1st overall Petter Solberg, Phil Mills, Subaru 2nd overall Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Citroen 3rd overall Markko Martin, Michael Park, Ford 1st manuf. David Lapworth, Subaru Q: Congratulations on a fantastic and dominant win. How much did it...
1st overall Petter Solberg, Phil Mills, Subaru
2nd overall Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Citroen
3rd overall Markko Martin, Michael Park, Ford
1st manuf. David Lapworth, Subaru
Q: Congratulations on a fantastic and dominant win. How much did it help to be on Subaru’s home territory?
PS: Obviously been a really good feeling from the start. Everything went perfect and there was not one single problem the whole rally. It helps to keep the concentration of the whole team and myself. To win you can’t let anything go wrong and nothing went wrong. Everyone had been a little stressed, we totally checked everything. The crash in Germany did not help. Obviously everything went incredibly well and it was better than expected.
Q: Phil, this is a contrast from two weeks ago when you were in a lot of pain at home. Were you still in pain in this rally or did you just forget about it?
PM: I was a bit uncomfortable for the three days but I just forgot about it. Once we got into the first stage it was good and at the end of the first stage there was a lot of relief to be back in business. We both felt fine and continued to lead from there.
PS: It was absolutely perfect. Even better than before Germany!
Q: Sebastian, congratulations on second place and your championship lead. Was your biggest preoccupation to keep Marcus and Markko behind you, or try and catch Peter?
SL: At the beginning the target was to have points, so we aimed to finish in the first four places. After that when we started, we saw that we could fight with Petter and Marcus so we tried to do everything we could to fight. On the second day we lost some time to Petter. He was very fast and we did not have a good tyre choice. We lost more than 40 seconds. At this moment we decided to stop pushing and keep our position.
Q: Daniel, what were the biggest challenges that you faced on this event?
DE: Pacenotes. It’s very difficult when you have recce at 60km and then after that you are flat out 200 kms and then there are the trees and the mud. It’s hard for a co driver to read after the first leg, you tend to keep the rhythm and it’s okay.
Q: Markko what did you think of this event as an addition to the WRC? Did you like it and do you think it can be improved?
MM: I think everyone can improve. In general it was a good event. Japan has supported our championship for so long and we have never come here to do any rallies so it was a great move to come here. In general the roads are okay and the organization is good but sometimes there are narrow sections. The road sections were 100 kilometers long and you can do a 50-60 km stage but it was not the most enjoyable event because of that. Maybe next year the organizers could make shorter road sections to make it a more enjoyable event.
Q: I think yourself and Markko struggled a little on pace notes on the first two days?
MP: Yes quite a few crews were affected and it affected us badly for the first couple of days. I am not sure why. It’s a high speed event and very narrow so you can’t take the usual line you would normally take. Also there were lots of pace notes being changed on every stage. The first run through the stages was bad, but the second run was okay.
Q: Petter, the next event is Rally GB. You have won for the last two years. How confident do you feel that you can win that and the championship?
PS: We are trying to win every rally. We have the same motivation as Sebastien. That is our strategy. For a chance to catch Sebastien we have to win the rest of the rallies and he has to be unlucky. But England is a very good rally for us, very good stages and it will be a lovely course. I think we will be prepared. The car has proven all year that we are quick on gravel we just have to wait and see.
Phil, was there any point in this event where you felt you were under pressure or was it straight forward event for you?
PS: Just hop in the car and see!
PM: I guess the only reminder of pressure was this morning when someone said,” there are135 million Japanese people expecting us to win!” That was the only tiny bit of pressure this weekend. We just got on with the job. We are very proud for us to win here amongst anything to take the pressure away and also because we are the only Japanese manufacturer. It has been a proud moment.
Q: Sebastien, on the second day you had a big spin on the repeat of the long stage. Were you nervous?
SL: Yes I had a spin and I braked too late for a left corner, I went a bit off little road so I stopped the engine. I was lucky. I was not pushing so hard the first day. It’s more difficult some times to be in this position, to be driving not too fast and to stay on the road but not too slow because Markko is behind. When you drive like this it is harder not to make mistakes.
