RALLY ARGENTINA 2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Pre-event FIA Press Conference 03.27.2008 Present: Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Luis Perez Companc, Munchi's Ford World Rally Team Petter Solberg, Subaru World Rally ...
2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Pre-event FIA Press Conference
Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Luis Perez Companc, Munchi's Ford World Rally Team
Petter Solberg, Subaru World Rally Team
Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Jari Ketomaa, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Mirco Baldacci, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.
Q: Jari-Matti, you come to Argentina on the back of two very strong performances in Sweden - where you picked up your first win -- and Mexico, where you finished third. Can you keep up the consistency and score a podium here?
J-ML: I try. I'm quite confident at the moment. We have two good rallies behind us and we try to keep the same speed, same pace as we had in Mexico. Of course this rally is one of those which I don't have much experience of, but I have the same level of experience here as I had in Mexico. I try to do my best and try to be there and keep the same speed as in Mexico.
Q: What has it been like battling for position with Sebastien (Loeb) and Mikko (Hirvonen); what does it do for your confidence?
J-ML: That's the best part of motor sport. It is when you can really have a fight and you can push hard and you know that you are very close to each other. When you try harder and you can get a couple of seconds faster, that really feels good. It gives you the best feeling in motor sport when you can have good fights.
Q: Do you feel your approach to rallies is any different than it was last year when you were part of a private team?
J-ML: Of course. I'm now more prepared for the rallies because I have been able to test the car more than what I did last year. I have also been trying to do training for the mental area, for my preparation for the rallies, for the concentration because you know last year I lost my concentration on some of the rallies. I went off the road or something. We have been working on that area with the trainer of Marcus Gronholm and he's giving me good advice. So I think my preparation for the rallies is better. Last year I had so many things. I was still working with the family business and was doing two things at the same time so now I just concentrate for the rally. I can be relaxed and be ready to come to the rally. I know this is my job and this is what I can do and I enjoy what I'm doing. It's a much better way to start the rally than ever before.
Q: You will run the same compound tyre here as you did in Mexico. What are the differences between that event and this one in terms of surface and what effects could it have on the performance of the tyre?
J-ML: If it's really raining a lot it can be very difficult to drive in this kind of conditions; we should be able to cut the tyre, even though we have the hard tyre, if we can cut it, it would be easier. At least it's the same for everybody and then it's okay when it's the same with everybody. We just need to drive and concentrate and accept what the conditions are. It doesn't help to blame the tyre. You just need to find a way to drive the car with those tyres.
Q: What is it possible to achieve here in Argentina, are you aiming for another podium?
J-ML: I have been talking to myself to finish in the top three; that is the aim for me. I know winning the rally is difficult and that's not the main target, but it's a bonus if I can do it, let's see how we start.
Q: Sebastien, you have won this event three times in a row so probably start as favourite, just one point behind Hirvonen in the Championship. At this early stage is it important for you to win here?
SL: It's important to win but most important is to be in the lead of the Championship at the end of the season, so at the moment we just try to prepare for the rally. There are a lot of new things year and with the new tyres, hard tyres. It looks like very bad conditions so it will be very tricky and very difficult. We will see. The feeling with the car is okay so we will see tomorrow.
Q: The FIA announced yesterday that the new WRC car will be based on the current Super 2000 and Group N cars, fitted with a supplementary kit. What are your thoughts on the change and do you think it's a good move for the Championship?
SL: For sure Group N cannot take the place of a WRC car because I think it has to be interesting for the spectators, it has to impressive. I think in this case if it can reduce the cost and still have some horsepower and some good cars that permit the drivers to fight and to be impressive for the spectators, in this way, why not? I think at this moment there are only three or four manufacturers in the Championship. It's important to reduce the cost and if everybody thinks it's the right way, for me it's not a problem.
Q: I hear Diego Maradona was your co-driver for part of the morning. Are you a fan of his and what was it like to have him in the car? Did he enjoy the experience?
