Monte Carlo: Pre-event press conference

2004 Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo Media Press Conference Thursday, January 22nd, 2003 Interviewer: Welcome to the Press Conference for the 2004 Monte-Carlo Rally. Joining us today are new World Champion Petter Solberg, Freddy Loix from ...

2004 Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo
Media Press Conference
Thursday, January 22nd, 2003

Interviewer: Welcome to the Press Conference for the 2004 Monte-Carlo Rally. Joining us today are new World Champion Petter Solberg, Freddy Loix from Peugeot, Gilles Panizzi from Mitsubishi, Sébastien Loeb from Citroën, and François Duval, driver for the Ford Team.

If we can start straight away with Petter. First of all, congratulations on coming here as World Champion. But your best results in Monte-Carlo in the past has been sixth place overall, so is your approach to this rally going to be different, now that you are World Champion? Are you aiming for something better?

Petter Solberg: Like you say, the Monte-Carlo Rally has never been good for me. Even with a lot of experience and help from Tommi Makinen, it didn't help. But I am going to try to make a little bit different strategy on the rally. I have to try to calm down before the start, and not try to go in the lead or right at the top. I have to just calm down and see how it goes. And then we have to wait to see on Saturday or Sunday which place we are, and I will definitely try to be around sixth tomorrow and I will be very happy. And then we have to increase and try for a podium someday.

Interviewer: Petter, do you think that being World Champion has changed you, at all?

Petter Solberg: No, nothing at all. Hopefully, I will drive faster, that's the most important thing, but I don't care. World Champion is history now, we have start to focus on what is ahead. We all have zero points now, so we will see. And I am in good form!

Interviewer: Thank you. Freddy, if I can just ask you know, like Gilles you are here with a completely brand new car. How much of a gamble is it for Peugeot to be using the 307 here? Would it have been easier to have some more kilometres of testing, or are you ready?

Freddy Loix: I think... I am sure we are ready because we have done a lot of testing in December, and also the 307 has been driven a lot last year with Marcus and Richard. Definitely the car will be improving during the year, or maybe after three or four events, but the car was going very well during the tests and the car is ready for the Monte-Carlo.

Interviewer: Thank you, Freddy. Gilles, welcome. You are here also with a completely new car, and a new team as well. It is a car, and a team, which is very different from Peugeot where you have driven before. But the first time you drove a World Rally car, it was a bigger car, it was a Subaru, and you lead the Monte-Carlo rally. So, does a big car suit you more than a small car?

Gilles Panizzi: Yes, I remember this experience, and it was good. To drive a long car is not a problem, I think. Probably the opposite, it is easier to drive a long car. For me, the Subaru of five years ago or today with the Lancer give me the same feeling, and we can go fast with a long car, it is not a problem.

Interviewer: Thank you very much, Gilles. Seb, welcome. You've been fastest here for the last two years, so lots of people say you are the favourite to win the rally. Do you agree, do you think you are the favourite, or not?

Sébastien Loeb: I think it is difficult to say. I hope I can fight again for the victory, but I think I am not the only one who wants to win here, and we know Petter and Markko Martin and Grohholm are very fast on tarmac. It will be a big fight all weekend and for the moment I don't know.

Interviewer: Seb, why do you think you have such a good feeling for the roads here? What is your secret?

Sébastien Loeb: I have no secret. I think in Monte-Carlo you have to find a good rhythm, trying to push, but trying to stay on the road too because you can easily go out. It is sometimes very slippery. You can have some parts in slick tyres on ice, and for that you have to be very patient and go very cool and wait. So you have to find a good rhythm and go to the end. It is the most important thing.

Interviewer: Thank you, Seb. François, moving over to you. Last year, the 2003 version of the Ford Focus was one of the quickest cars everywhere, but it has never been to Monte-Carlo. So do you think you can pull a big surprise here? Everyone's talked about Seb, Petter, and Peugeot as well, but will it be a Ford who ends up winning?

François Duval: I am not surprised, because last year the car was very fast. For this year, just for Monte-Carlo, we had four days of very good tests, two days for Markko and two days for me. We had no problems on the car, and it is very fast even in difficult conditions on snow or ice. I am not surprised.

Interviewer: Is the Monte-Carlo a rally that you like, or not so much?

François Duval: Yes, I like the Monte-Carlo. Last year, I didn't have a bad result, finishing seventh for the first time driving a WRC, after my small accident. Maybe for this year it is possible to finish in the top five, maybe. The Monte-Carlo is a difficult rally, and I like difficult conditions, changing all the time from ice or snow to completely dry. I like it.

Interviewer: Thank you, François. Petter, your position in the team has changed. As well as having a number 1 on your door, last year you were the guy who was learning and this year you are the guy who is teaching your new teammate Mikko. How have you been getting on together, and what do you think Mikko can do here?

Petter Solberg: Actually, Tommi came to the Service today, and he was asking for overall and shoes, so I don't know what he was thinking, but it was good to see Tommi again. I think Mikko has a very good talent, and he will surprise this year with his performance on tarmac and gravel. Of course, I have to help him like Colin and Tommi and Carlos and everybody have done with me. We are in a team, and we have to help each other and get the best possible result for Subaru. I think it is possible for him to get on the podium this year, definitely. He is very nice guy, and he will be very good.

