Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Marc Marti, Citroen Total World Rally Team 3rd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu ...
1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Marc Marti, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Team Principal, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Welcome to the post event FIA Press Conference.
Q: A win here in New Zealand extends your lead in the Drivers' Championship and Citroen's advantage in the Manufacturers' Championship. But what a dramatic final day!
SL: Yes. I think more drama for some others than me. For us it was an incredible finish. In the morning I was in a good position to fight for the win, so I try hard from the start. I made a mistake, did a spin and dropped 10 seconds. I tried even harder in the next stage, but could do nothing about Mikko, he was faster than me. At service I tried to do more and change some settings. In the second loop I was trying to beat Jari-Matti (Latvala), I couldn't fight with Mikko. Then Jari-Matti went off the road and I thought maybe Mikko will be under pressure. I thought then that I have to try. Finally, he had a puncture and we won.
It wasn't the best of starts this morning, with an uncharacteristic mistake on the opening stage. What happened?
SL: It's not a question of pressure. I tried a bit too hard in one place. I was a bit surprised, I lost control of the car, I was too much sideways and I couldn't bring it back.
Q: What was your mindset going into the penultimate stage? Would you push or settle?
SL: I was pushing hard. I tried to put the pressure on. I know I cannot be 15 seconds faster. I tried. You know in this situation, it's not easy to be leading with 15 seconds. It's a long stage and you are being pushed hard from behind. You think to some things and there are things in your mind. I tried hard. I could do it this time.
Q: Did you think at any point today you might not get on the podium as the other three, including your team-mate Dani Sordo, were pushing so hard?
SL: Yeah. I didn't want to think about that. At one point, I thought: "Maybe Mikko can win." He was going to win and I could finish fourth, but I tried everything I could not to do it. I wanted to finish second to lose only two points.
Q: The tactics played by Citroen and Ford have made this event interesting in giving us four drivers fighting for the lead on the final day. How much do you think you really benefited today?
SL: I don't know. I don't know if it was the right tactic. Maybe I couldn't win. It was not so big difference today. Yeah, yesterday we thought that's the best way to win. The problem is that people are only talking about the tactics, that's not good for the rally. Maybe it's important to find another regulation, to have some good fights and not only talk tactics and road cleaning. For people who are not real rally fans it's difficult to understand why it is always a question of tactics. I don't think it's a good way. The regulation, for me, last year was really good. It was tough for the Championship leader on day one, then it was really close and interesting for the next two days.
Q: On Friday you were late into stage six. We could see you on the aerial footage, how did you start the car?
DE: You know when you try to push, you can have technical problems and it's not easy. Now it's okay because it was the first day, if it was yesterday and today it could have been different. But, I want to talk about the regulation. This is completely wrong; I prefer the fight with Marcus (Gronholm) last year, when we lost by 0.3 second. With Mikko today, we drive fast and he drive fast yesterday when he was first on the road. I prefer to fight for three days rather than have strategy and this s**t. I would rather that everybody was looking and waiting for the fight, but now we all know it's two days of nothing -- on Thursday and Saturday night we can go to the discotheque and have the party. We have to change this.
Q: Now we move to asphalt rallies, you must be looking forward to those.
DE: Now Tarmac, it's okay for us. But if you look at Mikko in Germany, he was fast and fast. Last year in Catalunya and Corsica he was fast and fast. It's not finished for the Championship. It can be interesting for everybody, but not with this regulation on the gravel.
Q: How was the rally for you, do you feel your pace is improving?
DS: My feeling with the car is better than last year. I drove very well. I felt very well.
Q: We'd seen some bad weather before the start of the event. How were the roads for you?
DS: The stages were better for me, the position on the road was better. It was more clean for me, but some passes were more smooth. The roads are really nice.
Q: It was the penultimate stage that caused problems for most drivers. How was the event for you?
DS: There were some problems: Latvala went off and Mikko had a spin. We had no mistakes during the weekend or problems with the car. I'm happy for that.
Q: It's your home event that is next on the calendar, and on a surface that you love. Is the objective there to achieve the first win?
DS: I don't know. It's special in Spain and there's a lot of support. But the rally is like Germany, like Corsica or Monte Carlo. I don't know. I will try to finish on the podium. Mikko drove very well last year to the podium, we will see.
Q: Does this result signify that Dani is closer to the pace on gravel?
MM: Yes. He started in Finland, but we cannot see him on the podium because there were a lot of fast drivers in Finland. He did another step (from Finland) and this is where we are. It's more important to do this; if you're not there then you can lose the manufacturer points. We are doing a good job for the manufacturer, this is the most important thing.
Q: Mikko, it's third at the end of the day after what has been a disaster of an afternoon for Ford. It all went wrong on that penultimate stage; what exactly happened?
MH: Well, like you say, we had a slow puncture. I don't know where it started. Nine kilometres before the finish, the tyre was completely empty -- I knew we would lose. And so, here we are again.
