bad winter or something, but the roads were terrible in places -- just rocks left. I was happy with everything else, first on the road was okay.
Q: Now you're second on the road, that might be better in Turkey?
JL: Yes, let's leave that to Seb and Dani!
Q: Olivier, Sebastien leads the Drivers' Championship and Citroen is edging ever closer to Ford in the manufacturers; that must be a good feeling?
OQ: Yes. This is the seventh rally and Sebastien has won five of them. It's a great result for Sebastien and Citroen. I don't think Sebastien's lead is representative of his five wins. The second half of the season could be not too bad for us so I am confident.
Q: Dani Sordo's pace has been very good here, you must have been pleased about that.
OQ: Sure. Dani made a great rally. Maybe he doesn't have the same experience as Sebastien, but I'm quite sure with Turkey we will see what he can do.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Andreas Aigner
1st - Klaus Wicha
Q: Congratulations on your second successive win of the season. After the first stage of this event you were in 20th in PWRC; did you think after that first stage you could go on and win?
AA: No, for sure not. After my mistake on the first stage we were 20th. I was hoping for maybe a podium. That we win now is really a surprise for me as well. It can happen on a rally like this.
Q: How tough was it out there this weekend?
AA: Toughest Acropolis. I was here since 2006. Normally after the recce people are saying it's okay and it's not so bad. But this year on the recce, everybody was talking about it being so rough. If you slow down in the rough places and then drive flat-out where you can it's not so bad. It's a huge challenge. We see drivers with 50 minutes' penalty and scoring points as well. It's incredible.
Q: Today you had a good lead, but problems hampered you on the opening stages. What happened?
AA: On the first stage we had a broken rear differential. We had only front wheel-drive. It's really difficult to drive the car like this. In these rough places you have so many hits on the steering, but the team did very well to fix it.
Q: How many risks were you taking this weekend?
AA: I think the risk is already there when you try to drive slow. It's very easy to get damage to the car in the rough places. It's easy to damage the car in the slow. I tried to find good speed.
Q: Who do you think will be your strongest rival this year?
AA: Juho Hanninen and Jari Ketomaa. I like Turkey a lot and feel really confident there. After that it's New Zealand, which is new for me and I don't know what to expect. Then it's GB which is tough as well.
Q: It must be good to be part of the winning team?
AA: It certainly is. Having two drivers in the top three, we can see the car's really strong. The team made a really good job with no problems at all.
Q: You now have a very healthy lead in the Drivers' Championship; it must fill you with confidence for the title?
KW: Yes okay, we will look forward to Turkey. In my opinion this is also quite tough. Then we got to New Zealand and he [Aigner] wasn't there before. It will be a big battle with Ketomaa for the rest of the season.
Q: Not just a good result for you but for the Red Bull team as well, with Bernardo Sousa in third...
KW: Both cars in the top three. I can say the team did a good job. This year was very rough and hard. It was not easy to keep the car alive.
Q: How have you seen Andreas develop as a driver?
KW: We've been together since 2004, since his driver search. You can see there is big progress. For sure he has a good chance to drive very well.