FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Neste Rally Finland Media FIA Pre-event Press Conference 04.08.2005 Present: Guy Frequelin -- Citroen Isao Torii -- Mitsubishi Mikko Hirvonen -- Ford Janne Tuohino -- Skoda Marcus Gronholm -- Peugeot Petter Solberg...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Neste Rally Finland
Media FIA Pre-event Press Conference
Guy Frequelin -- Citroen
Isao Torii -- Mitsubishi
Mikko Hirvonen -- Ford
Janne Tuohino -- Skoda
Marcus Gronholm -- Peugeot
Petter Solberg -- Subaru
Q: Welcome to Finland Guy (Frequelin). Sebastien (Loeb) has just finished a remarkable run of six consecutive victories, but he says Finland will be the most difficult rally for him so far. How confident do you feel about the abilities of him and the Xsara to win again in Finland?
GF: Sebastien is right. Sure it is very difficult rally. Very specific and I don't want to push Sebastien to win. It's very important to score points for the Manufacturers' Championship and the Drivers' championship and so it's very important to finish the rally.
Q: If, for example, he is second on the last day would you expect him to push for victory or think of points and the championship?
GF: For sure not. It's too important to score points. I saw Marcus a few minutes ago and I think he want win this rally.
Q: Torii San, the Lancer has a number of engine improvements to it for this rally. Can you tell us what they are and what effect they should have on the performance of the car?
IT: Of course every day we continue to make developments and this time we have made several improvements on the engine side, some launch system improvement and engine management system and these small items we build up and it improved drivability better and so I hope it works in this rally. And also suspensionwise we have adjusted the damper especially for Finland's high speed jumps and especially the landings.
Q: Do you think that so far the performance of the team has followed the targets set since the start of the season?
IT: Yeah, this year in the first half of the year I said still we are continuing development and we will show rally by rally our speed. And we are making improvements so I believe at the current moment our vehicle is on target and we still have additional plans to improve the car for next year.
Q: Guy, last time out in Argentina you said you were happy with seventh place for Francois Duval. What objective do you have fixed for him on this event? How difficult do you think this will be for him?
GF: The target for Francois is to finish in the Manufacturers' scoring points and not more. For us it's all very important to finish the rally. It's not important for me to see good performance from Francois on this rally. It is too difficult a rally to do a good performance. This rally is too important to take too much risk and for me it's more important to score points for the Manufacturers' championship.
Q: How has his collaboration with Sven Smeets worked so far?
GF: For the moment no problem with Sven, he has some points to modify in the notes. It's no problem, collaboration is okay
Q: Harri Rovanpera has always been amongst the quickest drivers in Finland. What do you expect from him here? Can he end up on the podium? Is it an event that suits the Lancer WRC?
IT: Yes for sure. This rally is one of the good rallies for Harri. Last year he showed a fantastic turn up to stage five so I expect a similar performance in this rally - not retirement; finish the rally and automatically get a good result. I am very confident with him. He can do it.
Q: How close to his pace do you expect Gigi Galli to be?
IT: This is a special occasion. The Finland rally is special, it's for the Finnish drivers. But Gigi has good experience in this rally and also he will shows us his speed. I am also expecting Gigi will perform well in this rally.
Q: Is it an event that suits the Lancer WRC?
IT: Yeah I don't know if it's true or not but from my record Finland is good for Mitsubishi in the past. On our car the jumping and landing style is good so our car is suited for this event.
Q: There has been some work done recently on a 2006-specification Xsara, which will be designed to meet the new regulations for next year. Can you tell us about this car and your intentions with it?
GF: For the moment it's sure that we will rent some cars to private teams in 2006. Also we expect for the new regulations sporting and technical in 2007 - there is nothing decided at the moment for 2007. It's difficult to say which driver can drive the Xsara in 2006; for the private teams also nothing is decided.
Q: Is there a possibility that Sebastien Loeb will still be driving a Xsara next year?
GF: Why not? If the private teams finds a good sponsor and Sebastien is interested by this solution then why not? Maybe it's possible.
Q: Torii San, Mitsubishi, along with Skoda, requested and received a dispensation to miss some rallies next year. Now that the calendar will almost certainly consist of 16 rallies again next year, is it your intention to compete on all of them?
IT: At first I would like to say thank you to the FIA; they accept and understood our situation and give us more options. So still we are trying to attend all 16 rallies that is for sure. I am waiting for final calendar, budget, sponsor, support and at the end of this year we will decide. Currently my intention is to attend all rallies.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
Q: Mister Torii, who will drive your second car in Germany?
