Rally Finland: Pre-event press conference

Present: Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team Gigi Galli, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Toni Gardemeister, Suzuki World Rally Team Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Jari Ketomaa, FIA Production Car World Rally...

Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Gigi Galli, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Toni Gardemeister, Suzuki World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Jari Ketomaa, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Juho Hanninen, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Patrik Sandell, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Jaan Molder, FIA Junior World Rally Championship

Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.

Q: The second half of the season starts with what is considered one of the best events on the calendar; how do you rate Rally Finland?

SL: For sure Finland is a very exciting rally. It is fast, difficult and tricky. For me it has never been the best rally because I have never won it! But we have had some great battles here in the past with Marcus Gronholm two or three years ago. It is always a good challenge!

Q: None of the current WRC drivers have won this event. Is it going to be a bit more of a level playing field or will the Finns have the advantage?

SL: Everybody has the same tyres so it's not a question of advantage in that respect. Finnish drivers are always fast in Finland and if you look at the Championship my two biggest rivals are Finnish so they will be especially fast here. We will see -- I will start the rally as I do every time which is just to do my best and try to drive as fast as possible on the first day.

Q: If it rains tomorrow, how will that affect you?

SL: I don't know. If it's just a little rain then I think it will be OK. If it really rains a lot then in the high speed stages it could be very difficult. We will see tomorrow.

Q: You have never won this event; how much do you want to win and how much would you risk achieving it?

SL: It is one of the most difficult rallies in the Championship and I would love to win it. Only a few non-Nordic drivers have ever won it so it would be great to win. But for me the priority is the Championship so I will do my best and not put too much pressure on myself to win. You always need to take some risks here because it is so fast and difficult to be precise all the time. But I have a good feeling in the car and on the stages so we will see.

Q: With the asphalt events we have coming up in the second half of the season, do you believe that Citroen can claim the lead in both Championships?

SL: It would be good! We have three tarmac rallies coming so it is very important to do well on them. It is possible on asphalt to be first and second but on this rally it will be very difficult to score as many points as Ford.

Q: What do you think of the stages this year? Are you disappointed we don't have the Ouninpohja stage?

SL: It is always difficult when there are new roads, especially in Finland when they are so fast. But OK, it is the same for everybody. The roads are narrower so maybe not as fast. Ouninpohja was a nice stage -- fast and maybe a bit too dangerous so I accept the decision not to have it.

Q: Gigi, the last time we saw you, in Turkey, you withdrew from the rally due to illness; are you fully fit now?

GG: After Turkey my water intake has come back. I ate some fish and it disagreed with me and I kept being sick back then but now I am fine again and really looking forward to the rally.

Q: Gigi your best result here was fifth overall. Can you better it this year?

GG: Sure, we are in a position from a technical point of view that we could do better here this year. We will just have to see how my pace is compared to the other drivers. I will drink plenty of water -- there are a lot of lakes!

Q: It's been six weeks without any action in the WRC; I hear you were counting the days until it all started again...

GG: I am looking forward to the rest of the season. As we planned at the start of this season we are all the time getting used to the car and since Sardinia we have been setting some good times and now our goal is to keep the pace and make fewer mistakes in order to beat Subaru. I have been doing this event since 1999 and I know the rally but of course it is difficult to be fast here without taking risks.

Q: You have had no testing during this break, so will Friday take a bit of time to get back into the rhythm?

GG: Hopefully after a few stages we will be on the pace and try to show some good times.

Q: Here in Finland we see the new evolution of the Suzuki SX4. What have been the major changes?

TG: There have not been many critical changes but the front of the car is a bit lighter now and the suspension is now stronger.

Q: You tested the car on Monday; how many kilometres did you cover and was it a successful test?

TG: We covered around 60 kilometres and I was very happy with the handling. We have done small things to the ECU and changed the set-up slightly. For sure it feels easier to drive faster and I trust it a bit more.

Q: There has been a lack of testing during the first half of the season for the team, are there any scheduled for the second half of the year?

TG: Maybe there is but for the moment I don't know. The car is getting better all the time.

Q: Jari-Matti, it's the home event for you and we know from past experience that the atmosphere is unlike any other rally. What's it like from your perspective?

J-ML: Rally Finland is the most popular rally in the Championship I think and we have a lot of great support from the spectators. But that also brings you a lot of pressure. I love the atmosphere though and it's very exciting. It gives you a very special feeling and you don't want to let down your fans.

Q: You have been spectating here for years and every corner for you holds a special memory. How does it feel to drive it now yourself?

J-ML: The first time I watched the rally was in 1992 when I was seven years old. My father was driving back then and I got to do this event for the first time in 2003. I have only finished this rally two times but I have good memories and I know the roads. Watching the cars is one thing but driving is totally different.

Q: How is the rivalry between yourself and your team-mate Mikko Hirvonen?

J-ML: We work very well together and although we are competitors we can still be friends after the rally. In Turkey just before the last stage we were talking about things and in testing we compare notes too. Sometimes you can have little mind games but that is rallying! The team spirit is very good.

