Rally Argentina: Post-event press conference

RALLY ARGENTINA Post event FIA Press Conference 26 April 2009 Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Marc Marti, ...

Post event FIA Press Conference
26 April 2009

1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Marc Marti, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Henning Solberg, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
3rd - Cato Menkerud, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Team Principal, Citroen Total World Rally Team

Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.

Q: Seb, this is your fifth Rally Argentina victory in a row and your fifth victory of the season; yet another great event for you.

SL: Yes, it has been a great weekend for us; no problem with the car and it has been a very difficult rally for the cars, it was very rough in some stages, especially the second pass. The stages were really tricky, and it was very easy to make some mistakes. We had some moments in the fight on the first and second day but finally no problem, no mistakes and we are here. But it was not so easy.

Q: Let's talk about the first day, because we had a battle between four drivers. We saw four different drivers taking the lead of the rally. What was it like for you participating in it?

SL: Of course it was very exciting, when you're fighting you are driving as fast as you can or fighting one second or half a second, it is very exciting and you have to give everything you can and that's not easy, but it's really good when it is like this.

Q: At the end of Day 1 you were in third position overall, sixteen seconds behind the lead. By the third stage on the second day you were leading. How much were you pushing on the second day to get that lead?

SL: The same as in the first day, but the road conditions were not the same. The first day was completely dry so I had to clean (the road). I couldn't do better than what I had done and the second day was going better in the Mina Clavero stage, it's very twisty, very long. Finally I was in a good rhythm with the stage and I had to concentrate to be flat out from the start to the end, and we've done a really good time so we took the lead. After that second pass Mikko had some trouble and then it was a bit different, we had a good lead and that was something else. We didn't have to push too much.

Q: A shame the fight was over from our perspective but for you it was a good thing I suppose.

SL: No! It was the same as for you. I was happy to fight with him (Hirvonen). I think he didn't deserve that, it was a good fight. It was very tight in the start of the rally because he's doing very well since the start of the Championship. I beat him every time and it was always a good fight and now he lost the points. It's a problem but it is motorsport.

Q: Will your strategy change at all for the events that follow, now that you have such a big lead in the Drivers' Championship, or is it business as normal?

SL: No, I will not change anything; I will just try to prepare as well as possible each time. So it will be the same for the next one. I don't think of the Championship or to the record of the 12th victory (this season) that everyone is speaking about. I just have to prepare for Sardegna and that's it.

Q: Daniel, you've won this event five times in a row, how does this win compare to other wins in Argentina?

DE: It's a new record for us because it is five consecutive wins in Argentina. It is a very good win; as Sebastien said the most important is the fight with the others and when Mikko retired yesterday it is very bad for us because he pushed the fight.

Q: And what about the fight for the season as well Daniel because it's now Dani (Sordo) who is second in the Championship and you're 19 points ahead of him and 20 points ahead of Mikko. Do you think the Drivers' Championship is now finished?

DE: No, it's never finished. It is mechanical sport, it's a human sport. It's possible to make a mistake, it's never finished.

Q: Dani, second position, a great result here in Argentina which leads you to second overall in the Championship as well. It's been a fantastic weekend for you. Did you enjoy it out there?

DS: Yes, it's a very good result for me and for Citroen. I'm now second in the WRC. I'm really happy, also for my performance.

Q: The opening day for you was fantastic. Were you pleased with your pace on that day?

DS: Yes, of course really happy but also first in the road is better. The road is clean and after that the second day is was not the same story. The road was really difficult, I lost a lot of time in Mina Clavero and El Condor but it's okay.

Q: Dani, we've seen great pace from you in Argentina and a great pace in Portugal as well. Do you think you are at the point where you can challenge for your first win on gravel?

DS: I will try. I will continue to try to go faster and faster but the next rally is not my favourite, it's really slippery, but I will try of course to continue to push a little more.

Q: You were leading at the end of Day 1 and that put you first on the road on Day 2. At any point during this weekend did you think you could win this event?

MM: Yes a little bit, of course. The stages at the beginning were very fast but for the second day we expected more rain and in the end it was not like this and we cleaned a little bit the road. We are continuing our job with Dani, he's still young and we need to continue in this job.

Q: Henning third position overall -- it's been quite a while since we have seen you on the podium. How does it feel?

HS: It feels very good. It's a long time but this weekend we had a bit of luck because people retired in front of us. Actually I broke the gearbox on Friday; I don't know why I couldn't be as fast as I could because it was fast roads. I knew on Saturday I would be struggling on these slow stages, that was a problem for me. I have to say after the whole weekend I think I have learnt a lot of this rally, especially with the car and I hope I can go much faster in Sardegna. So, for this rally I changed some things in my suspension, I went back to my old suspension from 2007 so I will keep that and next time I will do some more changes and I will see if I can go even faster.

Q: Do you think you could be up to the point where you can compete against the guys in front of you without them retiring?

HS: I hope so and you can see that in these very fast roads I have been as fast as these Citroens but I have some problems in the slow, twisty, narrow stages. I think maybe I have to concentrate to get the car as fast as possible for my driving style on these twisty roads. I will go home and have a meeting with Malcolm (Wilson) and see if we can do some changes before Sardegna.

Q: Dani's moved up in the standings, you've also moved up in the Drivers' standings into fourth overall and crucially for you ahead of Petter, your brother.

HS: But yeah, this is how it should be; big brothers should be first and little brother behind. That's how it should stay the whole year!

Q: You told me you'd changed your set-up back to the one you had in 2007 and felt confident. We have many gravel rallies lying ahead so you must be feeling good about the forthcoming events.

HS: I have to say it is a lot of gravel this year so it's better than the tarmac. I think I have a good chance this year if I can get some more testing and if I could have something to say about my set-up. I know how I want it, but it is not so easy, every time to get exactly what you want. In Portugal it was very very bad. So this rally was a good step, and I hope I will get a better step in Sardegna.

Q: Congratulations on third position overall. It is fourth in the Championship; can you hold on to that fourth position?

CM: We hope so. If we can stay there we'll be very glad for this year but still there are many rallies to go. And so anything can happen. Of course if we can keep Petter behind the whole year that would be a good Christmas dinner I think!

Q: As Henning said, it's been a while since you've been on the podium. Has it been frustrating not being able to be quite there?

CM: Our feeling should be that we must be on the podium, but we had some mechanical problems and we made some small mistakes also. So it's good to come on the podium and we go back tomorrow and say that at least we had a podium this year.

Q: It is a Citroen one-two, maximum points in this event and you are now in the lead in the Manufacturers' Championship by 39 points. It's a huge amount. Do you feel Ford won't be able to catch you more?

OQ: It's true, as Daniel said, you never know but it's true it's really comfortable for us but for the next events we will still race as we did since the beginning, so I'm confident it will still be a good battle with Ford. Obviously we have a comfortable advance (lead) but I don't know what will happen at the end.

Q: Everything is looking well in the Citroen Rally Team, but let's talk of the Citroen Junior Team. Sebastien Ogier had a problem at the start of the final stage, in the super special - what went wrong?

OQ: I think he had a problem with the clutch but I don't know exactly what happened because we were in charge of Seb and Dani. I know he finished the rally but I don't know what happened exactly.


1st Michal Kosciuzko
1st Maciek Szczepaniak

Q: Michal, this is your second win of the season in the Junior World Rally Championship. It propels you into the lead of the series now but you've come here with no experience of Argentina before. Did you think you would be able to take a win here?

MK: Yes, that's right. This is our first Argentina Rally. We had no experience here but we thought our speed was enough to fight for winning in the JWRC. We had technical problems on Friday, we had a SupeRally, so I didn't expect to win this rally. But we pushed a little bit and our opponents also had technical problems so it was possible to get back on the leaders.

Q: Only three Junior drivers here, of course, but all three of you had SupeRally this weekend. What were the problems you had?

MK: We had a broken steering arm, we couldn't continue, we tried to repair it on the stage but it took too much time and there was no point to do it. We retired and were back on Saturday, we pushed a little bit and won eight stages, so that was good.

Q: Has it been tougher here in Argentina than you expected?