IT: Next, Gigi Galli will drive our second car.
Q: Janne, welcome. Your first rally Finland with Skoda, are you looking forward to it?
JT: Yes of course this rally it has every year won best rally. I am waiting and usually that rally is going well for us and of course I am waiting when the rally starts.
Q: Your team mate Jani Paasonen surprised several people last year by finishing sixth with the Fabia WRC: do you think you might be able to match or even improve on that result?
JT: Of course we both try to go flat out and this rally I think is good for Skoda and our test went well in July and I am confident we can do good results.
Q: What did you discover on test?
JT: Things with the set up in general and drive style. Nothing in the car is completely same as before.
Q: Hello, Mikko. You get your hands on a factory Ford Focus for this rally, and Tommi Makinen has tipped you as a big surprise to do well here. You've led a couple of rallies in an older car -- what do you think you can do here with the latest version?
MH: I am sure we will see on Sunday and during the weekend what I can do. For sure the car is faster than (the one) I am driving before this year so will be a really interesting weekend, but now we are driving for points for Ford so it's really important and I think it impresses more if I have a steady run here and get points for Ford than go flat out and make mistakes. Good result but also important too.
Q: Is this a rally you know well?
MH: I think Finland is a little different than Sardinia and Greece, especially Greece where I was leading the rally, when I had a better road position. I think Finland is different but then again everything is possible and we will go flat out from the rally start Thursday evening.
Q: You know this rally quite well -- can you tell us how you think it will compare with previous editions of the rally Finland? Is the weather likely to play a big part? How much more difficult does this rally become when it rains? Is it unusually slippery?
JT: It's planning to be raining so if it's like what is planned, then it will be slippery, but when we recced the roads it was still in good condition. Raining or not, it's nothing for me. If it's dry it's better for the spectators. I don't think it's so slippery. Of course it's more difficult in places and more slippery but generally it's a little bit slower but I don't know if it's a big difference.
Q: There are five Finns in the top, is this making it a classic Finnish rally?
JT: Of course there is a big competition between different Finnish drivers. It is the same every year and it looks like there is more world rally cars with Finnish drivers.
Q: Having driven the 2004 Focus, how different is it to the 2003 version you have used in the past?
MH: All those cars are a little bit different. The latest 04 I have at the moment, it's the latest specification, there is a difference in suspension and diffs as you can imagine, but it's harder to say how much faster per kilometre it is. Drivingwise it feels the same as the 03 car so it's quite easy to adapt to. It felt good right away.
Q: Is it a car that gives you a lot of confidence?
MH: It gives me a lot of confidence and then (there are) those rallies that I have done this year. How those rallies have been for me gives me even more confidence. Even in private car those results have been good. This year has been very good for me.
Q: It's been a mixed season for Skoda so far; are there any signs of improvement? What is the next stage of development for the Fabia WRC?
JT: Of course the set up is better from the first time I drove the car and for the next season I don't know what happens. It is most important that this weekend goes well. I hope it goes well for all cars in the team. Our car is faster than before but also other cars are faster than before.
Q: What do you think the team's prospects are looking like for the rest of the season?
JT: From my side the last six rallies are not so good and I hope the end of the season goes well and the car has no technical problems and I am sure some of us can do good results.
Q: Do you think your performances so far have been enough to put you in contention for a factory seat next year? So far, what are your plans for next year?
MH: Of course you are thinking about next year but not so much attention for next year because there are still some rallies now and I do as best I can and see what happens. I have learned a lot this year and next year both physically and mentally.
Q: What are your best hopes for 2006: are there any specific drives you are targeting?
MH: A factory drive in a factory seat again is always the dream and that is what I try to achieve.
Q: Welcome Marcus. Is Finland your best chance of winning a rally this year?
MG: Yes. I think so.
Q: Why do you think this is?
MG: We have won one rally with the 307. It was last Finland so I hope we can do it again. It's a fast rally with fast roads and good grip that makes the car easier to drive. Maybe I know the rally also quite well. But I am sure there are other drivers who know it well. It's always the same stages and only one new stage here - I did it years ago.
Q: Would you say that it is almost a car designed for Rally Finland?
MG: Yeah if you look at the result it is designed for this rally.
Q: Petter, you've never won in Finland, but always been quick here. What are your chances this time?
PS: My car is actually working well in many countries but I really hope to fight in the top. That is my first aim then I look in the results later. I really want to fight first place with Sebastian and Marcus.
Continued in part 2