SL: I am not a fan of football, but everybody knows Maradona. So it was good to have him in the car with me. It was difficult to communicate because he speaks only in Spanish and I don't understand anything in Spanish, so we just try to speak a bit. But I think he had good fun and it was a good moment for him.
Q: You had a test in Spain recently; what came from that?
SL: I think for us it was important to test after Mexico because I was not really happy with the car in Mexico. The handling was good but the first day I couldn't match the speed of Jari-Matti. I wanted to find a solution so we tested new suspension, new springs and okay we found a good compromise and we know it will be better. I think in these conditions it will be important to have good grip so we will see this weekend.
Q: We are four rounds in to the season so far, have you been happy with your performance to this point?
SL: Yes, it's not so bad; we won Monte-Carlo, we won Mexico - it was a difficult fight but it is okay. I wait for this rally to see if we are able to fight for the victory.
Q: Welcome Luis, this is your home event and the first of three WRC events on which you will be competing for the Munchi's team this year. What does it mean to you competing in front of your local fans?
LPC It's a very good feeling and I was waiting for this rally. It's my first rally of this year; my last rally was Wales last year so I have to train a bit before this one, but the people here are very enthusiastic and it's a very fast rally and they support me a lot so it's going to be a very good rally.
Q: Are you disappointed that you only have to time to compete on three events? Could we possibly see you on more?
LPC I would like to do more, but I have my family and my work. Argentina is far away from every round so it's 8-10 days being out of here so that's why I made the decision to do only three rounds. But I've been running for four or five years now and enjoying it a lot.
Q: You have tested for this event, what was it like to be back in the car again and was it a successful test?
LPC Very good; you know is like riding a bicycle and I have 200 kilometres of testing and it was a very good test, so I feel confident for this weekend.
Q: What are your hopes for the Munchi's team this year? This is the team's second year; could we see it as a permanent team within the WRC?
LPC I hope so. Last year we finished very well. This year we started scoring points with both cars in Mexico, so I hope also in Argentina we can do the same. It's going to be difficult but we are confident that the team could do it all year. But we will see, we have very good expectations tomorrow for the team.
Q: Luis, you are going to be competing in the FIA GT Championship I believe this year.
LPC It's a new challenge I'm going through. The next challenge is that I want to compete in Le Mans next year and so I think the training is good in this Championship. It's a different thing; I still like most the rallying but it's much less time to go to each event. It's a nice challenge.
Q: Petter, Subaru is equal second with Citroen in the Manufacturers' Championship going into this event. It has been a good start to the year; how is team morale at the moment?
PS: It's very good. First everybody has been working hard with the new car and not doing so much with this car; we have done some improvements and it's good fun to be up there and Chris (Atkinson) has had some good results which is very important for us.
Q: As the world awaits the new Subaru Impreza you still have to compete with the older version. As testing on the current car has now stopped are you finding it frustrating not being able make major improvements?
PS: Well we try to improve small details and still we also try to improve a little bit for this rally also. The big picture is of course a bit different and we are just focusing on the new car.
Q: Is there anything you can tell us about the current stage of development with the new car?
PS: Markko Martin is testing quite a lot; he is working very hard. It's good to see him work hard again. We will see. We don't know how exactly it is yet. The team is keeping pretty quiet and it looks interesting; I think many people wait for the new car.
Q: The weather forecast for the weekend does not look good, what do you feel will be the main challenges out there this weekend?
PS: I think first for all the drivers is to keep it on the road, because it was quite interesting on the shakedown on the first or second pass. It's just keeping the temperature in the tyres; it is very difficult when it's wet.
Q: If it remains wet with a hard compound tyre will you have to adapt your driving style to compensate?
PS: I think it's the same for everybody; automatically you just have to take it more carefully.
FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Q: Welcome Jari, a great result for you on your opening round in Sweden where you finished in second position, and you have just won the latest round of the Finnish Championship. Is your confidence high coming into Argentina?
JK: Well, yes for sure it is high. But this is my first round so far and it's more different conditions than what I'm used to driving in the Finnish Championship, so now I just have to learn how to survive through these stages and find good places where you can push and places where you have to be safe. I am confident but I know that I have to learn this rally.