Q: You were leading this event last year until you retired. How much are you going to be pushing for a win this time?

J-ML: This year I really want to get to the end and I hope I will be able to fight for the victory. If it seems that my speed is not fast enough then I will just be happy to be on the podium.

Q: With the changes the organisers have made to the route this year what do you think will be the most notable difference to previous years -- will this be a slower speed event than usual?

J-ML: I am a little bit lucky in that they have changed a lot of the Saturday stages. There are more narrow roads than in previous years so it is more technical -- but still a big challenge.


Q: Jari, Andreas Aigner is in a very strong position now in the drivers' standings for the PWRC. He is not competing in the PWRC this weekend; is that going to make it any easier?

JK: It's not too late and of course I will do my best. I have not won any events this year so I will try to do it here.

Q: What do you think of the two Wild Card entries we have for this event, Juha Salo and Jussi Valimaki -- could they possibly stand in the way of achieving maximum points here?

JK: There are some strong local drivers here but we have had some good results in the Finnish Championship. There is very tough competition on every rally this year from all the drivers -- not just the Finnish ones.

Q: You tested on Monday -- how did it go?

JK: We had two days testing about a month ago and managed to get a very good set-up with the car and the tyres, everything still worked very well on Monday.

Q: Is it an advantage being Finnish on this event?

JK: Sometimes it is yes. I think all Finnish drivers are quite passionate on their own stages!

Q: It was a good start to the season for you Juho, picking up 10 points in Sweden, but Aigner has raced ahead in the standings. What is it going to take to catch him?

JH: It's important to get 10 points here because Aigner now has 30 points and we are 18 points behind him so maximum points from here would be very important to us. It will be harder over here than it has been in other rallies because these local Wild Card drivers will be very fast. And Jari Ketomaa also will be very fast.

Q: This is your home event -- do you feel any extra pressure to perform here?

JH: I have done this only twice but I don't feel nervous. I think it's good we have some new stages -- they are very demanding and quite narrow in places. But we are happy with the car and it performed well in shakedown and in testing.


Q: Your are ninth in the Championship with just six points, is the aim still to try and win the series or do you feel that has slipped out of your grasp?

PS: We had some small problems with the car but OK we are here and we have some points and if we can have a good result here I think we can climb a lot of places in the Championship. It's maximum attack for us on this event.

Q: You won this event last year -- do you have the car to be able to do it this year?

PS: For sure. The car is really good now and we had a really good test on Monday. The car is perfectly set-up for these roads. Also today at shakedown it felt really good so we just try to stay on the road and go as fast as possible.

Q: How have you found balancing both the JWRC and the PWRC -- is it tougher than you expected?

PS: Not tough, but we have had some bad luck and we are still learning on every rally. You have to drive a lot of rallies to get the experience so it's been the perfect season in terms of experience for the future. So from that point of view I am really happy so far.

Q: From what you have seen on the recce, how does this year compare with other years? Are you disappointed that Ouninpohja is not part of the event this year?

PS: For sure it is a great stage to drive but for me all the stages in Finland are fantastic to drive. If you find a good rhythm you can go very fast and also the massive 'yumps' on the other stages make it really good.

Q: Jaan, I hear you are injured -- can you tell us what happened?

JM: I broke my leg a few weeks ago while I was skydiving. It was a bad landing!

Q: At what kind of percent will you be driving this weekend with this injury?

JM: It will not affect my driving; it's just a bit uncomfortable when I walk. The leg I broke was my throttle leg so it's not painful to drive. If it was my left leg then I couldn't drive because left foot braking gives you a lot more pressure. I had a long test on Monday and on shakedown today and I had no problems.

Q: It's been a while since we have seen you on the top step of the podium -- will we see it in the second half of the season?

JM: I will drive as fast as I can here because on the last two rallies I have retired and in Sardinia we had a problem with the sump guard on the road section. Maybe the Championship doesn't look good now but I haven't given up. I will take a few more risks on this rally maybe and push as hard as I can. It is a long rally with some new stages so we will just try to do the best we can.

Questions fro the floor

Martin Holmes
Martin Holmes Rallying, UK

Q: Patrik, why did you prefer to have the Super 1600 and not the Super 2000 car here? Is it because you are a little bit afraid of the Finnish drivers?

PS: For sure the Finnish drivers are very quick especially here in Finland and it could have been really fun with the Super 2000 in the Production Championship, but we chose to do the Junior Championship back in November last year and when I chose also to do the Production we had to take the rallies that were left. I was already booked to do Rally Finland in the Junior category. We will have to do this event in a four-wheel drive car next year instead.

-credit: fia

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Sébastien Loeb , Jari-Matti Latvala , Mikko Hirvonen , Toni Gardemeister , Jussi Valimaki , Gianluigi Galli , Andreas Aigner , Juho Hanninen , Patrik Sandell , Jari Ketomaa
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport