Rally Argentina: Post-event press conference

1st Sebastien Leob – Daniel Elena – Citroen 2nd Marcus Gronholm – Timo Rautiainen – Peugeot 3rd Petter Solberg – Phil Mills– Subaru 1st Manufacrturer: Guy Frequelin, team principal Citroen Q: Seb, you continue to break records. How...

1st Sebastien Leob – Daniel Elena – Citroen
2nd Marcus Gronholm – Timo Rautiainen – Peugeot
3rd Petter Solberg – Phil Mills– Subaru
1st Manufacrturer: Guy Frequelin, team principal Citroen

Q: Seb, you continue to break records. How much of a surprise is your performance to you this year? You also broke another record, seven rallies in one season – how much does that mean to you?

SL: Sure, we couldn’t expect so much at the start of the season. To be leading and to win six rallies in a row is incredible. For me and for Citroen. Everything is working perfectly for all six rallies. The feeling is very good, I try to do my best. Here it is a difficult fight, but we finished with a victory, which is nice. Yes, the seven wins, I’m happy to have them, also six in a row – but what to say? The most important for me is the championship, but also it’s a great pleasure to break a record. Didier Auriol held this record for more than 10 years and now we broke it. It’s a record for me, but also for all the team who give me a perfect car – which is why it is going so well this year.

Q: But you had a big scare on the first leg when you hit a bull. How close did that come to causing an accident?

SL: A big accident… no. But when you hit a bull you can easily break everything on the car, when I saw it not moving I tried to pass on the left, but I hit the head. I went off the road and over some big rocks – I was a bit lucky for that.

Q: Daniel, what was the first that you knew about the bull?

DE: The first, it’s okay, we go out of the road, hit a stone and it’s not easy. It was the first time I hear Seb saying: “Oh shit, it’s moving, oooohh, it’s a bull.” In my head I remember Tommi hitting a bull in Corsica and going 80 metres off the road. We hit it and the car went off the road and we okay. I’m not going to be a vegetarian. I love the bull.

Q: Bull or not, Sebastien keeps on getting the results. How good did you think his chances of winning here were before the event? Does anything surprise you about him any more?

GF: It’s too difficult to say. What we can expect? It’s like this is in every rally, the automobile sport is very difficult. It’s impossible to say we can win this rally. It’s many things that can happen in a rally like this. For sure everybody expects to win, so it’s impossible to say we can win. I am very happy and for sure we have the fantastic driver and co-driver and also a good car and team. We try to do our best in every rally and it’s working well for the moment. We hope it will continue.

Q: Marcus, you struggled a bit on the first day, but then on the second day you had fantastic pace. What changed? How much did you have to fight with the car?

MG: The second day it was complete different. The roads were much faster and wider, which suits our car much better. There was constant grip all of the time, which was much better for me. I don’t know how much I fight with the car, but it’s not so easy when it’s muddy. I was not so confident as before, but okay we are second. It’s okay, not perfect, it could be better.

Q: Timo, what were the particular problems that prevented you from challenging Sebastien on the opening day? Do you think this is the most competitive the car has been all year?

TR: We have done good rallies before this also. I hope this is not the last good rally of the season. I hope we can do better. When we were on the faster, wider roads, we were closer to Sebastien. I’m not saying we would be faster, but at least we could match his speed. If you look at the coming rallies, the next one could be even more even fight between these three guys, let’s hope that one day still this year we will beat him.

Q: Petter, a tight battle with Marcus: why did he win it? Without your brake problems on the second day, could you have challenged for victory?

PS: Good question. Obviously we try hard all the time. The first day things worked very well for us. We have to slow down a lot for the watersplash, but we didn’t want to make the same mistake as last year. Yesterday we broke the rear link when I went into a bank. I dropped six or seven seconds, my own fault. Then we lost brakes in the first stage after service. The calliper broke, started to leak and we had zero brakes. It’s not so easy to fight Marcus like that. That’s too bad, it could have been good fight. The team has done a good job and the Pirellis have worked well here, but still we have a long way to go. You never know, if we could have fought for the win. We go into every rally to try and win, but Sebastien is doing a fantastic job, that’s what we have to work with. You’re always hoping, I was at least hoping to have a fight with him. We have to wait for the next rally.