Q: You have completed the tough recce schedule, what do think of the stages?
JK: Well, the recce was okay but we need to make all the pace notes because I have never been here before. It was a heavy day but so far it is quite a lot what I expected from the stages, maybe a little bit rougher from what I've seen from the TV and from some in-car movies, but okay.
Q: How did it go at the test on Monday and what changes have you made, if any?
JK: The first round absolutely the car was too soft for these conditions and we needed to make the car stiffer and to make it turn quicker for the turns, because the turns are quite tough and it's not so much fast sections on the road. But, yes, the most changes was for the suspension but I didn't change any springs or something, but just a few clicks and positions and something for the centre diff to make it easier turning.
Q: Mirco, it's your first PWRC round of the season. It's been the first time you've been in a car for four months? Is it going to be difficult to get back in the car?
MB: Yes, I think for me it was not easy to start but I tried the car this morning and for this moment all is okay. We will see, I know this rally, and I hope for a good event.
Q: You were third here back in 2006; can you get on the podium this time around?
MB: Yes, I think this year there are a lot of drivers that are really fast in the Championship and it is not easy to win, but I try. I know the rally and I try for the podium and maybe also a win.
Q: How difficult is it going to be in terms of the weather because this is like Rally GB; the rain is falling and it's going to be very difficult in the stages.
MB: I think my car set-up is very good. I think the problem is the tyres. Okay, it's the same for all drivers but I think the Pirelli tyre for the Production Championship is too hard for this rally, for this condition, but it's the same for all and we will see after the first or second stage.
Q: It's your third year in the PWRC; what do you hope to achieve this year?
MB: I hope for a good season. Last year we were unlucky, some problems, some punctures. I hope for more luck this year. I come back with a Mitsubishi car; I like the Mitsubishi car.
Q: Who do you think your main rivals are going to be this year because there is a strong field in the Championship?
MB: There are a lot of fast drivers, a lot of Finnish drivers. Also he (Jari) is a very fast driver but will see; I try to push and then will see.
Q: It will be the first event for you with the gravel Pirelli tyre; what are thoughts so far?
JK: This morning when it was raining it was unbelievably slippery, it's almost like ice without the spikes so it is very slippery but it is the same for everyone. We cannot do anything. But I think in some cases something needs to be done.
Q: There's a strong field of PWRC drivers here in Argentina, especially with the locals Marcos Ligato and Sebastian Beltran. How difficult will it be to get a good result?
JK: Well, it is difficult for sure. I know Sebastian, I discussed with him this morning and he told me something about the gravel and everything, how the conditions can cause something because they know the stages from living here. So, I know the conditions in Finland. It's the same for everyone when we go around the world and it is part of the Championship. So now we concentrate to find a good rhythm for the driving and maybe not taking care of the times in the beginning of the rally because I really need to find a good rhythm for the driving and hopefully try to keep the car in one piece, because for sure the rocks will be there.
Q: This will be your first rally outside Scandinavia, what have you thought of Argentina so far?
JK: Well, the country is very nice, very beautiful. People are kind and polite, it is very nice to be here and also the rally is a bit different from what I saw on TV, but it's only a little of what I can see. My first feeling was that this was a much quicker rally than it is, but it's actually quite slow. I don't have so much experience in this kind of event but I need to learn and try to get a podium.
Q: Are there any events in particular where you think you can be strong?
MB: For here I think it is very difficult and for me also Greece, Turkey for the Group N car it's not very easy, but they're rallies I know so we will see.
Q: The water splashes here in Argentina are legendary and will no doubt be big after the rain we are having. How much of a problem can they cause and what is the best way to tackle them?
MB: The last year I always had a problem in the water splashes in the Group N car; it's not easy but okay this year the stages change, so I think there won't be that many water splashes, but I think it's not easy here.
Q: Mitsubishi put on a strong display in Sweden, collecting five of the top eight positions. Could it be as strong a display here?
MB: I think the Group N Mitsubishi and Subaru are similar, they are very strong cars and also for this rally it is a good car.