MK: Yes, for sure. It was tougher than I thought it would be. We couldn't drive 100% because we had to take care of the car. Some of the stages are quite similar to the Poland Rally, that was last year, so I could speed up a little bit but this was a really nice rally and the spectators were really amazing, a lot of them, and they were excited as well.

Q: Maciek, Michal mentioned the problems. Did you imagine that you'd be able to go on and win after going into SupeRally?

MS: Yes, I've been in the rally so long that I know that everything is possible. Of course, Friday afternoon, late at night, we came from the last stage at 1am; winning seemed to be very very far away. But of course we tried to put some pressure on Alessandro (Bettega), and we pushed on Saturday. It seems that he tried to push us and he got some problems. So then we were able to fight till the end of the last stage. In every rally, everything is possible until the end of the last stage. So, it was exactly the same here.

Q: All the drivers have told me how rough it is. From the WRC drivers, PWRC drivers, but it must have been tough in a 1600cc car?

MS: Yes, that's true. Sometimes we talked to Sebastien Ogier. In a WRC car you can go really flat out because they are almost unbreakable, but as you can see it's possible to break a WRC car on these stages. But in our small yellow car, you really have to think about the car. Not only to keep the throttle full.

Q: Michal, you moved into the lead in the Juniors. You've been fighting with just three drivers here. When we get to Italy it's going to be a different matter, are you looking forward to an old fashion fight?

MK: Of course I am looking forward for Sardegna Rally, we won there last year after an amazing fight with Martin Prokop; this year will be similar. It won't be easy because Martin is fast now as you can see and the other drivers are speeding up a little bit. They drive very fast. We will have a tough fight there but we are ready to take the chance and try to fight.

Q: It makes things in the Championship look very good for you, doesn't it?

MK: Yes, we are leading by 10 points but Martin (Prokop) has one rally still to go, so we can count it to be equal, so the fight will be on in Sardegna, Poland and Finland, so it will be a really interesting Championship.


1st Nasser Al-Attiyah
1st Giovanni Bernacchini

Q: Nasser, let's start with you because it's been quite some time since we've seen you on the top step of the podium. 2006 was the last time you won a PWRC event. It must feel good to be here on top now.

NA: Yes, actually. You know, I feel great and I am really happy about this win here in Argentina and the team was working very hard for this win. Yes, I am really happy and also I say a thank you to Giovanni because he helped me a lot. And when we came here to Argentina we had this feeling, you know, for a win, and it was fantastic.

Q: Some dramas on Friday? What happened?

NA: Actually, on Friday we had a few problems, you know, with the steering. And it's not quite safe for when we push. That was a danger. But I hope to fix this problem for the next race. We didn't push a lot, we saved the car and it was a great win.

Q: As you say, it's all about preserving the car here. And you've won twice in the past, so you know what it takes to win this event.

NA: Yes. But you know, it was not easy. I am really so happy.

Q: Giovanni, it's your first win alongside Nasser in the PWRC. Is it a good feeling?

GB: The feeling is fantastic. Yes, it was our first victory and our first rally together. It's like we've run together for a lot of years. The feeling is perfect and since we arrive here in Argentina our goal was to do our best, but of course, to win, and we did it. We are very, very happy. My feeling with Nasser is perfect so I think we can keep going like this in the future.

Q: Nasser, you moved into second in the Championship in PWRC, an important win here in Argentina, but there are so many strong drivers competing for the title this year. It seems it is going to be a good fight to the finish.

NA: Actually, when we started from Cyprus, we showed our speed. But we got some problems in Portugal, we were leading from the beginning we had also problems. This year it will be very tough, not easy because most of the drivers are strong. Now there are four drivers very close in the Championship, but you know, we have still three rallies and it will be good for us in Sardegna and the Acropolis. You know, it's our fifth rally and we'll try to do a good job in the next two races and then we will see what happens.

Q: You have claimed the title before; how much do you want to claim it this year?

NA: A lot, and really. We started this year and we want to win the PWRC like in 2006.

-credit: fia

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Sébastien Loeb , Daniel Elena , Marc Marti , Nasser Al-Attiyah , Henning Solberg , Cato Menkerud , Giovanni Bernacchini , Martin Prokop , Maciek Szczepaniak , Sébastien Ogier , Olivier Quesnel
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport