CORONA RALLY MEXICO 2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Post-event FIA Press Conference 03.02.2008 Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb -- Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena -- Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Chris Atkinson -- Subaru...
CORONA RALLY MEXICO
2008 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Post-event FIA Press Conference
1st - Sebastien Loeb -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Chris Atkinson -- Subaru World Rally Team
2nd - Stephane Prevot -- Subaru World Rally Team
3rd - Jari-Matti Latvala -- BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Miikka Anttila -- BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.
Q: Sebastien, congratulations on your third successive Corona Rally Mexico win. Did you think after the problems with your engine at shakedown that you would go on to win this event?
SL: Yes, because every time we have a shakedown problem we win the rally. For sure, we did not know how it would go with the engine, because we had to go back to the first engine. But, after the first stage, I was confident and I was hoping that we would last all the rally.
Q: Did what happened on Thursday affect your confidence with the car in any way this weekend?
SL: After the first stage I was confident it would last, but not that I would win! We try to adjust the settings and it went better and better after that.
Q: Jari-Matti (Latvala) has proved a worthy opponent, how tough was it battling with him on Friday? Were you flat out trying to catch him?
SL: I was fighting as hard as I was able to. Not completely enough at the start. He was in front of me on the road and I could not really beat him. I had to find a solution for the other days and change something on the car. It was better afterwards. We could fight to take the lead again. Then he had his problem and we were quiet to make sure we reached the finish.
Q: With Jari-Matti's problem your lead became over minute, how much did you back off?
SL: Just enough to make sure we did not make a mistake and get any punctures.
Q: When Marcus Gronholm retired at the end of last year did you think it may be an easier fight for the title this year? What are your thoughts now after three rallies?
SL: I didn't know. A lot of people told me it would be easy to win. I said no, Hirvonen will be fast and Latvala is taking experience. But Latvala has been faster than we expected every time. He is a new problem! Now I must fight harder again. Argentina is a nice rally as well. I hope we will be able to fight again for victory. The tyres will be more difficult. Here it is very hot and good for hard compound tyres. Argentina is colder and softer and hard tyres can be a problem.
Q: Daniel congratulations. From what you've seen so far of the competition in 2008, how hard do you think it will be to secure wins in both Championships this year?
DE: I don't know, it is too early to say. Only three races so far and two wins for us. Okay, we made a mistake in Sweden but now we will see. Our last victory on gravel was one year ago in Argentina, so to win again was good for us for the Championship. Dani (Sordo) had a little problem and no chance to take a good result here. The times of Dani were very good and I am confident for the rest of season.
Q: Chris, congratulations on achieving your best-ever result of second overall. After Jari- Matti's problems, when he dropped behind you by just over a minute, was that time cushion comfortable enough for you to relax at all through Sunday's stages, or were you also concerned for punctures?
CA: We never had the pace of these two. We were trying to hang in there. When we were comfortable we backed off when Jari-Matti (Latvala) had his problems.
Q: At the start of Day 2 you were only 12.8 seconds adrift of Sebastien; did you plan to try and catch him or just hold position?
CA: No. We had the idea to keep the same pace and not push. I was sure he would go away and take some time. We still have some work to do. This is a good step in the right direction for Subaru. It was good with no problems. I knew that I could even lose a second per kilometre today and that was no problem. I drove around every rock and was quite careful. On the first day I hit rocks and got no punctures, so that says something positive about the tyres.
Q: You didn't seem to have any major problems this weekend. How much were you driving on the limit and did you have any moments during the event?
CA: We hit a rock in fifth gear, but the tyre stayed up, even though we bent the rim. Not too many moments really.
Q: It was the first time for the Pirelli gravel tyres to be used, how did you find them? How much of a difference was there performance-wise?
CA: Good, like I said. No punctures on the rocks. The performance was quite good and they worked well for us. We had no other problems at all.
Q: You currently lie fourth in the Drivers' Championship, how much of a chance do you think you have of aiming for the title?
CA: Like he (Latvala) said, it is too early to say. But it has been good to start like this. The focus for us now is the new car. I am looking forward to that. Markko (Martin) is doing some good work. My objective for the first half of the season was to take a top five finishes and to have had two podiums so far is a great start.
Q: Stephane congratulations, second time on the podium this year. It's your first time in Mexico with Chris. How difficult is tackling challenging rallies like this for the first time?
SP: Well it was no different to all the other rallies with him. Argentina in three weeks time will be the first time for a challenge. This is a rally which I knew and did with Francois (Duval) two times before. I like Chris' notes; they are accurate and detailed. It was alright. It is a good event, the timing is good and the stages are beautiful. It's a very good event, nice atmosphere, but maybe there were some troubles with stones on stage five. It is a very nice rally to recce.
