WRC

Rally Catalunya: Pre-event press conference

Present: Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team Malcolm Wilson, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Ken Block, Monster World Rally Team Kimi Raikkonen, Citroen Junior Team Aaron Burkart, FIA Junior World Rally Championship Hans Weijs, FIA...

Present:
Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Ken Block, Monster World Rally Team
Kimi Raikkonen, Citroen Junior Team
Aaron Burkart, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Hans Weijs, FIA Junior World Rally Championship

Q: Dani, the weight of expectation is on your shoulders, everyone expects you to win here! Are you feeling the pressure?

DS: The feeling is good, like every rally. Here, honestly, it's Spain and I have a really good position. I would like to go for that. It's the same on rallies every year. The pressure is a little bit more.

Q: It's all change this year, with gravel stages on the opening day. Will it make this event more exciting do you think?

DS: I don't like the tarmac pass with the gravel tyre, the car moves a lot. Maybe for the spectator yes, but the gravel is really nice. It's a really nice idea and also for more rallies in the future. It's more interesting for the spectators; it's nice also for the drivers to do that in the future. Do it in this way: first day gravel and then tarmac.

Q: You have a good position on the road, will that help?

DS: I'm not sure there's enough gravel. Maybe we can take some time, but Petter Solberg is still there and he can take some time. [Sebastien] Loeb will lose a little bit of time, but you never know with Sebastien...

Q: We still have not heard what your plans are for next year, what can you tell us? Will you remain with Citroen or are you in discussion with another team?

DS: I'm in the same position as him [Raikkonen]. Maybe we can make the team together!

Q: Who are you talking to?

DS: At the moment I'm still at Citroen. I want to concentrate on this rally and then we can see afterwards. It's maybe in the Citroen Junior Team, but the main thing is that I want to fight for victory. We will see after this rally.

Q: And what's the plan for this rally: flat-out from the start?

DS: I need to be fast on the first lap, on the second lap it's the same for everybody. So, for sure, the first lap is flat-out.

Q: Malcolm, the team's 'Happy Hour' function was a special one last night with a presentation being made to you by Carlos Sainz to celebrate the team's 200th WRC event -- I believe you had no idea it was happening?

MW: I have to say it goes down as the biggest shock of my life. I had no idea what was happening when Carlos came in. As you know, I tend to try and know everything going on in my business, so I was a little bit uptight. It was a surprise that Carlos was there to present something to me, but a bigger surprise that I'd done 200 rallies, along with John Millington and George Black. It was a very nice surprise.

Q: We have seen Jari-Matti [Latvala] gain huge amounts of confidence this season, whilst Mikko [Hirvonen] has experienced the worst season of his career. This year Jari-Matti was given second driver status; will they be on equal terms next year?

MW: Why would I want to change anything after the way it's worked this year! Every driver is different. The thing we did this year was to take the pressure off Jari. He's had a good year, he's become a lot more mature. Going into next year, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Q: They have both tested the Fiesta RS WRC in the past week, was their feedback positive?

MW: It's great for me, everybody who gets in the car is very positive. But there's no question that there is going to be hard work to do. We've got three months, and, to be honest, we're more used to getting the car out, having one day to test it and then sending it to the rally like we did with the current car in 2005. Having more time means more pressure in Sweden [next year], where we must go for victory. But, we have no issues, just more pressure. There's a lot of work to do, but the boys are very happy.

Q: Citroen achieved the ultimate success in France securing both Championships; looking back on the season where do you think it went wrong for Ford?

MW: For sure, we haven't had the season we expected. I think everybody knows we had a great start to the year. We then had some issues which meant we weren't as competitive as we would like in Mexico and Mikko was trying to push harder, but he has had a run like he's never had in the team. Look at his career with us, since he started at Ford, every time he's gone one step up the ladder to the point where he lost the Championship by one point last year. He's in a position he hasn't been in before, this is something new for him to cope with. The biggest disappointment for the team came in Bulgaria in terms of performance. After that, the whole team came together and we were more competitive in Finland and have been since. For sure, if we were going to continue with this car we have learned a lot, but we're moving to a new car next year, where there will be a level playing field. The great thing is that you never stop learning and the things we have learned about this car, we're able to take forward to the new car. Mikko has had a difficult year and Jari has had a fantastic year; if you were to tell me that Jari would score four fastest times in France, I'd have a put a fairly substantial bet that it wouldn't be the case. So, it's not all doom and gloom, there are definitely some positives to be taken from a difficult year.

Q: You've talked about strengthening the team for next year. Can you tell us more?

MW: We're always looking. Those issues are commercially based. We're always looking for solutions, but they involve sponsors. It's too early to say, but from my point of view we want get back to where we were in 2006 and 2007, when we were bringing Jari along -- that's a goal of mine, for sure.

Q: A first rally finish in France, without using SupeRally Ken; did you change your approach at all?

KB: The approach has been the same all season. It was really disappointing in Germany, which is one of the toughest asphalt events in the world, and I was sitting pretty decent. The car let me down, but that's rally. For my first tarmac event, in Germany I thought I dealt really well with that. In France, the conditions were so crazy. The mechanical issues I had, I ended 12th, it could have been lot worse.

Q: What do you think of the stages here?

KB: I never raced on tarmac on roads like these; they're very much like a circuit. Kimi had an advantage here. I'm going to enjoy the gravel tomorrow; I'm really looking forward to that. These asphalt events have given me a huge learning experience, and tomorrow is quite different for the roads and there's more experience.

