CYPRUS RALLY 2009 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 03.15.2009 Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 2nd - Jarmo ...
2009 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Petter Solberg, Petter Solberg World Rally Team
3rd - Phil Mills, Petter Solberg World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Welcome to the pre-event FIA Press Conference.
Q: Sebastien, WRC win number 50 -- congratulations; what an incredible achievement. The first was in Germany in 2002 - did you imagine at the start of your career that you would amass so many victories in one Championship?
SL: I think it was impossible to imagine that. I took every rally one at a time and wanted to do my best. Finally, one day, we beat the record of Carlos (Sainz) which was 26 wins and today, when I think of that, it was not far behind (long ago).
Q: So many events, I imagine it's hard to have memories of them all, but what would be the most important win for you in your career?
SL: Norway (2009) was a really important rally victory for me. That was not far behind. It was a great battle from the start and very strong competition on a snow rally. It was really exciting to flight for three days. Finland was also a good memory. For a driver to win there is something special. The first win in Monte in 2002 was also special for me, even though I lost the win I was the winner there!
Q: Let's talk about this event. There was a lot of speculation before it got underway about what it would be like; what did you think?
SL: For me, to do one day of tarmac is okay. It is a good solution. It was okay. For me, when I heard we have a mixed surface rally I was happy. I thought it would be slick tyres on the tarmac and gravel tyres on the gravel. But the decision was made by the manufacturers to do it on different tyres; it was something new. It was not bad to drive really. No problem.
Q: Three wins in a row, can you keep this up and win all 12?
SL: At the moment anything is possible. As long as I win all the rallies it is possible. It is not what I really want to do. I will try and win and make my best. We will see.
Q: Fifty WRC wins means a lot of trophies! Where on earth do you keep them all?
SL: At home. A few are with my mother from the start and then the rest are at home.
Q: Daniel, congratulations on the 50th win. After so many accolades, wins and titles how much does it mean to you to reach this landmark?
DE: Sebastien is a very good man. He is a famous driver. When we start every race we start for the win. When he lose, he is not very happy. You are sure when you look at the split times, Mikko tried to push after one kilometre and we are three and a half seconds back and, after three kilometres, it is four. He thinks it is not possible and he tries to push more. He is great at good motivation.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Cyprus Rally?
DE: Yes fantastic. It was not rough this year, very tricky and slow stages. The tarmac was very fantastic. I hope that in future we have no stages on gravel -- 100% tarmac race would be perfect. If the stages were modified in some places they would be better to drive on tarmac on this rally. The gravel stages are too slow and too long.
Q: Mikko, second position again, good points but we know it's the win you want. Where did it go wrong this weekend?
MH: I think we lost the race on Friday. I was completely lost with my driving. I did not do my homework well enough on how the tyres were working on tarmac. Then again, the last two days were a lot better. I was pleased with my speed on the last two days.
Q: At the end of day two you said 'I have finally learnt to drive' -- what exactly did you mean by that?
MH: I understood about the tyres and that was good. He (Loeb) will not be one minute ahead after day one in Portugal!
Q: The organisers have changed things around this year, the split surface and also hardly any repeated stage on gravel. What have you thought of the event? Would you be keen for more rallies to adopt spilt surfaces?
MH: Yes, even though it did not work for us, it wasn't a bad idea. It was quite okay to drive. The second pass through was like driving on gravel anyway. The format was working well.
Q: What do you think of Sebastien's 50 WRC wins?
MH: Fifty wins for Seb is amazing. If he keeps going it probably means 50 second places for me! When I think of the time and how many years he has been driving, it is unbelievable. He has my full respect.
Q: Loeb has won the first three events, Petter is back fighting at the top end, Marcus Gronholm will return in Portugal -- the next event could be very interesting indeed. What do you think?
MH: Yes it will be interesting. I think it will be nice to see Marcus (Gronholm) back. Who knows what will happen? If it is dry, he could spring a nice surprise. He has not been driving for a while but we will all have good fun.
Q: Congratulations on second, how are you feeling about the result?
JL: Disappointed, of course. We came to win. It was obviously on Friday where he lost the time and found it hard to win. It never happened. It's the toughest event for the co-drivers. There are so many corners. I completed between 300 and 340 pages of pace notes and I rewrote 232 of those because it was so rough in the recce car and we had 19-hour days in the recce. And then I try to concentrate on the slow stages and not make a stupid mistake to retain the rhythm. It was a most challenging rally for a co-driver.
Q: The first privateer driver with his own team to get on the podium, we think since the 1993 RAC Rally with Malcolm Wilson. How does it feel Petter?
PS: Well the thing is we have no choice. If we want to drive we have to do it in a certain way. We are not a factory team, but the team we have now and, with the help from Citroen, it was a great weekend and really good fun. The mechanics worked 38 hours non-stop to get here, because the boat was too late. It was quite busy. I am very happy and relieved. The sponsors helped quickly and we have given them something in return. There is still some pressure, but it was really exciting and I am so pleased to cross the finish. I was so nervous on that last stage.
Q: Two fastest times yesterday and again incredible pace today. What is it like to battling at the top end again?
PS: I am telling you, when I am back driving, I am back to 'dancing' again. It is difficult to explain. I just have fun and that is always the plan. That is why I am doing this. This is my life.
Q: How much will this result help you in terms of getting more sponsorship to guarantee a full season?
PS: Well the thing is I had a lot of conversation with Tommi Makinen and Marcus Gronholm. They told me to relax for one year. But I am not them. I wanted to fight and drive and I hope that one day I can fight properly again with Seb and Mikko. I will hope and plan. Overall the weekend was unbelievable.
Q: How much confidence does this give you going into Portugal?
PS: Every rally is different. We did not have so much time to get ready. I am still waiting for some dampers to arrive. They broke on Friday. We are open-minded about every rally we do. I just hope all works well and hope that we can continue for the whole season and get a whole package together. Seb (Loeb) has done an unbelievable achievement. I take my hat off to him. There are not many sports stars in the world who have achieved something like this and we have to respect that. He has a good team and a good combination and the passion is 110%. He is in the history books and will be there a long time. I have to drive until I am 50 or 60 years old now to beat that! It takes a lot of things to go right to do it.
Q: Phil, a great result on the second rally with a new team and new car; how are you feeling about the result?
PM: We came here open-minded and we are very happy.
Q: You had been part of a manufacturer-backed team for many years, how different is it being part of a private team?
PM: There are quite a different set of rules in private team. Things like no split times in the car. This is no problem on short stages but, on 40km stages it is nice to know where you are. It is difficult to pace things. There are lots of things you take for granted. There are different things which make a difference. We do not have the politics that you get in a Manufacturer team; we don't have that any more. There are seven of us in the whole team. Next door (Citroen) the team have 70 something people. We are a small team of dedicated people.
Q: Olivier, win number 50 for Sebastien and 50 wins with Citroen. What does that mean for the team?
OQ: For the team it is quite important. We are proud. That means that the Citroen team is a great team and the season is not finished yet.
Q: Looking to the Citroen Junior Team, there were retirements for both Sebastien Ogier and Evgeny Novikov on the final day, Ogier on the final stage. What happened?
OQ: Sebastien Ogier and Novikov are quite young, this is why we call this the Citroen Junior Team. Novikov make some rolls. Seb (Ogier) made one yesterday and was not too bad to finish fifth. But, 200 metres before the stage finish, he made a mistake. We must remember one year and a half ago he was with a 205 standard car. We will see later on. It is not a problem for me.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Patrik Sandell
1st - Emil Axelsson
Q: Patrik, congratulations on your second win of the season -- it's a great start!
PSa: Absolutely perfect, a perfect start to the season. After winning in Norway we were hoping to go well, but to win in Cyprus is great.
