Monte Carlo: Post-event press conference

FIA World Rally Championship Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo January 21, 2007 Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb - Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena - Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Daniel Sordo - Citroen Total World Rally...

FIA World Rally Championship
Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo
January 21, 2007

1st - Sebastien Loeb - Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena - Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Daniel Sordo - Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Marc Marti - Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Marcus Gronholm - BP-Ford World Rally Team
3rd - Timo Rautiainen - BP-Ford World Rally Team
Representative of the winning manufacturer Citroen Total WRT, Guy Frequelin

Welcome to the post-event FIA Press Conference of Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Q: Sebastien, congratulations on a win after four months out of rallying, your fourth consecutive Monte Carlo victory and with a brand new car. How difficult was this win for you, compared to all the others you have enjoyed in Monte Carlo? Did you have any pain from your arm during the rally? Will the arm cause you a problem for the rest of the year?

SL: For me this victory was one of the best, because we had a lot of questions before the start. I was a bit stressed on Thursday; it was a lot we didn't know. The feeling was good, but in the race you need to be able to improvise and be confident in the car and we didn't know. Also my arm, it was my first race in four months, some new stages, rain and in the night -- it was a lot of new things. For us it's good news to see the C4 was competitive and to fight for the victory and to win. I am really happy for the team; they made a very hard job to develop this car. It's a very good result for us. About my arm, there was no pain during the stage, as I was concentrating and not thinking. After the long stage I feel I have some pain, but not so bad. I feel after one hour it's going okay, then in the next morning it's fine. It should be okay.

Q: Daniel, many congratulations on another win at home for you. What was it like for you with the rally essentially being away from Monte Carlo this year?

DE: For me it was a great pleasure to revisit the Ardeche region and some of the classic stages. I'd also like to compliment the organisers, who, despite a huge number of people, ensured the rally ran perfectly and wasn't a single minute late. My only regret was that Col du Turini stage was not used, which is close to my home. It's fantastic to be here in this position now, though.

Q: Dani, nearly a perfect start for you with your new car, and in your first event as a factory driver. You showed plenty of pace here; did you think you had the speed to challenge Seb? Did you have any specific instructions from Guy Frequelin? You also had a problem getting away on the super special; what happened?

DS: It's difficult to take Sebastien, he's really fast, but now my job is that. Sometimes I try, but it's impossible. I am happy with my job in first and second on the first rally for the C4. It's perfect. Guy told me finish the rally, only. I don't like the super special a lot. It was a little problem in the start, but not an important problem. After I drove slowly for the finish, it was not important. The stages in the rally are more important.

Q: Marc, many congratulations. Everything went very well but you had a problem yesterday with an oil leak. What exactly happened and how serious was the problem? Were you and Dani very worried?

MM: No. It was not an important problem. The most important was that all of the team worked hard to have a nice and proper car. There were no mistakes and we did a very good job and a very good rally. No, there were no moments. Monte is sometimes a difficult rally, but this time it was a very nice Tarmac rally.

Q: Marcus, congratulations on third place. Were you surprised at the speed of the Citroens here? Did you expect to be closer to their pace? Was there any point where you thought you might be able to challenge Seb and Dani?

MG: No. I was not surprised, no. Okay, the first night I was not good and we lost a lot to Seb. The second day we saw we didn't have the right tyres, we had the wrong package. That was it and we couldn't match them. No problem, the next rally is completely different. I was not even trying that much after the second morning. I had a small gearbox problem, so I was a little bit behind. Behind me there was a good gap, so there was no point in trying. I was stuck in third place.

Q: Timo, on Friday you and Marcus had a gearbox problem. What exactly happened and how much time did it cost you? Did it make a difference to your result here? How much were you held back by the package of tyres that was nominated for you here?

TR: It didn't affect so much. It was only a few corners where Marcus could not select a gear, after that he used the manual. Of course, it's in your mind that you have a problem. You try to save it and get to service. But I wouldn't say we lost second or the chance to challenge because of this problem. Maybe with the right tyres we could have challenged Dani, but not for the win.

Q: Guy, many congratulations on a successful debut for the new C4; the first one-two finish for a brand new car since Lancia was first and second here with the Delta in 1987. How nervous were you before the start of the event? How much more confident do you feel now that the first round is over?

GF: I was very nervous before the start. It's all the time very difficult to know when you have a new car and you do the test to compare the Xsara. We knew the C4 was a little faster, but then the drivers knew the road of the test and after that it's completely different to run in practice and one time after in the race. Now we are more comfortable. It's easy to drive and faster than the Xsara.

Q: What were your impressions of the Citroen C4 here? How much better do you think that the car can get this year; is this just the start? Were you worried about reliability at all, particularly after Dani's problem that Marc was telling us about? How competitive do you expect the car to be on snow for the next two rallies?

