Rally Catalunya: Pre-event press conference

RALLY RACC CATALUNYA -- COSTA DAURADA -- RALLY DE ESPANA Pre-event FIA Press Conference 2 October 2008 Present: Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team Federico Villagra, Munchi's Ford World...

Pre-event FIA Press Conference
2 October 2008

Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Federico Villagra, Munchi's Ford World Rally Team
Per-Gunnar Andersson, Suzuki World Rally Team
Francesco Fanari, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Michal Kosciuszko, FIA Junior World Rally Championship

Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.

Q: In 2005 you claimed third here in a privately run Ford Focus, this rally must hold good memories from that -- do you think that result was decisive in your career?

MH: It's definitely a good memory from Rally Catalunya. It was my first podium and as a Finnish driver, nobody would really expect that. I was doing some rallies in a private car -- it was a really important point in my career. It helped me get my seat in the future.

Q: It's a big couple of weeks for you and the team as you try and get back on terms with Citroen. How did the test go for these final Tarmac events? Do you think Ford can win here?

MH: The test went very well. I was excited after the test, the car felt really, really good. But it's the Citroen and it's Dani [Sordo] and Sebastien [Loeb]; it's never going to be easy. I hope we can be up with them. I think we can win, but it's going to be really difficult to do.

Q: Punctures spoiled the party for you in New Zealand and you have picked up quite a few over the events; is that going to make you more cautious when it comes to cutting here?

MH: Maybe a little bit. The organisers have done a really good job here in the last couple of years in the way they have been re-surfacing the road. There are not so many places to cut. Before, in some places, you would have half a car off the road, but now it's not that much -- in some places it's just about a wheel. Having no mousse means I'm going to be much more careful not to get any more punctures.

Q: Sebastien Loeb now leads the Drivers' Championship by eight points, is the title fight slipping away?

MH: After what happened in New Zealand it looks like it's slipping away. As long as it's mathematically possible, I'll keep trying to take time out of Sebastien. I'm sure we'll be strong in Japan and GB and I'm sure the fight's not going to end before then.

Q: You've got Francois Duval in the team -- has this helped you? Have you been swapping tips?

MH: It's nice to get him in the car, to see if he has any new ideas and ways to go with the car. His driving style is so different to mine that I can't use his set-up, but there were some things he can help me with. We'll see tomorrow.

Q: How much do you want to be crowned champion this year; how momentous would that be?

MH: I think that's why all the drivers are here -- we all want to get the world title. It would mean the world to me. I don't think I have much to lose -- I can go for it and take more risks than normal. But then if I get zero points, it's definitely going to be over. But it can't get much worse. I need to stay somewhere in the middle and get good points.

Q: Home event for you -- does the support give you extra confidence?

DS: Of course, I have more confidence. It's more exciting with the Spanish support for me to drive. I have a little more pressure, we will see.

Q: We have seen you do well on this event before, are you going out there to win this weekend?

DS: Of course I will try to win. But also in Germany I don't win. It's not easy with Sebastien. I think [Mikko] Hirvonen and [Francois] Duval will be very fast here.

Q: Last year the top ten positions did not change on the second and third days -- do you think it will be more competitive this year?

DS: I don't know. This year will be different with the new tyres with no mousse. It's very easy to make a mistake and get a puncture. The puncture is a very important question in the rally. And also the tyres, the stages are very twisty -- it's going to be tough.

Q: Citroen leads the Manufacturers Championship by 20 points over Ford -- is it crucial to get a good points haul here?

DS: It's normally more easy to take points and finish in the top four, but I think it's very important to take points here and in Corsica. Two events on Tarmac and two on gravel, it's not easy. The position, 20 points ahead, is very nice.

Q: There are two new stages and a few changes to some of the older stages and I believe the stages have been re-surfaced for this year -- what did you think on the recce?

DS: The new stages, some parts are nice. Other parts are very twisty with these tyres... It's going to be very hard for the end of the stage -- understeer. I honestly don't like the new stages very much, they're very slow and twisty, but the rest are very nice. One part of the new stage has very much cutting -- there will be a lot of gravel on the second run.

Q: How much would a home win mean?

DS: Of course I will try to win, but they will all try to win. It's not only Sebastien now, Mikko is very fast now. It's very difficult. We will have to see.

Q: You have little experience on Tarmac -- this being only your second rally on this surface. What is the realistic goal this weekend for you?

FV: It's a big challenge. I'm not a Tarmac specialist. I'm confident from the test on Monday but I'm racing for the second time. We will try to push and get some manufacturer and driver points -- that would be the goal.

Q: You had a test on Monday -- how did it all go?

