Cordoba-Villa Carlos Paz
Mikko Hirvonen, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sebastien Ogier, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Federico Villagra, Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team
Matthew Wilson, Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Q: Mikko, second in the Championship and we come to Argentina, a rally which you have never won before. Could you possibly take a win here this weekend?
MH: Well, that’s the aim, but we’ll see what happens. For sure it has been a very close fight with the Citroen boys and with Jari-Matti (Latvala) and Petter (Solberg) as well, everything needs to really work out the best if we want to win the rally. We have a good pace, but you never know.
Everything needs to really work out the best if we want to win the rally. We have a good pace, but you never know.
Q: There have been some changes to the route this year, with a very long stage on Sunday morning. Also, we have stages which include tarmac, with El Condor with the biggest tarmac section at the end of the stage. Are these changes for the better do you think?
MH: Well, I don’t know. I’m not the biggest fan of the tarmac sections, especially in this rally. I know there are so many really nice gravel stages around and now we are not using them. I would rather use those nice stages than go to tarmac sections. Some of the tarmac sections are very, very fast. It is not going to be the most enjoyable to go out there with used tyres and with gravel set-up but I am sure it is still going to work out.
Q: You mentioned the tarmac sections are very fast. What kind of tarmac do we have? Is it smooth, is it bumpy? What is it like?
MH: Fast! It is very wide, very smooth, maybe a little bit slippery in places, but very wide and fast and with a lot of crests. It was very difficult to get the pace notes, as we had traffic all the time (during the recce) and you just cannot check your lines properly, you have to be careful.
Q: We saw you win in Sweden, and after that pick up points along the way with some extra ones for winning the Power Stages, but not any other wins since the Swedish event. How could that influence your Championship hopes?
MH: For sure it would help to win rallies. We are close and I think it is a matter of time, although you never know when that is going to happen. We are going to try to win here, as well. I am happy to have scored points and we should keep on doing that because that is the best way to remain in the Championship fight and forget the pressure.
Q: Tell us about the testing you have been doing in Sardinia on tarmac with gravel tyres. What did you learn from that?
MH: It was very good to try that in this new car, a gravel set-up and tyres driving on tarmac. We did not really do many changes to the gravel set-up because here we start the mixed stage on gravel and then move to asphalt. It is one of those things you need to get used to, but at the moment I am feeling more comfortable with the Fiesta on tarmac than I did with the Focus, so hopefully that will pay off during the weekend and we should get a good result on tarmac as well.
Q: Are you happy with the way things are going for you this season?
MH: Yes, I am. Even though we haven’t driven the car too much on gravel yet, but I am pleased with our pace.
Q: Sebastien, what do you think about the tarmac sections of the stages. Mikko says there are other nicer stages here on gravel. What do you think of the tarmac sections; are you liking them?
SO: No, I am not the best fan of these sections. It is so fast, so wide and during the recce the road was open so it is very difficult to estimate the proper rally notes. I think it will be a difficult part of the rally and at the end of the loop we will have destroyed tyres and I think it will be tricky on this part.
Q: Talk to me about the Road Show in Buenos Aires because we saw the Citroens there and with you and Sebastien Loeb showing all its glory in the centre of Buenos Aires. What was that like as an experience?
SO: It was nice, there were a lot of fans of motor sport, and especially the rally and it was a very nice show in the centre of the city, especially because we also had live TV.
Q: Looking back to Italy which was just a couple of weeks ago, you didn’t really find a good rhythm in the rally; you didn’t seem to be on form at all. Are you feeling you can be more on form here in Argentina?
SO: Yes, I think we will be better. Italy was not my favourite rally. I knew it before the start and I tried to do my best. But I was not so confident and I preferred to take it a bit easier and at the end I was not able to finish on the podium but I scored points and now I am still in the fight for the Championship. Here the goal is to try to fight for the victory and score more points.
Q: Did you do a similar gravel/tarmac test?
SO: Yes, we did a small test, too, just to try to get a feeling, see how the gravel tyres do on tarmac. We saw they wore out very quickly. I hope we have a good drive on tarmac at the end of the loop so we will finish with safe tyres and make it until the finish.
Q: Did you have any problem at all this morning in the Shakedown stage?