Q: Do you feel you have a comfortable advantage in the championship?
SL: Yes for sure 30 points is a good advantage. There are 5 more rallies but it’s a mechanical sport. They are good driver Markko, Petter, Marcus and Carlos too. We will wait and see.
Q: Markko, there has been a lot of speculation about the future of Ford. What do you know?
MM: Not more than you!
Q: Michael you (and Markko) are one point behind Petter. What is the chance of winning the title?
MP: It depends on what Sebastien does. If we win a lot of rallies and he finishes a few places behind us. But for ourselves we will continue to push and fight the three guys that are fighting for second place. It’s a tremendous fight for second place and unfortunately we have to do a bit of what he is doing and drive for second.
Q: David, Petter was on a fantastic form after Germany. What is the main difference after Germany? What is the secret?
DL: The way he has come back after the last couple of rallies is something. How difficult it is to come back is the biggest test of a world champion. The crash in Germany was the ultimate test. They were very impressive. From a team’s point of view there was an obvious amount of pressure being here for the first time in Japan, being in a home market. Maybe pressure is not the right words. There was a high amount of importance on this rally. The secret is not to treat the event any differently from the other and treat the rally like any other rally. Hopefully we will win more again. But it’s easier to say than to do.
Q: What can you say about the local support and the event in general?
DL: It was even better than I expected. Being in Japan we expected it to be organized smoothly. And we expected lots of enthusiasm but this excelled our expectations and we can hardly criticize it. It is a good thing to see both new events, here and Mexico, are excellent events. It shows we can bring new events in championship and maybe we can look to the future and change the championship around. Maybe some of the events that have been in the championship for a long time should look over their shoulder and make sure they are not being taken over by new events. It’s a good demonstration of what can be done. The concern over the length of road sections is a concern for us in the service and the guys in the cars. But for the fans and TV, they are not concerned as long as the show is good.
Q: What is happening with Mikko, will his result remain in the rally?
DL: The way I read the regulations it seems to be fairly clear that he is still in the event. We are in the hands of the stewards if they want to put a different interpretation on it. It’s fairly clearly written that cars can be towed to the adjacent service park. So according to what the regulations say he should be in the rally.
Q: There are five events remaining. How well will they suit Petter and the Subaru.
DL: Obviously based on our current form on gravel we have to feel confident. There is little to choose between these guys and Marcus also. His form on gravel has been good. We go to each rally to win as does everyone. I don’t know if we can, but individually we will try. We have seen on tarmac for example in Germany it depends a lot on the weather so I would not like to predict because I think tactics are out the window now and everyone is going to go for broke. Except for Seb... It should make for great rallies.
PS: I just want to say thank you guys for everything. This rally has been an incredible rally. It is very well organized. When you drive these road sections you’ll not believe it. You see the people, the support, the flags with the names on the big banners for all the drivers it’s just incredible. I can’t remember such passion for rallying. It means so much for us drivers. I just have to say thank you to the supporters. To the organizers I have no complaints. It’s tricky for us drivers because we have to use our brain a little bit more. I’m very pleased to be here in Japan for Subaru and it’s been my biggest rally win this year and I am looking forward to the future now.
Q: David, we heard the future for Ford was maybe worrying? Are you worried for the future for world rallying because interest might be reduced? For example in an extreme situation, PSA might not continue with two manufacturers if Ford stops?
DL: Personally I don’t think it is a worry. The situation with the championship, with the stability, with the agreement with the FIA and the manufacturers and the organizers is probably the strongest it has ever been. You cannot connect Ford and Mitsubishis problems over the last few months. They are problems that are not to do with the health of the sport well and there is every opportunity for the manufacturers to come in to the sport. Of course I am nervous if we end up with less cars, less manufacturers but I think it’s a short term problem. We have seen this kind of problem in WRC, in F1 and every category of motorsport I have worked in. It’s about a financial situation across the world not a reflection of the championship. The championship itself is in a very strong position and lets just keep our fingers crossed that the other manufacturers find a solution.