FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP NESTE OIL RALLY FINLAND FIA Pre-event Press Conference 02.08.2007 Present: Marcus Gronholm - BP Ford World Rally Team Daniel Sordo - Citroen Total World Rally Team Petter Solberg - Subaru World Rally Team Jari-Matti...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP NESTE OIL RALLY FINLAND
FIA Pre-event Press Conference
Marcus Gronholm - BP Ford World Rally Team
Daniel Sordo - Citroen Total World Rally Team
Petter Solberg - Subaru World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala - Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Kalle Pinomaki - FIA Junior Rally Championship
Jaan Molder - FIA Junior Rally Championship
Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.
Q: Marcus, we have a new evolution of the Focus for this event. Have there been many changes and how is the car?
MG: It looks pretty much the same, but M-Sport has done many modifications. Small things you can see, but I think they are in the right direction. I can't say if it is so much quicker but a little bit, yes, and maybe it shows in the rally. I am looking forward to see tomorrow.
Q: We have a lot of new stages and/or new sections of stage here in Finland. What are they like?
MG: There is only one completely new stage for me. OK there are on Saturday some parts of the stages, maybe 3 or 4kms here and there that are new.
Q: The drivers seem to love the fast flowing nature of this event -- are you happy that the classic Ouninpohja stage is back to its normal length? It does have some chicanes in it this year -- is that a good idea?
MG: I think it is good otherwise we would go over the average speed limit. One chicane is in a little bit of a difficult place but I think it will be OK.
Q: Your lead over Sebastien is nine points in the Drivers' Championship -- at this point last year Loeb was leading by a massive 29 points; that shows just how close competition is this year is doesn't it?
MG: We were competitive last year as well but we were just unlucky with small problems as the car was completely new. Now, though, it has been perfect so far but nine points is nothing and I am not confident at all with that gap.
Q: If you win here that will make it your seventh victory in Finland -- no other driver has won that many events at a single rally in the modern era of WRC. Is that on your mind this weekend?
MG: No, it's not. I am just going out there to win and we will see on Sunday if I can make it seven wins here. Ten points is much more important for me at the moment.
Q: We have had two months without a WRC event -- what have you been up to in that time Petter?
PS: I have been having some time off, testing in Finland, Germany and England and it has been a lot of hard work for the team. But I have had some fun too, staying on the farm and relaxing, but also training very hard so I can keep up with my fitness. It is never relaxing when you are in a squad like this. You always have to focus on the sport.
Q: You hold the record for the fastest speed on Ouninpohja -- now it has been restored to its full length but the organisers have added some chicanes -- what do you think of that?
PS: I think it's good to have it back and yes, OK, we have chicanes to slow down the average speed but still the stage is as fast as it has always been anyway. It's like cheating the system a little bit but it's good fun and I think it is more fun when you have the whole stage in one and for spectators and for tradition it is a good way to do it.
Q: We know the car is undergoing constant development -- are you happy with it for this event?
PS: It's not there yet. They are working very hard and you will see tomorrow -- we are going to have to try everything we can to get a very good result but the feeling is not there yet anyway. But you will see -- I will try hard.
Q: There are a huge amount of World Rally Cars entered this weekend, with quite a few Finnish drivers behind the wheel. Do you think we will see some new faces in the top ten?
PS: Oh definitely. I think it is very good for the sport that so many people are coming into the championship and it a very good system that many people get good sponsors. I hope that some of the new guys will come in the top ten but I hope they don't steal my spot!
Q: Where do you hope to come in this rally?
PS: A podium position is my goal first of all and then maybe we can fight with Marcus...
Q: Jari, it's your first full season with the Stobart VK M-sport Ford team -- were you happy with the first half of your season?
J-ML: It has been a quite good eight rounds that we have done so far. The most important thing is that we have been able to improve from the start. If you think about from Monte Carlo to Greece I have been able to improve myself as a driver and as a team it has been OK but still there have been too many mistakes so in the second half of the season I try to improve to counteract those little mistakes so maybe then we can make a little bit of a result.
Q: You were leading Rally Sardinia; can we expect to see you on the podium in this half of the season?
J-ML: Sardinia when I was leading gave me some hope and I am looking forward to getting on to the podium. My best result so far has been 4th overall and of course I try to get it better. We have eight rounds to go and if one of them could see me on the podium I would be really happy.
Q: Drivers the world over seem to rate Finland as one of the best rallies on the calendar -- why is it so special?
J-ML: Because the roads here in Finland are fast, wide and have lots of jumps. It is like dancing with the car over those jumps and it gives you a great feeling. Plus, there are lot of spectators here and you can really see the feeling in their eyes. They come to support you, so I would say it is the complete package: it is a well organised rally with a good atmosphere
Q: Last year you were in a privateer entry -- how does it differ this year being in the WRC?
J-ML: There is quite a big difference. Once you are with a professional team you think of the team and nothing else because that is your job. As a privateer last year it was a stressful time to get all the money, all the service cars, everything needed for each event. There were many things that we needed to do by ourselves and it was much harder but once you can do well as a privateer it can give you a great feeling but to get in a position like this makes my life a lot easier.
Q: This is just the second time you have competed in Finland in a World Rally Car, what are you hoping to achieve this weekend Dani?
DS: I will try to finish the rally! I would like to finish in the top five but there are a lot of fast drivers in this rally and it is difficult to go fast here because all the jumps make it difficult for the pace notes.
Q: You had an accident in a local Finnish rally recently. Has that affected your preparation for this one?
DS: I don't think so. I think sometimes drivers make a mistake and the local rally was good for me as I made notes for all the stages and I can use them on this rally which is more important.
Q: You are just two points ahead of Petter Solberg in the Drivers' standings -- so you have to think about scoring points there and of course for the Manufacturers' Championship too. Do you think you can keep Petter behind you?
DS: I don't know! It's difficult in a new rally and Petter is very fast, so we will see.
Q: How has the weather affected the stages -- do you think if it rains this weekend there will be any problems?
DS: It has made it slippy and these roads are naturally very fast so it will make it more difficult if it rains again over the weekend. But it will be difficult for everybody as well.
Q: And finally Marcus, one of the new stages -- stage 20 - can you tell me what the English translation of that stage means? Is it awful?
MG: 'Surkee' means 'awful' in Finnish and yes, it is. It has been awful before as it is a long stage and we used to do it in the dark and it was always raining - and that was really 'surkee' (laughs). Now it is a bit better!
Q: Kalle welcome, this is of course your home event, you were 12th here last year; what do you think of the new stages we have for this event?
KP: It looks pretty fast and exciting as normal so we will see what these new sections are like.
Q: And how are you finding the R3?
KP: I have been reasonably pleased with the car and I am focusing on the future now and on getting as many points as I can.
Q: And what about the rest of the season? Are you in with a shot at the title do you think?
KP: I hope so, yes. The main thing is getting a good result and here in Finland I think it is possible. I really hope to be on the podium on Sunday.
Q: Jaan, the weather has not been the best during the recce. How do you think it will affect competition this weekend if it continues to rain?
JM: I think it will be the same for everybody but I don't think it will be that bad when it rains because it's not that slippy. I think for me it will be quite good.
Q: Looking back at the first half of the season -- how do you rate your performance?
JM: I am happy overall but I could be quicker. Here it would be a lot better for me as I am used to the fast roads and crests. This has been a year for gaining experience.
Q: The top two drivers in the Championship aren't here this weekend -- who do you think will be your biggest rivals?
JM: All the drivers could surprise with their speed on this rally but I know Kalle will definitely be fast. It is difficult to say anything for certain but we will get on with the rallying and see!
Q: A lot of Estonians pack into Finland to watch you Jaan. Would you call this rally your home event?
JM: You could say that, out of all the rallies in the WRC it is closest to my home event yes. Its good fun and I think a lot of the fans enjoy it.
Q: Could you win here, do you think?
JM: A podium spot would satisfy my need for points. Anything more than that would be a plus!