SO: No, that was okay. The car was good and feeling not so bad.
Q: Federico, you come to this event on the back of winning a round of the Argentinean Championship last weekend. Is that a good confidence boost?
FV: Yes, of course it gives you some confidence. It was good to win here with a new car. We are very happy being here, it is our home event. We are looking forward to finding our best result of the season in Argentina. We hope everything goes okay.
Q: From the drives here, you are probably the one who appreciates the most the fact that WRC has returned to Argentina.
FV: Yes, I can see it from all the people around here and also today in the shakedown, I think the fans really wanted to see WRC cars again here. It is really good to have them back. The people will like it.
Q: You said you are trying to get the best result of the season here, but we have never seen you on the podium in Argentina. Is there a possibility?
FV: Yes, possibilities are always there, but I’ll need some help, but the chance is there.
Q: Tell me what you think about the stages this year, the changes in the route, especially that long stage we have on Sunday. Is it an early morning wake-up call for you?
FV: Yes, it is a really long stage. I think it’s going to be good, it’s in really good condition right now. With only one pass through that stage it will be okay. So, I think we are going to enjoy driving that stage.
Q: Tell us about the weather conditions because you have had a really dry summer time in Argentina. What are the conditions like on the stages?
FV: Some of the stages show there has been a lot of work, but others, as it has been dry, might be really bad in the second pass, I think. I don’t think it is going to rain, so the conditions overall could be hard.
Q: Being a local driver, do you want a good result or to make a good show for the spectators? How much can you balance getting a good result and making a flamboyant drive for the people watching?
FV: I will try to push as much as I can. I think that is the best show I can do for the people here without making mistakes.
Q: Matthew, we know all the drivers like to stay in peak fitness for the events, maybe you more than others - you just completed an 81-mile bike challenge. Are you feeling really fit, ready to go?
MW: Yes, but just the same as for any rally, we are really looking forward to this rally. I can say that is something I enjoy doing now; it is part of my programme. I enjoy it and it is easy. But now our preparation has been really good for here. As Sebastien said, this is a nicer rally than Italy and I feel more confident. We have some good memories from the past, so hopefully it is going to be a good weekend.
Q: You have competed here many times and scooped you first-ever stage win here back in 2006.
MW: It hasn’t been so good since then and we had a few difficulties here, but in general we have good memories.
Q: What are the main challenges out there this weekend?
MW: I think everyone has spoken about it, these tarmac sections are going be quite difficult, not so much on Saturday morning, as I think it is more technical, a little bit twisty, not as quick, but I think the one after El Condor is going to be very, very difficult. And the same thing with the pace notes. We had to make them on the recce with this traffic. Generally, the gravel stages are in really good condition and especially the long stage on Sunday which should be perfect with one pass. And it is nice to be back down at the stages in the south as well because they are very nice stages.
Q: You have picked up two fifth positions this year. What’s the plan for Argentina? How much can you challenge here?
MW: More of the same I think. Sardinia was a bad rally, one to forget, we had many brake problems. Things were tough on the first day and a half. We would like to be back to what we were doing in Jordan and Portugal, and if we could do that, I would be happy.
Q: There was some talk at the start of the year that funding may not be in place for the full season, what's the position for that now? †
MW: Our plans go up until Greece so we know definitely we'll be in Greece,†which takes us to the middle of the year break if you like, and then we're now working quite hard to get the second half of the year in place and sorted and we are looking at things for next year as well, a few options which look quite good. But at the minute for this second half of the year we don't have anything in place but we're trying very hard to get it sorted.
Q: Results I guess, will help with that?
MW: Yes, definitely. That's why we need to try and get two good results now before we break for the summer, and if we can do that it definitely helps the situation going forward and trying to get the people on board for the second part of the year, so hopefully it goes okay and we can try and still be here for the second half.
FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Nicholas Fuchs, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Benito Guerra, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Q: Nicol·s, it’s your first full season in the PWRC; the first round in Sweden you did very well, third position, Portugal, not so great: how’s the whole PWRC experience been so far and what do you think of Argentina? NF: I like the Argentina PWRC round, it’s my second time in Argentina and I’m very happy. It’s very difficult for all the drivers. It’s a very broad road, and this year more than other years. It’s a very difficult race, I will try to finish the race.