Q: Jari-Matti, third position at the end of Mexico, another strong performance from you. You were unbeatable on Friday, and kept battling away until the turbo pipe problem on Saturday. Third is a good result and good points -- but are you slightly disappointed?
J-ML: Well yes, Friday was perfect. It started very well and I had a good feeling. Saturday morning we were first car on the road and it was not easy. I was pushing too hard, making mistakes. Seb taught me why he is a four-time World Champion. He was far, far away from us. Then we had the important moment with the problem with the turbo pipe and lost boost from the engine. We drove with no boost and lost two minutes on the long stages. But I am still happy with this result.
Q: Your road position on Friday wasn't great but yet you still managed to strike out a lead, were you surprised by your pace on the opening day?
J-ML: It was very good. It gave me a lot more confidence. I enjoyed that moment. I still have some work to do with my driving. I am still making mistakes. I need to work with the driving to get a bit closer to Seb.
Q: You have seemed quite cool and calm throughout the weekend, how much of that is down to getting your first win out of the way; do you feel less pressure than you did in Monte Carlo?
J-ML: Yes for sure, less pressure. When we went to Monte-Carlo I had so much pressure on me. I made so many mistakes. After that we get to Sweden and we had a good solid result and that gave me a lot of confidence. It was so easy to start this rally and I am looking forward to going to Argentina.
Q: You are third in the Drivers' Championship; do you consider yourself a strong contender for the title this year?
J-ML: I was thinking about that after Sweden and the World Championship is not my target yet. My driving is improving here, but the Drivers' Championship is not the main thing. The Manufacturers' Championship is the main thing. It would be a big bonus to win the Drivers' title. But it is something too early maybe. I need to improve my driving on tarmac still. Let's see how many steps we can take this year.
Q: Miikka, you don't have great experience of this rally but were able to take the fight to Loeb, who has much more knowledge of the roads. How?
MA: I think the main part of this comes from the confidence. There are several new factors this year. The main thing is tyres. Nobody knows the tyres so well, plus the rules with the starting positions. This was the first rally on gravel with the Pirelli tyres and it all went well. But still I am happy to be third.
Q: Congratulations on the result Olivier, but has it been a bit of a stressful weekend after the concerns over Sebastien's engine before the start of the event?
OQ: It was a stressful weekend. But I think we take a good decision with the engine and Seb did what he had to do. I am happy for Seb, Daniel and the whole team.
Q: You're now second in the Manufacturers' Championship, on equal points with Subaru; what is the strategy for the next few events?
OQ: The plan is for Seb to carry on in the same way. Dani (Sordo), I hope, can finish in Argentina and I think, then, we will be okay.
FIA JUNIOR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Sebastien Ogier
1st - Julien Ingrassia
Q: It's your first event in the Junior World Rally Championship and you have certainly impressed with your pace. Did you think you would win on your debut rally?
SO: No. This is a good weekend for me. Before I attend the rally I was interested to see where I could finish. After the first stage I was surprised. l enjoyed the weekend. It was very good.
Q: Did you experience any problems this weekend? How tough were the stages?
SO: No. just a puncture on the first stage and after that the Citroen was very good and my co-driver too. I would also like to thank my team, all the team at PH Sport.
Q: What do you think about the other drivers in the JWRC; who do you think will be your main rivals now?
SO: I don't know, we will see. This weekend, Prokop, Sandell and some others had problems so it is far too early to say. We made a good start on the first day. After the second day, we didn't push. I stayed in the centre of the road and did not take any risks. It paid off.
Q: You led from the opening stage, how much pressure did you feel from the drivers behind?
SO: The main objective for me was to cross the finish line. The first day I tried to push and take no maximum risks. After the first day I led by one minute and after that I knew I could take it slowly.
Q: For the first time the FFSA are supporting a driver on a whole championship. Is achieving the Championship title your aim this year?
SO: Yes of course. We have started the Championship with a win. So we will try and continue the same way all the season.
Q: Congratulations Julien, a great weekend for you and Sebastien. He was obviously on the pace to secure the win; did you have any moments out there this weekend?
JI: On the first day we have enormous pressure, but we never had a 'hot' moment. It was a very good rally all the way,
Q: How much will this win boost your confidence for the rest of the series?
JI: Yes effectively. But as Seb says the rally (season) is long and we must see after Corsica. All is going very quickly with Sebastien. We started two years ago and step-by- step we will try and improve. Each day it is very enjoyable. We like working with the Federation (FFSA), the Citroen team and the other JWRC teams.