JORDAN RALLY FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Media FIA Pre-event Press Conference 04.24.2008 Present: Per-Gunnar Andersson, Suzuki World Rally Team Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally ...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Media FIA Pre-event Press Conference 04.24.2008
Per-Gunnar Andersson, Suzuki World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Henning Solberg, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Florian Niegel, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Sebastien Ogier, FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.
Q: P-G, it's been a tough start to the season with Suzuki and the reliability problems that have troubled the team since Sweden. What has been the main problem and have those issues now been resolved?
P-GA: I think so (been resolved). The team has been working hard to find out the problem with the engine and the electrics. I hope we have found out. We will try again here.
Q: Do you believe the car can be competitive in its current form?
P-GA: No, it is not (competitive) at the moment. We do some progress all the time, step-by-step and then we can improve and get more speed.
Q: When the car has been on form your times have been good. Is that any consolation or are you frustrated with not being able to show your full potential?
P-GA: Both. As long as the car is working I will try my best. The driving feel is good and we have the potential. On the day when we are running 100%, we are up there with the good times.
Q: You had some problems on the shakedown this morning?
P-GA: Yes, we had problems with the gearbox. When we moved the car stalled. We will solve the problems. Finding the final line is difficult. There are a lot of blind crests and tough roads. The final line on the road will be important.
Q: I hear that between events you have become a Tarmac specialist, but not in the rally sense. What have you been up to?
P-GA: Yes (smiling), I have been laying Tarmac on the roads in the streets. It is something between the rallies to enable me to get used to the heat.
Q: Since his first win in Sweden, your team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala has proved to be a worthy match, out-pacing you in Sweden and Mexico. How has that felt for you and has it put pressure on you to up your game?
MH: No, he is just insane! He is flat-out in every corner. When he has the right line, he is very fast. He is going to be very tough to beat all year.
Q: You are not first on the road here; how much will that benefit you and will we see an opening stage time like the one in Argentina?
MH: We are looking to the rally here. I did not know that I would be as fast in Argentina. It felt really bad in the stage. We were sliding all the time in the corners and in the wrong direction. It was a good stage. It was better for me in Argentina. It does not make a big difference; the road will be cleaned and we will try and go flat-out.
Q: What were your thoughts on the shakedown?
MH: We had no problems at shakedown. I need to get used to the roads. The stages here are very technical. You need to be careful and precise. There are fast corners over crests and, if you do not see the line over the crests, you will hit a stone. It is going to be tricky and very hard for the tyres and the cars. The tyres are so hard now, that there will be no bite and they will be spinning on the top (surface). Maybe wear on the tyres will be more than normal.
Q: It's your first time in Jordan and you come here in the lead of the Championship. What did you think of the stages on the recce and do you think it will be a level playing field on this event?
SL: It's not the worst rally to clean the stages, but it is not an advantage to be in the front. There is not too much gravel on the roads. I hope I start well. Then we will see. Maybe the cars far behind will have an advantage. But the second time around will be no problem.
Q: The final day is the longest day competitively, which is unusual. Will that mean you don't have to push so hard on the opening day? Will it lead to tactical driving in order not to be first on the road on the final day?
SL: The time you lose in the first two days you will have to catch up again, so we will have to fight from the start to the end. Sunday is a difficult day. We will do the long stage two times and it will be slippery with lots of gravel. Being first on the road may well be a problem. We will see.
Q: How hot was it during the recce -- what will you be doing this weekend to deal with the heat?
SL: We will not do a lot. I will drink a lot and try to eat some salt and some minerals and be fit. After that there is no air conditioning in the cars, only the air from the air intake. It is really hot - 45 (degrees Centigrade) outside and 45-degree air into the intake can be difficult.
Q: Leading the Championship means you will be first on the road. With what you have seen during the recce how much of a disadvantage will it be?
SL: The key to success is to finish and keep the car on the road. It is easy to make a mistake. There are a lot of blind corners, sometimes very fast and the grip is changing. But it's a bit like Tarmac. Sometimes there is gravel on the top which is slippery and the grip is changing. It is always important to win. If I feel I can fight for victory I will try, if not I will try and save my position.