Q: The in-car footage showed yourself and Petter slowing down notably for the watersplashes which characterise this event. How much of an issue was it for you?

PM: Well obviously there is a time loss when you do that. We were a bit nervous about what could happen. Ten kph more or less, we didn’t know what the time loss there might have been – but you can account for few seconds there. Then we had the freak stone in the brake calliper accounting for the time yesterday. And that was a freak thing.

Q: How difficult was this victory to achieve, compared to all your other wins this year? It certainly seemed that you had to work hard for it. Was it the most difficult one?

SL: Yes, sure, it was the most difficult to obtain this year. Marcus and Petter were pushing very hard from behind. I had to drive on the limit in difficult conditions: yesterday mud, today ice and snow. It was never easy, a lot of the time I was close to a mistake, but it was okay. I try to push very hard, but it was difficult to win this rally.

Q: You were able to win most of the stages on the first day, but it was more difficult on day two. Why was this?

DE: I know Marcus is very fast in the leg two stages, very fast. I remember last year we try to push to win down there, when we were with Carlos and Gronholm takes the fastest time. For us, it’s only the second time in these stages. They’re not easy, there’s a lot of jumps. This time, for the second time, the gap was not bad. Next year I try to win this stages.

MG: We have no car for next year. It’s open.

Q: Did you think you had a chance of victory here, or did you think your best chance was to finish second?

MG: Okay, I was dreaming about this. It was quite clear from the start it would be difficult. So…

Q: In the past you’ve struggled to adapt the car to the tyres; were these cooler and damper conditions more favourable? This is one of four events where the teams have to pick just one tyre pattern – what is your opinion about that rule. Does it make life more difficult?

TR: The tyres were working very well, like Petter said before. And we did not make any mistakes when we chose tyres for the stages. Wearing was okay, they were worn out a little bit when we came back – that showed there was grip. No problem with the tyres, they worked well.

Q: The next rally is Finland, which was the scene of your first and so far only victory with the 307WRC. How good do you think will be your chances of repeating it? Do you think that your main rivals will be any stronger than they were last year?

MG: I don’t know. I don’t know. Say Sebastien is favourite – no pressure for me.

TR: Seven in a row.

Q: Everybody seemed closer to Sebastien here than they have been on many events in the past. Is this a sign of a distinct change in the balance of power this season, or is it just because of the unusual and different conditions of this rally?

PS: It’s a different rally, different surface. All rain, wet, muddy, hopefully it will be the same next rally – it’s hard to say.

Q: There was a possibility of snow today – would that have helped you over the course of the last day, with El Condor and Giulio Cesare? How about the new service park?

PM: Quite possibly. If we’d had snow it would have been a different story altogether. Mina Clavero was very rough. Okay, we only had one pass this year and we were only the 12th car on the road, but still it was very difficult. Very on the limit of use. Mina Clavero was full of ice anyway, we weren’t taking any chances. When you only have millimetres to play with, you can’t do that. If it had of snowed it might possibly have been different. You never know.

Q: Mr Frequelin, a word please about Francois Duval, who returned to Citroen here after a break of two rallies. Did he perform as you expected him to? Last year he was third, on the podium, but this time he was seventh. Were you hoping to see more speed from him or not?

GF: I ask to Francois to drive to make sure that he didn’t do a mistake. It’s important to score points. In this condition our World Rally Car is very difficult to drive at 80 or 95 per cent. For me it’s a very good result after two months of not driving. It’s coming slowly - the confidence in the car and I think he will do better in the future. But for sure I know in Finland it will be very difficult for him, he has not big experience from Finland and also from our car. I will give him the same words in Finland and then we will see after in Germany.

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team