Rally Australia: Pre-event press conference (part 1)

FIA World Rally Championship 2004 Rally Australia FIA Pre-Event Press Conference 11.11.2004 MC: John Desborough Present: Guy Frequelin, Citroen Malcolm Wilson, Ford Marcus Gronholm, Peugeot Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Markko Martin, Ford Petter ...

FIA World Rally Championship
2004 Rally Australia
FIA Pre-Event Press Conference

MC: John Desborough

Guy Frequelin, Citroen
Malcolm Wilson, Ford
Marcus Gronholm, Peugeot
Sebastien Loeb, Citroen
Markko Martin, Ford
Petter Solberg, Subaru

JD: Let's talk, to start with, with Guy Frequelin, who is the chief the Citroen sport team, and the announcement last Thursday that at the end of 2005, Citroen aren't going to be rallying anymore. Why?

GF: Why? I don't know, but Mr Folz knows that he makes this decision because the automobile market is very difficult for the moment and probably for the future also and we need to accept his decision.

JD: What was your reaction Guy when you heard the news? You must have been distraught.

GF: For sure, I am very sad and very disappointed for Sebastien and Daniel all the team because Carlos is stopping for next year but for Sebastien and Daniel and all the team it is for sure very difficult because they did a very, very good job and altogether for sure. Also Carlos and Marc, but it is more difficult and for sure it is harder for the team and for Sebastien and Daniel and it is very difficult to have this situation.

JD: It seems strange that we saw Citroen win the WRC manufacturers title in the very first year and in the fourth season and then this year you win the manufactures title again and there's a great celebration for the team and for Sebastien when you won the title in Corsica and yet after just two years, we now know its all coming to an end. Do you wonder what happened? Why is this happening?

GF: I don't know why they decided to announce this decision so early in the year and I don't know why they don't wait for the complete season and for sure we are very good altogether with the drivers and all the team but I told you before we need to accept it is a decision from the boss of the group PSA and its like this, it's a bad moment for everybody and also for the rally because it is very difficult for the Rally to have two pull out like this but the rally is disciplined and very strong and I hope the rally continues without PSA.

JD: Is there any way that you can persuade your boss at PSA that Citroen should stay? Have you tried to convince PSA that this should carry on?

GF: You know, when a decision like this is told by the President like Mr Folz I think it's difficult to challenge but for sure we will try to do our best next season and to have the best result for the driver title and the manufacturer title but it is difficult with a decision like this to have a very big motivation with the team and its very hard work to do the job when you know that you continue for a few years but when you know that you will stop in one year for sure, it is difficult but okay, its my job and I just hope that I can do it the best I can.

JD: Just finally Guy, what happens to the new car that you were planning to bring out I think towards the end of next year and then compete with in 2004? What happens to that now?

GF: It is too early to say for the moment, I don't know which decision we can take about the C4. For sure it is very important to be competitive next year and for sure it is important for C4 to compete with other manufacturers but I do not know for the moment if it is possible to develop for the car. It is not decided for the moment, not yet.

JD: Guy, thank you. Malcolm let me move onto you if I can. There seems to be contrast of intentions between yourself and Guy in that he is going to have to say goodbye to all of this in a year's time and yet you are now committed with Ford for another four years.

GF: Just a moment, I am very happy for Malcolm and for his team and for the Rally.

MW: Thank you Guy, thank you very much and I am sorry for you. Yeah it is fair to say that it has been two years for us really because we were in this position last year and we didn't even know whether we'd be competing this year and I think that most people knew that it must have been a pretty desperate situation when I returned back from Japan because it is the first Rally that I've missed since we took on the contract and I think it is fair to say that in view of what happened with Jaguar , the writing was certainly on the wall for the World Rally program as well. After coming back from Japan I got the chance to meet with the President and I think I could see that there was a desire, there was a will that they wanted to stay in the World Rally Championship. It was a case then of trying to find a solution then that would suit Ford and would suit M Sport. I had a lot of help from a lot of people in trying to review the whole status of the World Championship and help from ISC in terms of where the TV is, where it's going and what the future is for it and basically we made a very good business case and a viable proposition so as that Ford could continue and I mean it wasn't just all those aspects but it was a lot of those aspects of the business we will take on now, we will take on the merchandising rights and things like that. So basically we found a business case that works for both Ford and for M Sport to put us in a position where we are now for a four year contract.