Interviewer: You also took him for a ride in the car, I think, while you were testing. What did he think?

Petter Solberg: That's a thing you can learn a lot from. I have been in a car with Tommi, Carlos, Colin, everybody. And I picked up small things from all of them. That's the same thing that Mikko is doing. He has a very good attitude. He is pushing hard and asking a lot of questions, and it is good. The more you put in, the more you get back, and that is what he is trying to do. I think the team made a good decision by putting a young driver, and hopefully in three years time, he will be maybe World Champion.

Interviewer: Thank you very much, Petter. Freddy, going back to you. Obviously, the 307 looks really different to the 206 but how different is it to drive, as you have driven both?

Freddy Loix: I do not have so much experience with the 206, but we did a lot of tests where we had the 206 and at the same time the 307 on the same track. And every time I took the 206 I was surprised. It is a quick car, but sometimes it can be nervous, and you have to know the car a little bit. When I took the 307, straight away I felt more comfortable, the car is more progressive, and if you have been driving it a little bit, it gives you the feeling that you can attack more and even go farther and farther. It is positive.

Interviewer: What is the best thing about the 307? Is it the engine, the handling, the suspensions?

Freddy Loix: The best thing with the 307 compared with the 206 is the fact that the car is not as nervous, that is the main thing. Also, the engine is very good.

Interviewer: Thank you very much indeed, Freddy. Gilles, a brand new car, you have done some testing but how difficult do you think it will be for you to try and finish this event? What are your expectations from here?

Gilles Panizzi: I think it is always difficult. But for us it is important to look ahead for the first year, and not necessarily stay focused on the Monte-Carlo and catching a good result here. We discover a good car each day, and of course the car was born last November, and we need some time to improve it more. So for us it will be good if we can finish this rally to have a maximum of information for the team.

Interviewer: Do you have all the systems on the car here, or are you missing some things which we will see later?

Gilles Panizzi: The car is like our engineers built it. We do not know if the latest new electronic or hydraulic systems are better or not. They are their ideas, and it is important to improve these ideas and we will see later.

Interviewer: Thank you very much, Gilles. Seb, everyone talks here about the weather in Monte-Carlo, it changes all the time. But for you, what would be the perfect weather here? What would be the ideal thing?

Sébastien Loeb: I don't know. When it is dry, I know I can be fast. Last year, we saw at the beginning of the race when we had some snow that Marcus was very fast so I would prefer not too much snow. But it is funny to drive on snow, so I think I will take what will come and we will try to do the best in every kind of condition.

Petter Solberg (laughing): Lot of rain and snow, it's guaranteed!

Interviewer: Petter is expecting rain and snow, but what sort of weather have you been told to expect for tomorrow?

Petter Solberg (laughing): Just dry enough to blow up the Pirelli tyres, and then it can start raining!

Interviewer: Seb, do you agree?

Sébastien Loeb: I think normally tomorrow will be nearly the same as during the recce, but we never know.

Interviewer: Thank you very much. Finally, François. Your boss, Malcolm Wilson, said there was a special specific plan for you this year. What is that plan?

François Duval: My plan is not difficult. I need to finish a maximum of rallies, and not have a lot of accidents. For this rally, the best plan for me and for Ford is to finish in the top five with Markko just ahead of me.

Interviewer: Thank you very much indeed, François. Now, does anybody have any questions to ask Petter, Freddy, Gilles, Sébastien or François? Any questions at all? Greg...

Journalist: Hello. A new year, we've got sixteen rounds of this championship. Several of the great old faces are missing. There is no Tommi, no Colin, and saddest of all of course, there is no Richard Burns this year. The costs of this championship are up, whatever anyone may say. Some leading broadcasters have withdrawn, including BBC Radio. Many journalists and photographers are expressing doubts about their ability to cover the entire World Championship. Do the drivers feel that sixteen rounds is sensible at a time when money is so tight? Petter, you can start.

Petter Solberg: Well, sixteen rallies, it doesn't matter for us drivers. It is up to the manufacturers to decide. If you talk about rules and saving money, I don't have a clue what it is all about, seriously. I don't know what the rules are all about either, but they are changing every day so it is difficult to answer that question. But hopefully things will be sorted quite quickly and the manufacturers can get together and get good rules, and we can have a very good year. Well, us drivers we will hopefully make a hell of a show this year, I can guarantee that to you guys.

Journalist: Freddy, have you got any thoughts?

Freddy Loix: Yes, definitely. It will be more difficult for a manufacturer to go to the sixteen events than for the driver himself because he just jumps into the plane and flies over. On the other hand, it is important that we keep a nice level of rallies, and not only a lot of rallies, not in terms of quantity but in terms of quality. I will really like to see how the new events this year will go on.

Interviewer: Thank you very much. Are there any other questions from anybody? Nothing at all, last chance? No? In that case, the end of event press conference is here again on Sunday at 16:30. Thank you very much, and see you then.


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team