Q: Did Jari-Matti at the side of the road distract you?
MH: No, not really. When we went into the stage, he was flat out and fighting with Dani and Sebastien. When I saw him in the stage, I thought: "Okay, now maybe he (Loeb) doesn't need to push any more." I thought Dani would slow down for Sebastien. There was no panic for me. I kept my pace and didn't panic. But it didn't work out, for me. It wasn't meant to be this time.
Q: It's a small consolation, but you did finish third.
MH: Absolutely. And that's better than nothing. You know, one kilometre before the end of the stage we had a high-speed spin and we were lucky not to go off the road. We are here and we have six points.
Q: With Jari-Matti Latvala not scoring points here it means that Citroen are beginning to run away with the Manufacturers' Championship. Do you think it's out of sight now with the two asphalt events coming up?
MH: I have to be positive. It doesn't get any better if I worry about it. I need to go as fast as I can on the next rallies and try to take some time out of Sebastien.
Q: And what about the next two rallies on asphalt, can you beat Sebastien?
MH: I'm definitely going to try. We don't have so much to lose. We can go there and drive. In Germany, I was pleased with the speed on Friday, if we can do that we can challenge in Spain and Corsica.
Q: And you have a big test before those rallies.
MH: Yes. Correct.
Q: But it's still going to be a tough challenge?
MH: Sure it will be. But, I'm confident of a good result, but we'll see if it's good enough.
Q: It was almost in the bag, when did you realise the win had slipped away?
JL: 9.5 kilometres before the end, when Mikko said we have the puncture. I could feel it before then, but when he said that, we knew we couldn't match his speed. It's a hard moment, but you have to concentrate to get to the end.
Q: Mikko had driven very well, though.
JL: I must say, when we were first car on the road, I was so impressed. On a very slow and long corner, he was patient and not trying to be too early on the throttle. When it was wide and flowing, he had, it's rude to say it: the big balls to do it. There were a few moments.
Q: Olivier, A dream result for Citroen...
OQ: Yes. It's a good result. A very good result, but not a dream result. Today Dani and Seb drive quite well. There was a lot of pressure. The result is this one. Of course we are very pleased. We have to think to Malcolm (Wilson), it's difficult for him today, but next time you don't know -- that could be us.
Q: We're going to events where historically Citroen is very strong. With your lead in the Manufacturers' Championship, is it all over?
OQ: We are never finished. All of the Championships (drivers and manufacturers') we will not know the winning of until the last rally in Britain. It will be a good fight to the finish. It won't be finished until the end of the year.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Martin Prokop
1st - Jan Tomanek
Q: This is your first win in PWRC; how do you feel?
MP: It's nice to be here. I didn't believe this result before. It's really difficult to be here for the first time and to try and fight for the first place. Before we said we want to push and go carefully, but enjoy the rally. After Friday and the first section, we could see we could fight for the podium or first place, so we went a bit faster and started to push and fight with Mirco (Baldacci) on Saturday morning. Then we got the gap to one second between us. It was again a big battle. We were quite lucky Mirco did a mistake and we could win, but it was also hard for us.
Q: It's the first time you have ever been to New Zealand and to win the event against the likes of Hanninen and Aigner, and of course the local drivers, is an incredible result.
MP: No absolutely, we don't believe it's possible to fight with them. After Germany when we lost the chance to win the Juniors, we lost a bit of motivation. We wanted to make a relaxed race and make miles. I wanted to be back in Spain and Corsica to fight for the Junior win. To win the Production race is something strange and something new. But it's nice to see two Juniors on the podium, but for me it's wonderful to win with a four wheel drive car.
Q: It's a difficult event but you seemed to get into the rhythm quite easily. How do you explain that?
MP: It's difficult to explain. I felt very well with the car. We found a good set-up on the Monday test. My chief mechanic had to stay in the Czech Republic after a big crash on the IRC Rally, so I was scared, would the car be fine? But we were in touch over the phone and we felt very good with the car and very good feeling in the slow corners. We were driving quite safety, but fast.
Q: We have seen you locked in battles in many rallies this year, in the JWRC too as you are tackling both the Championships. You must know how to keep your cool in those situations?
MP: It's good. Last year, we won a few races in Juniors, but every race we won was not easy, but not a big fight. This year every race is a very big fight for each second through every stage. This is something new for me. This helped me and makes me more ready for something bigger or higher. So yes, I like it.
Q: What is the aim for PWRC until the end of the year, being that a Championship win is mathematically impossible?
MP: I said that we lost a little motivation in Germany, with no possibility to win one of the Championships. We show our speed all of the time, but this year we have too many technical problems. I don't know why, my team is the best for the car. All of the time it was small things stopping the car. We will show our speed and we are fast, that's all we can do. Now I will enjoy the rest of the season. Now it's good, my co-driver said he wouldn't shave his hair until we won, so now he can do that!