Q: We saw you here in 2009, you were fourth overall in PWRC then. Do you think you can better than fourth this time?
NF: I don’t know. It’s very difficult this year.
Q: As you say, it’s very difficult and the stages have changed, we also have some tarmac sections on the roads, what are they like?
NF: It’s very difficult, with the tyres; it’s a very soft compound and the tyres broke a lot in the first stage and in tarmac I don’t know what will happen.
It’s a different race. PWRC, from a national championship. PWRC has long stages and it’s a long race in a Championship. In national championship events you push, push, push but in the PWRC no, you push, you break the car. I think I finish all the rallies all the time.
Q: So how did the recce go for you? Are you happy?
NF: Yes, I’m happy. In 2009 I drove different stages than this year; there are five stages new for me.
Q: There was a big PWRC test on Monday and you took part on that test, are you happy with the settings of the car; was the test good?
NF: Yes. It’s a very different stage, the Monday test to the race, no?
Q: You are four times Peruvian Champion. A lot of people are saying that maybe you might have an advantage here… what are your hopes?
NF: It’s a different race. PWRC, from a national championship. PWRC has long stages and it’s a long race in a Championship. In national championship events you push, push, push but in the PWRC no, you push, you break the car. I think I finish all the rallies all the time.
Q: Benito, also your first full season in the PWRC this year, how’s that been going for you?
BG: Fine and I think the PWRC is good for all the drivers to start in the WRC. This is my first opportunity, my first chance to be here in the PWRC. It’s my second time in Argentina so I will try to make it better than in 2007. And I like it a lot; I think it’s the perfect Championship for all the drivers to become the new stars of the WRC.
Q: Nicol·s mentioned that it’s a little bit different here this year. He talked about tarmac, so for you, how difficult is that being on the gravel set-up with the gravel tyres as you head into the tarmac sections.† How difficult is that going to be especially in a Group N car?
BG: I think it’s very difficult, we are using a very soft compound for all the rally so I think the tarmac sections are going to destroy our tyres. It’s going to be very difficult to get to the last part of the stage with the car handling and the car braking as they should be. I think the longest stage with the tarmac section is like 20 kilometres of tarmac and it’s very hard for the Group N cars and for all the cars because it’s a gravel setting and it’s very difficult for us to keep the car on the road.
Q: You didn’t test on Monday, so how did the shakedown go this morning? Are you happy with the set-up that you got for your car?
BG: Yes, I’m very happy, we have changed the car from Portugal to Argentina, the last rally we used an Evo X, this time we are using an Evo IX. We had problems with the transmission with a noise, we got back to the service and then we got one pass for the shakedown. It was okay, the time was not so bad and I think the car is very well for me. I’m going to try to change some settings in the first part of the rally tomorrow morning and I think we are ready to start.
Q: You said you wanted to get a better result than the last time you were here in 2007. What’s the aim for this weekend? Can you challenge for the win?
BG: Okay, our first goal is to complete the rally, to end the rally; and the second goal is to be on the podium and I think we can do it. In Portugal we were in second place before we had a broken turbo and I think we can do a podium if we get all the car complete in all the days without being in SupeRally.
Q: The weather here in Argentina is particularly dry, what are the condition of the stages? Is there any water left in the water splashes?
BG: No, there’s no more water in the water splashes. I remember because in 2007 I crashed because of a water splash and this year it is very, very dry so we have to be very fast in the zones that are drier than other years. But I think it’s a very good rally, I remember Argentina with a lot of water and this time is completely different but I think we are going to do a great race.
Q: What about your hopes for the season? It’s your debut in the PWRC. What are you looking for? Is it possible to challenge for the title or is there too much strong competition?
BG: I think my first year has to be for learning, it’s very different to be racing in national championships like in Mexico or Spain and being in a three-day rally; it’s completely different.† My first year I have to be finishing the rallies, to know all of them, to compete in all the stages of the PWRC so next year I can be fighting for the title. I think this year we have to be in the top five, or three if we are doing well, but my dream is to be the PWRC champion but I think it will be next year.