SL: It's not easy to do a car faster and faster, the regulation is the same. We are happy our car is as fast, or faster than the Xsara, which we have worked on the last five years. Now we know the C4 is very competitive on Tarmac. Our goal is now to fight with Marcus in Sweden. Now we have to wait and see if we have done a good job on gravel as we have on Tarmac. On Tarmac it's hard for a big evolution. For the reliability, not really, we have done some good tests. In December I tested six days and had absolutely no problem. That was very good information for me. My question was more about the speed of the car than the reliability.

Q: Today we had the super special in Monaco harbour; what did you think of it Daniel? Was it a big challenge or not? Do you think it attracted a lot of people?

DE: I enjoyed the stage very much. Today was the first and only one since 1997, when the stage was used for the first time. It's fantastic to have this stage back after 10 years. The only thing I would do differently is to run the stage after the final control, run it without the competition. This means the drivers and co-drivers would be free to make a show or display without having to worry about getting to the finish and setting a competitive time.

SL: I agree with what Daniel has said. The stage today can be nice, but it would also be nice if we could put an even better show on for the crowds. It would be great to be allowed to do some donuts for the crowd, but the regulations say no. It might be good to change this and make the show even better.

Q: Dani, how much did the conditions help you here? How much more difficult would this rally have been if there was snow and ice? Were your tyre nominations okay, or did the warm conditions surprise the team a little bit?

DS: This rally is perfect for me. It was normal conditions. There was no water or slippery. I am happy for this condition. I don't have experience of the snow or the ice. I am happy. The tyre was okay, I am happy with the work of the team in this aspect, normally we had the perfect tyre and this was very important for the team.

Q: How confident are you feeling for Sweden and Norway now Marc? Do you think that Dani will be able to follow Seb's pace for the rest of the season, or will you have to be more careful?

MM: Now in Sweden and Norway we need to run quite a lot. We did the rally one time last year with no test. It was a great experience and Dani did a good performance. We need the kilometres and we need to make the finish for Citroen and for the experience. We know Dani is very fast on this kind of surface, but when we arrive on snow and gravel, we need to change the chip and drive for ourselves and for the experience.

Q: Marcus, what did you think of the new route here for Monte Carlo, with the base in Valence and the stages in the Ardeche? Did you enjoy the stages in general, and what did you think of the night stages in particular?

MG: In the dark, it was not so bad. It was raining just before, that made it quite difficult to find the grip and I didn't like that so much. It was a little too fast, but nothing too much to complain about. There were a lot of people, but the organisation was fine.

Q: Do you think that the move to Valence has been positive Timo; there certainly seems to have been a lot of good support from the spectators.

TR: I think maybe the organisers were looking for proper winter conditions and when I spoke to some of the locals, they said 8/10 winters it would have been proper snow banks. You can see the sticks at the side of the road, they are 1.8m high; they normally have a lot of snow there. I would have preferred a proper winter rally with snow and ice.

Q: Guy, how difficult was it for you to manage the situation, with two cars in first and second? Were you thinking a little bit about the situation in 2005, when you were first and second until Francois Duval crashed? Citroen is operating with a smaller budget compared to 2005; how has this affected your way of working? What are your development plans now for the future with the C4?

GF: Yes, I don't want a repeat of the situation in the 2005 season. I have given Dani and Marc some instructions to get to the end and they have done a very good job in doing that. Marc has been very good as well. Citroen is running two drivers not three this season, which is why we have nominated Dani for all of the rallies. But in having him as a permanent driver, we have to make sure that he gets to the finish of every rally and makes some experience. When he is making this experience step-by-step like this then he can understand that one day he can become a great driver, even if he can't fight at the level of Sebastien right now.

In order to operate with a more limited budget, the regulations for this year's Championship have helped a great deal. For example, in 2003, each team had the right to run three cars which could score points and the teams were also permitted to turn up at every rally with almost a new car. Now we have one new car every two rallies and one new car every three rallies. This has given us a big reduction in the costs involved with the Championship. We, along with the other manufacturers in the Championship, have worked very hard on this and I think we have to mention Jacques Berger (FIA) who has also done a lot of hard work. Citroen is back because of these changes to the regulations and at the same time we have the common goal of trying to get more new manufacturers to come in. There have been some savings made with the calendar, but I think we can save even more money with some extra changes. At the same time, I still think it would be cheaper to run with less than 16 rallies and I look forward to the day when this can happen.

Above all, though, I would like to thank the team for this. This is a very good reward for me and for everybody in the team. To have Citroen one and two on this rally is a very good reward for all the work we put in to bringing Citroen back.

I would like to thank the organisers. We have to thank the organisers for their bravery in taking the rally back to the Ardeche, and the mythical roads which have made the legend of the Monte Carlo Rally what it is. The organisers have had the bravery and the open-mindedness to try something different. It has been a fantastic rally, which has been attended by a lot of people. And finally, I have to say congratulations to Marcus Gronholm and everybody at Ford; they will be a lot harder to beat in Sweden and Norway.

-credit: fia

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team