FV: We had a really good test and that helped me get confidence for the rally.

Q: You have been busy back home competing in the Argentinean Championship -- how is it going?

FV: Very well. We're leading the Championship. We won the last one and we're some points ahead. Hopefully we can win the title before the last round.

Q: What is the future of the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team?

FV: I know they're working on it. There's a big chance to do nine rallies next year. I'm pretty confident we'll see Munchi's next year and, of course, I would like to be part of that.

Q: Does this event hold special memories for you as you picked up your first win within the junior category here in 2004?

P-GA: It was in Lloret de Mar, but yes, and also I had my first JWRC win on this event. Good memories.

Q: This will be only the third time we would have seen the Suzuki SX4 on Tarmac, and very different from the previous rounds you have contested; another big challenge ahead?

P-GA: We have changed the car quite a lot since Germany with work on the dampers and the differential. We should have a quicker and safer car. We have worked on the reliability of the car through the year -- that's paid off and now we need to find more speed

Q: We are aware that the team is developing the car all the time -- is there anything different for this event?

P-GA: It's never quick enough, but it's the right direction. You can see some small pieces. Reliability was the big thing, now we need to fine-tune it.

Q: What do you think is possible from this rally?

P-GA: I think we can make the points, that's possible if I get a good feeling.

Q: What about next year P-G, will we see the Suzuki team back to contest another year?

P-GA: The plan is to still be there next year and I really hope I will be there competing. I haven't heard anything else.

Q: With so much development done on the car, it would be a shame not to be back...

P-GA: Yes. It would be a waste.


Q: I hear you've been ill, are you feeling any better?

FF: Yes the doctor has done a good job for me. I'm fully fit for the rally.

Q: Your result in Germany gave you a points score that nobody else could beat for the Rookie classification -- which means you are the Rookie winner in the JWRC. Was that your goal this year?

FF: I'm happy for this. I start the Championship to win this classification and to increase my experience. Now I'm very happy.

Q: Are you pleased with your performance this season? What have thought of the C2R2 Max?

FF: Maybe I have too much problems. The first year, maybe it's normal. I prefer to not have problems, but it's a strange year. It's okay. It's the same. The car is fast. We have the good development during all of the year. I'm very happy. It's the right car to start this Championship.

Q: Now you are the Rookie winner, will you approach this event differently?

FF: I don't have pressure. I can drive as fast as possible. I can only enjoy the car.

Q: This is very different to Germany, it's faster -- what did you think of it from what you saw on the recce?

FF: I like a lot this race. It looks a lot like the Italian special stages. I hope it will be a very good race.

Q: Do you have any plans for next year?

FF: I have big plans, but the problem is for all of the drivers the same: budget. I like to race on gravel. I would like to do the PWRC. It's too expensive for me now. I will decide at the end of the year.

Q: Michal, there are still four drivers that can win the Junior World Rally Championship -- Ogier, Gallagher, Burkhart and yourself. How positive are you feeling about your chances?

MK: Of course, it's all still open. There are two rallies. It will be tough battle. We need maximum points and I hope we will be able to fight to win here. Both Citroen drivers are very fast and [Kris] Meeke is fast in the R3 car. It will be a tough battle. We had a test last Sunday in Italy. The car is set-up well, it's comfortable on Tarmac. At home in Poland, most rallies are Tarmac. I hope my speed will be enough to fight to be in the top three, but of course I would like to win.

Q: How much testing have you been doing on this surface in preparation for the final two events of the season? What's most important on this rally?

MK: In Catalunya, you need to keep the correct line. It's a very difficult and long rally -- especially on Sunday. You need to stay focused from the start to the end of the rally and to have a perfect set-up. If you can set the car up well at shakedown you will have a big advantage. I hope we can do that.

Q: How much do want the title this year and how much will you risk for it on the stages?

MK: I can take all the risks necessary, but I also need to think points. If the gap's too big between the C2 guys and us, we need to think what to do next. It's all open for now; we need to think about what we do now when the rally starts.

Q: You have been part of the Suzuki Team Europe this year -- how important has that support been?

MK: The support is incredible. I can feel the professionals in the team. They help me with their knowledge, they have many new ideas. I try to use that knowledge. I have one of the best S16 cars in the group. At the moment, I still have a chance to be first at the end of the season; that shows how good the car is.

Q: And what about next year? Will we see you back within the JWRC?

MK: For sure I would like to stay in the WRC. Maybe in a Junior car. Maybe next season, I don't know, each driver has the same problem -- it's not just Francesco. Maybe the end of the season will be lucky for me.

-credit: fia

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team