Q: There are quite a few rumours surrounding the Monster World Rally Team right now -- mainly regarding a possible second driver for 2011. Kimi Raikkonen and Chris Atkinson are the names been whispered around -- what can you tell us? Will there be a second car next year?

KB: Well, myself and my sponsors, we've always wanted two cars -- it's good branding for those involved in the programme. To have two cars would help me with my lack of experience, it's the goal, but it's a matter of finding the budget. There are a lot of good drivers without seats, a case in point is Chris Atkinson -- he's my gravel team! Kimi may be in there too, it's a case of solving the budget question.

Q: What is the plan for this event then -- is it your first sample of a 'mixed' surface event?

KB: I think it's a great idea. Rally drivers are adaptable, we drive on mud and snow and everything. It's a great way to show the attributes we have as divers. Asphalt and gravel are great in the same stage; it gives us a showcase for our skills to adapt to those kind of things.

Q: Kimi, we believe you won't be starting the event here in Spain after an accident on the shakedown stage, can you tell us what happened?

KR: I touched the bank a little bit, the car jumped on the roof and [hit] the bank. It bent the roll cage and that's it.

Q: How far into the stage were you?

KR: It was just before the tarmac starts.

Q: There's damage to the car and you can't start...

KR: That's the rules. Nothing we can do.

Q: What did you think of the stages?

KR: I thought, from what I saw on the video, they are more straight and fast, but when I got here for the recce they were twisty with a lot of corners, that's all we see. Now I go and do something else this weekend.

Q: What are your plans for the weekend? Will you stay around and support the guys?

KR: I think I'll go back to Switzerland.

Q: What about the future? Is there any news yet?

KR: Unfortunately, not yet. There are some options and, for sure, I have to chose very quickly and chose the right one for myself. I haven't done anything yet. I want to find some good way for the future.

Q: Has what happened here put you off rallying?

KR: Not really. Okay it has happened two times, but I knew that before the season. It hurts more that we can't do the rally. And for the team, but there's nothing I can do. It doesn't change anything. I knew it would be difficult. I still enjoy it, I was look forward to this rally, but it will not happen.

Q: Will you have a decision about your future before Rally GB?

KR: I have to do it at some point, there's always a timeframe for everything. I hope we get sorted by the end of the season, but I can't promise anything.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Marco Giordo
Autosprint, Italy Q: Dani, you tested the new car, the DS3. How is it?

DS: It's really good. I don't have any other reference, so we don't know. But it's really fun to drive. It's a little bit less power, but it's good for the spectator, you drive it a little bit more sliding.

Present:
Aaron Burkart, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Hans Weijs, FIA Junior World Rally Championship

Q: I believe you had some drama in the test, tell us about it.

AB: As usual, we had a slight trouble with the puncture. I didn't feel it at this place. We braked and the car had a spin, in the end not big damage. But we were unlucky: the roll cage was slightly damaged and I have to say thanks to the guys for the two days of work they did. The car is fine, though.

Q: You have the advantage with a seven point lead over Hans, how are you feeling about the weekend ahead? Are there any nerves?

AB: The good thing is the tactics over the last two rallies were not so nice. Maybe I had a mistake in my brain, telling myself to do everything not to retire, to make sure we score points, but not so many. This is over. Now I just enjoy the rally. There are no nerves. If he leads, he wins the Championship, it's close.

Q: One day on gravel and two on tarmac -- how much of a challenge is dealing with two surfaces during the weekend?

AB: For the spectators, it is interesting. There is always the big movement in the car, but with the front-wheel drive, it's not so easy. We lack the traction, but we know what we have to cope with. We try to make a set-up which is in the middle for them both. On tarmac, you need a low and stiff car, but not for the gravel. In general, I like, if only the brakes were bigger.

Q: How difficult is it to get your head around the surface changes?

AB: Most of the drivers are not having the problem to switch the head. It will be okay.

Q: What's the approach here?

AB: As I tried to say before, now it's not strategy, we need to just go on the road and see what happens around you.

Q: You seem very relaxed...

AB: Sure, the pressure is on him. We see Sunday, I like the stages, but in the end on Sunday everything counts. I hope it's well for me.

Q: Hans, are you feeling the pressure? A: It's not on my shoulders. I don't feel the pressure. I want the good result on this rally and for sure I won the rally last and I want to do it again.

Q: How are you feeling about the fight?

HW: It would be very nice to get the Championship, that's what we work a few years for. It is the target for this season and I hope to get it and I hope for the good opportunity to go forward next year.

Q: What about your test Hans, was that good?

HW: No, it was okay. It was freezing in the test, I was sleeping in the truck and it was zero -- so I didn't get good sleep! But we did a lot of testing with the gravel tyres on tarmac and that went well.

Q: What do you think about mixed surface events? A good idea?

HW: I think it's good to show everybody you can drive on gravel and it will make a great change between the gravel and tarmac. It's good, but it's not so easy. But it's nice, for sure.

Q: Which will be best for you?

HW: For me, it's no problem on gravel and of course it's good [on] tarmac.

Q: Do you have any news for 2011 yet?

HW: I want to step up. To do that, we need budget. For the moment it's not so good for me, but I hope the Championship will help.

-source: fia

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Carlos Sainz , Malcolm Wilson , Ken Block , Chris Atkinson , Aaron Burkart , Hans Weijs
Teams Citroën World Rally Team