New Zealand Rally pre-rally press conference

Petter Solberg - 555 Subaru World Rally Team Gillies Panizzi - Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sport Sebastien Loeb - Citroen Total Markko Martin - Ford Motor Co Ltd Marcus Gronholm - Marlboro Peugeot Total Q: Sebastien, you have a new car here, what...

Petter Solberg - 555 Subaru World Rally Team
Gillies Panizzi - Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sport
Sebastien Loeb - Citroen Total
Markko Martin - Ford Motor Co Ltd
Marcus Gronholm - Marlboro Peugeot Total

Q: Sebastien, you have a new car here, what are the main differences?

Sebastien Loeb: It’s not really a new car. We have some new additions, the engine is a little bit better, we have done big work on the weight and that seems to be very important. The feeling of the car is very good, it feels easier to drive seeing the car is not so heavy, so normally it should be better.

Q: When you say it is better, in what way?

Sebastian Loeb: the agility of the car is better so you can easier put the car where you want, so you have better confidence.

Q: Markko, more or less the same question, what are the main differences with your car?

Markko Martin: its small steps (from the 03) with weight distribution, engine & aerodynamics so I think that all together it will make a bit of a change and we can be a little bit faster with rally distance. If we can do that, it’s an improvement in the right direction and that’s all we need really.

Q: Does it feel faster when you’re driving it or is it just when you look at the times that you see the difference?

Markko Martin: I think the changes are very small so you can’t really see it on the clock so easily I think if you can see it over rally distance that’s good enough – it’s not going to be a half a second a kilometre quicker than the previous car. The previous Focus was quick enough. It’s going to be difficult to make it quicker.

Q: Petter, you have had your 2004 specification car since the start of the season, and you were quickest in Mexico until you had a problem and you also had difficulties in Monte Carlo and Sweden. Do you think without these problems it could have been you leading the championship?

Petter Solberg: No, no it’s like it is, everyone has problems, it is the same for everybody.

Q: Marcus, it’s the fourth rally for the new Peugeot, what is the best and worst thing about the new car?

Marcus Gronholm: Good thing - engine and the car is convertible. Bad thing – I hope we have solved them.

Q: Are you confident the problems you experienced in Mexico have been solved?

Gilles P: Yes I hope so, in Mexico the down hill was very difficult, so we have worked on that and I think I am confident.

Q: Seb, you’re in the joint lead of the championship with Markko, do you think he is going to be your biggest rival here and for the whole championship?

Sebastian Loeb: I think so, and I’m being a bit kind here but I think Petter and Marcus too. I hope it will be a fight for the victory here. It would be difficult to say who will be the biggest rival for the title, because we have a long way to go. I hope I can fight for the victory, which we won’t know until Sunday.

Q: Markko, do you see Francios Duval beating you at any point this year?

Markko Martin: I think all the factory drivers in the championship are very good drivers and going as quick as they can, and we all try to beat everybody else. I’m sure that is what he is trying to do as well. At the same time, I am trying to beat everybody in the championship and hoping that nobody beats me.

Q: Petter, you are running further down the start order here – do you think that will give you an advantage on the New Zealand roads?

Petter Solberg: Marcus has won the NZ rally from first on the road before, if it is wet it is almost better to be first. Of course it is a bit better further back if it’s completely dry - no doubt at all.

Q: Does this affect your road tactics?

Petter: I have my tactics, and I hope to stick to it but first we’ll see how the rules will be on the rallies because, I must say I’m quite confused with all the rules on the rallies these days. And not just me, I think it’s all the drivers. I am really worried about how the championship will be in the future because of what’s happening now. It seems like they are changing the rules every week. I’m just afraid that rallying will be destroyed in some way because I think it makes it difficult for people to understand. I hope we don’t lose the publicity because the rallying was so very good last year and nobody complained and it just leaves me worried and I hope everyone can all take a look and make decisions that will be good for the sport.

Q: Marcus, do you agree with what Petter says:

Marcus Gronholm: It’s difficult to say really because the rules are changing so much, but I just follow Team instructions. That is the only way now. I think everyone should be very worried if people involved in the sport don’t understand what is happening, how can we expect the public to know what is going on?!

Seb: I agree with what they (Petter & Marcus) say and I think that rallying is complicated enough for some people who aren’t involved in it a lot and I think next year with the new regulations and the points it’s going to make it very difficult to understand who won the rally, who won the first day and although I think there are some new rules which are going the right way, others are not as good and I hope it will not destroy the racing.

Q: Gilles, do you think there are too many rule changes?

Gilles: I completely agree with my colleges.

Q: Marcus, you are just four points off the championship lead. How strong do you think your chances are of coming away from NZ with the lead?

Marcus: Petter says very strong (laughs) he knows he won’t last the distance!

Question From Floor: Do you have a representative for rally drivers with the FIA?

Petter: Markko was the front guy for us last year, and he took the initiative to do it. We hoped that Carlos (Sainz) would do it, as he has the most experience but as yet nothing has happened. But still, Markko was there last year and told them our opinions and still nothing came through. It’s almost better if we don’t say anything because nothing happens anyway. Perhaps next year, the journalists will stay home too and then we’ll just have phone conferences with them and try to explain as best as possible that I came fifth but still have the most points.

Question: It sound like you are saying that changes are being made for changes sake and it’s spoiling the sport.

Petter: Yes, everything was so good last year, the best championship fight for many years. I think for example with this rally that it’s going ok but there are many rules that still haven’t been decided half an hour before recce, and it could go so much easier but they make it more difficult instead. They don’t want us to have the last word I think but its time to say something before they destroy the sport in many areas and we lose fans and spectators.

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Markko Martin
Teams Citroën World Rally Team