JD: It sounds like you need to give a copy of that business case to Guy to take back to PSA to say now hang on, if this is what Ford see in the WRC, can we not do the same?

MW: If I had to give Guy that it would cost him half his budget.

JD: Which means you'd probably both be rallying on the same amount of money next year from what I understand.

MW: Well that'd be great.

JD: Are you a great Salesman then Malcolm, is that was happened? I mean was it really touch and go before the confirmation?

MW: There's no question. I mean when we were in Japan it was all over and that is a question I've been asked by many, many people -- how did we manage to put it together? As I say, I think once I got to see the President there was a desire and it was just a case of them trying to find a solution. It is fair to say, the first proposal I went back with I didn't get the green light so I had to go away again and we ended up coming up with a package that suits both parties.

JD: Which makes your team in demand because you've committed to a long term future with Ford and I kind of looked at the drivers that will be in the press conference after you and I worked out that three out of the four of them will be out of contract at the end of next year so have you had any CVs or taps handed to you or Resumes for 2006? You're a man in demand.

MW: Yeah, if I could have three out of four that are in front of me we could have a good team together couldn't we? Its fair to say that there's obviously been a big interest especially with the announcement of PSA but we haven't made any plans yet and we've absolutely got no definite rally plans for 2005 and in view of this decision, then obviously I'd be taking a longer term view and certainly not be rushing into it -- okay that the first nomination has got to be in by the end of the month. As you say, rightly so, a lot of people have been on the phone and we'll be making that decision in the next few weeks.

JD: What drivers are you looking for Malcolm? Can you talk in round terms of where they might come from? What they've done?

MW: There's certainly three of the four that are going to sit here in front of me that we fancy.

JD: Who's the fourth one that you don't fancy?

MW: Its not that I don't fancy him its just that I think his contract is with Subaru for a long time.

JD: Right that clears that up. I was thinking of a certain Estonian that you might have wanted back.

MW: No .....

JD: Oh, that is interesting. So look, let's talk about Australia. Guy, Sebastien, I think with the World Championship would like to win a sixth Rally and this is the weekend that you could win a sixth rally. That would be important in France I'm sure. Can he?

GF: Yes, for sure Sebastien wants to show that he's faster on this surface, this difficult surface, and maybe we think because it's raining today and maybe tomorrow and in this condition it will be very, very difficult. I am also very sad and very disappointed for Carlos and Marc. I saw him yesterday and I spoke with him yesterday and he said to finish my career like this it is very, very difficult time.

JD: Now Malcolm, can he make it a hat trick? Maybe it'd be a good bargaining tool if he fancied a drive next year.

MW: There's no reason why not. I think we've seem how competitive it is on the last two events. I think it is fair to say that Australia has definitely never been one of our better events.

JD: But why is that, what's been the missing ingredient?

MW: I don't know. I think we've always struggled for one reason or another. I think last year both drivers felt that they were lacking experience and they weren't happy with their pace notes. Hopefully they've addressed that issue on this event for this time but in all honesty, I see no reason and if they're confident then I'm sure they are going to be in there challenging for victory -- both drivers.

JD: Concentration okay with both drivers? When you come to Australia there are distractions and it's the end of a long season, we've done 16 events and I'm told the sun will shine on the beach. Are they able to concentrate on the job at hand?

MW: Yeah I think so, I think its fair to say that Markko is pretty fired up after his last two victories and I predicted that Francois will win a rally this season and he's only got one event left to prove it. Whether he can do it might be quite a tall order for him but as I say, I think they're going to be in there fighting with a shout.

JD: Gentlemen, thank you. Malcolm Wilson from Ford and Guy Frequelin from Citroen, thank you very much.


JD: Gentleman, a very good afternoon to you, I'll make this short, there's a very good barbeque I have to go to. I'll make this short. Who is going to win?

PS: raised his hand and said "me".

JD: How? You crashed your car this morning, how are you going to win?

PS: Co driver mistake! No no no that's bad to say, it was my fault, my fault -- I came through quick.

JD: Have you worked out what went wrong?

PS: Of course, if I am sitting here smiling.

Continued in part 2

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