Q: You were in second position from stage one then took the lead on stage 13. Araujo suffered gearbox problems during today but it has been an incredible battle between you...
PSa: Yes it was a big battle. He took some time out of us when it was very slippery. On the faster stages we had a good position and, when it was drying, we took the time back and were able to make the gap a little bit more. It was a perfect result.
Q: What was it like on the opening day on tarmac with the Super 2000?
PSa: The Super 2000 worked well on the tarmac on the first day; only me was the problem. I was not finding that perfect feeling. It was difficult to know how much to push and how far sideways I could drive into corners. Then the rain came and we backed off again.
Q: We saw you win on the snow in Norway, how much more have you learnt about the car now on gravel?
PSa: I am learning all the time. I learn how to get the best out of the car. The way you drive the Super 2000, you push maximum all the time. It is the basics of rally driving. On the long stage today we went back to basics and took all the corners one at a time. That is the way to do it.
Q: Portugal is the next stop and probably more battles with Araujo, although this time he has the home advantage. Can you make it three in a row?
PSa: Yes it will be really tough. Patrik Flodin will be back also. We did it in '07 and we really liked it.
Q: Emil, two wins out of two rallies -- a dream start?
EA: That feels just perfect for us. The aim was to finish on the podium and to win is amazing.
Q: It's a tough rally for the drivers, but it's a tough rally for the co-drivers too with countless notes to read...
EA: Yes, I counted 443 pages of pace notes and it took five hours 10 minutes to drive it. It will be better in Portugal for sure. We enjoyed it though. To slide is fun, especially for us.
FIA JUNIOR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Martin Prokop
1st - Jan Tomanek
Q: Martin this is your third podium of the season but your first win -- you said before the rally got underway this would be about survival, how tough was it to survive in a Junior car here?
MP: Yes it seems to be tougher that we thought. We expected hard stages, rocks and stones, but it was totally different. The stages were quite wet. Friday was very good for us, driving on slicks and we enjoyed the stages. But the afternoon was crazy for us, racing on slicks on wet tarmac. On the next two days, we had a nice gap and drove safely,
Q: You led from the start and set some impressive times on the opening day. The JWRC drivers were allowed to use Tarmac tyres on the first day but did help or hinder you?
MP: I think the stage where we were fourth, all the stage was downhill, but the finish was uphill and there were a lot of cuts in the gravel. More important for us was winning the Juniors and the stage times. I said before that we cannot compete with the WRC cars with the Junior cars. We enjoyed the tarmac stages when it was clean. It was twisty and we like this type of stages. Then we had hard corners on gravel and stones and it was not so nice.
Q: Michal was putting a lot of pressure on you yesterday, taking huge chunks of time out of your lead -- did you feel under pressure?
MP: Yes. I did not expect that. He pushed hard. We chose a high car with soft springs and we were not able to stop his attack. We had to wait for service and change the car set-up for racing. Then we set some nice times and got the time back. I was worried of his attack.
Q: Has it been odd competing against just two other Juniors? Did it feel like a normal JWRC event or not?
MP: Yes, of course it was strange. You can decide to go just for a finish and get six points for third place or, if you want to win, you have to fight like normal. Michal was also fighting hard. Maybe Aaron (Burkart) was waiting for our mistakes. We decided to fight for the victory from the first stage.
Q: You are in the lead in the JWRC now; it's a better start to the season than it was last year!
MP: That's right. We can feel very nice. On the next two races Michal will drive without me. I will drive in the Production class and I can do nothing about his results. We will see in the middle of thee season what the situation is.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
Martin Holmes Rallying (GB)
Q: Do you think you can ever be as good as Seb (Loeb)?
PSa: Seb is the best in the world in the last 100 years. Maybe I will not be as good as him, but I am going to win the WRC one year; That is what we are fighting for.
MP: What we are doing, in the small category, is to get into WRC teams and to show how fast we are and what we can do. We will try.