Q: Henning, you have no experience of rallies within the Middle East, but your engineer Ian Davies has a huge amount experience of this terrain. How much will that help you this weekend?
HS: On this event I have to listen to him for a change! He knows a lot about the stages. He warned me about the stones coming out of the road. The first car out on the road will be cutting up so many loose stones. It will be difficult for the cars behind.
Q: Looking back at your season so far how would you assess your performance?
HS: Not very well so far. My speed is better and better every event. I try to go out and not think about the Championship and try to find a good pace. I have pushed more before and I crashed in Sweden, a heavy crash. That can happen in rallying when you want to get the speed. The bad thing is that I have a better feeling now...
Q: Historically you have done well on 'new' events; are you confident you can achieve a good result here?
HS: I hope so. It is a very difficult rally. You cannot see the road and you must listen to the pace notes. You cannot attack with a slide because there is a stone there. The man who listens to the pace notes will be the fastest.
Q: You also have a rallycross programme?
HS: Not exactly. I have a Fiesta rallycross car, 580 bhp or something. I will have it to drive people and sponsors around at home. For example, our Ford dealer. I can drive around the dealership house.
Q: What have been your experiences of the Dead Sea?
SL: I have been in the sea. It is a nice feeling for the first time. It's very nice, interesting, but better for a holiday. It is too hot for a rally.
MH: Yes I tried it. It is strange. If you sleep you may drift away across the border maybe! It is very nice.
HS: I have been in the Dead Sea two times; very nice. There is a lot of mud and it is good for the skin. Now I have ladies' skin!
P-GA: I went for a float. It is special.
Questions from the floor:
Awni Freij Al Arab Al Yawm Newspaper (HKJ) Q: What have been your feelings so far?
SL: We were very happy yesterday to meet the Prince (HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein). We were happy to see him involved in rallying. So it was good. It is important for us on an operation like this.
Hiba Sabbagh Al Rai Newspaper (HKJ) Q: What do you think of the stages in Jordan?
SL: I think the stages are not a problem. I always try to win when I arrive somewhere new. It will be difficult like we said. The most important thing is to score points for the Championship. We will try,
FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Q: Sebastien, a fantastic start to your JWRC campaign in Mexico, where you picked up a WRC driver's point and put yourself in the history books by doing so. It must have boosted your confidence; can you win in Jordan?
SO: Yes, for sure it was a good start for me. It is more important that I get the experience and to get the same result here would be great.
Q: How did the recce go? Are the stages like anything you have seen before?
SO: It was tricky. I think it will be a good rally and very hot. The stages are not like any other rallies, but this is only my second WRC rally. It is very different.
Q: You did the recce for Argentina; are you planning to recce every rally that is on next year's calendar?
SO: Yes, normally I will be on Greece. Not sure about the others. We will see, but I want to go maximum.
Q: Dealing with the heat will be a big factor this weekend, have you been doing any extra training to prepare?
SO: I have had no training for the heat. We need to drink a lot. But it will be a very difficult rally.
Q: Which stages do you think are the toughest and why?
SO: I think the long special on the last day will be more difficult.
Q: Florian, it's your first time in the JWRC; what do you hope to achieve this year?
FN: It's the first season for me. I am sure I will find it very difficult because there are some very good drivers in the JWRC.
Q: There is a strong field of great drivers in the Championship; do you think you can rival the likes of Ogier and Sandell?
FN: Yes, I watched the first rally on TV. There are lots of good drivers, but I am happy to be here.
Q: It's your first event in the Championship on a new event for everyone so it could be a level playing field this weekend. Do you think that could work to your advantage?
FN: I hope so. The most important thing for me is to finish the rally. The stages are difficult.
Q: Did everything go well with the recce?
FN: Some stages are very fast. If you make a mistake, rocks are near the road and you have a big problem. It's important to learn something. We have a new team. A podium would be great. The rally is long, three days and there are some difficult stages.