FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP RALLY NEW ZEALAND 09-02-2007 Present: 1st - Marcus Gronholm -- BP Ford World Rally Team 1st - Timo Rautiainen -- BP Ford World Rally Team 2nd - Sebastien Loeb -- Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Daniel Elena --...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
RALLY NEW ZEALAND 09-02-2007
1st - Marcus Gronholm -- BP Ford World Rally Team
1st - Timo Rautiainen -- BP Ford World Rally Team
2nd - Sebastien Loeb -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Daniel Elena -- Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Mikko Hirvonen -- BP Ford World Rally Team
3rd - Jarmo Lehtinen -- BP Ford World Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson -- Team Principal, BP Ford World Rally Team
Welcome to the final FIA press conference.
Q: Marcus, congratulations. What a fantastic result. That would be the closest battle we have seen for a very long time, certainly in your WRC career?
MG: Yeah, for sure. It's the closest and 0.3 seconds is nothing. It was all day, really tight and okay I'm happy that we could win.
Q: Did you enjoy the weekend, with you and Seb sharing the lead on the stages?
MG: No! Sometimes, yes, but not so much because it's really stressful with the tyre choices and everything, so it was not that you could enjoy just driving around; it's not been like that.
Q: You weren't feeling 100% during the weekend; were you able to drive at your maximum limit? And what happened with your shoulder on stage 14?
MG: No, I don't think so finally, but the day before the start I was really tired all the time; maybe the flu came out when I was sweating. I had a small pain in my shoulder, that's all.
Q: Historically Sebastien (Loeb) is usually quicker on second runs through stages. Were you thinking about that this afternoon?
MG: No, not at all!
Q: Very confident?
Q: Sebastien, congratulations to you. Three tenths of a second, hardly anything at all, but disappointment at the end?
SL: Okay we have been fighting all weekend, and that has been good.
Q: Another consistent performance Mikko. Are you happy with your performance this weekend?
MH: I made one wrong tyre choice on Friday and I was out of the battle. I'm not upset with third and I've enjoyed the weekend but I was a little unhappy with my driving and not being able to join Seb and Marcus in the fight for victory.
Q: You were matching Loeb and Gronholm's pace more on Saturday, so that must have been encouraging?
MH: I feel like I've learned how to drive here and it was important for the team to get the points for third.
Q: You were pretty much in a rally by yourself with no big battles for you to fight. Is it difficult to keep your concentration in those circumstances?
MH: Yeah, for sure it was; I think I lost my rally on Friday. I did four stages and one wrong tyre choice and that's it, I was far behind them and there was nobody really behind me so after that I just keep my rhythm and enjoy watching their fight.
Q: Timo coming to you, congratulations. A great win this weekend but how stressful was it in the car?
TR: Like Marcus said it was very stressful, trying to make the decision for the tyres. You just had to concentrate and today, I don't say it was stressful during the stages but exciting, of course. Exciting or stressful what word would you like to hear?
Q: As the route was unchanged, did you make any major changes to your pace notes this year?
TR: We did some changes to last year's notes, but not so many; maybe some stages no changes at all, some stages maybe two changes on the notes, so I think it was a big advantage for us, especially on Friday. But then on the other hand Seb improved on Saturday morning on stages 6, 7 and 8 which he never had done at rally speed and he did some marvellous times.
Q: Same question I suppose, what was the atmosphere like in the car between you and Sebastien?
DE: It is good when you fight in these conditions; you have to push and push and you have the splits there to see what is happening.
Q: What was it like going through that final special stage? You were trying desperately to make up the time -- you almost did it -- what did it feel like?
DE: You are trying your best, and then we saw Marcus on the roof celebrating, so we knew we were second!
Q: Jarmo, another consistent performance. Any problems for you during the weekend?
JL: No, the biggest moment was in the first service on Friday morning when we chose the wrong tyres and our rally was finished after that. After that it was very relaxed and Mikko found a good rhythm. We really enjoyed the driving but, okay, we did not enjoy that we lost the fight in the first two stages.
Q: It's been a great weekend for you and you're third in the Drivers' Championship -- how do you rate your performances this season?
JL: We are better this year and have won a rally (Norway) by straight driving. I am hoping we can get a bit quicker still, but we are close to finding the solution to make that step.
Q: Malcolm, it just goes to show how competitive the WRC is when you get just three tenths of a second difference at the finish. These boys really have put on a great performance haven't they?
MW: I think it's incredible from a sporting point of view. I've been in this sport all my life and I've never seen a situation like this. Okay we've seen the lead change on the final stage before but to be going into the final stage with 0.7s is an incredible situation and for me it's such a great shame that you can't easily find a way to capture that so the rest of the world can see how great this sport is.
Q: How was it for you watching Marcus come through and then of course Sebastien?
MW: The engineers had calculated that by the speed Marcus was doing over the finish line Sebastien had to be 24 metres behind, but as we didn't have the luxury of the stage being a side by side one, everybody's been trying to do all the calculations! But the first I heard was a big cheer and Marcus jumping on the roof -- I'm not too impressed with that and am going to send him a bill for the damage -- it was more than he did in Australia last year (when he rolled the car)!
Q: Now five rounds remain and we're heading to Spain and Corsica next. How confident are you feeling about those events?
MW: Never been so confident! We were really happy with the performance of the car in Germany. It's not one of the favourite events for our drivers but hopefully we can raise the performance bar from where we were in Germany and let's see what happens.
Q: Marcus, how crucial was it to win in New Zealand for your Championship hopes?
MG: It was good to get a few more points than Seb because I made a mistake in Germany and lost some points, so it's good to have them now. But there is still a long way to go.
Q: And how about the tarmac events?
MG: It's okay. They are for me better rallies than Germany, so that's good.
Q: Timo, how many of the rallies do you think yourself and Marcus can win for the remainder of the year?
TR: I will not name them but with five rallies remaining it would be good to win three of them -- the majority of the remaining rallies.
Q: Sebastien, how confident are you of retaining your title, being that the battle in the Drivers' Championship is so close?
SL: I am quite good on the tarmac and usually beat Marcus, so will see what we can do.
Q: Daniel, the pace of the Citroen in New Zealand was far better than the pace we saw in Finland. That must give you confidence for the remaining gravel rallies that we have this year?
DE: Yes, it's true.
Q: Mikko, the next round is Spain, where you scored your first ever WRC podium a couple of years ago -- do you have confidence heading to that event?
MH: I am for sure very confident and as Malcolm said, the car was very good in Germany so I'm looking forward to it.
Q: Jarmo, obviously it must have been a very special feeling coming third in Spain two years ago. It was your first WRC podium, so are you looking forward to going back?
JL: Yes, definitely. It is nicer to drive than Germany, so I am confident, the car looks good and we will try to make them (Marcus and Sebastien) sweat!
Q: Malcolm, it's looking good in the Drivers and Manufacturers Championships for BP Ford, is it all on track at the moment?
MW: Yeah, it's all on track at the moment but we're certainly not underestimating anything. I think we know we came away with a bonus on the manufacturer points from Germany, we got the result that we hoped we would get, but we know how strong Seb is on the tarmac so don't underestimate him.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Toshihiro Arai
1st - Tony Sircombe
Q: Congratulations Toshi, you were leading after the first stage on Friday morning but then you had problems and ended up having a pretty awful day.
TA: Yes I have a puncture in special stage 4 and I was trying to change a tyre, but the ground was very soft and my jack fell three times, so it was really hard. I was very disappointed after leg 1, but after that it was good and I drive quite hard.
Q: You were obviously confident of your pace and speed to be able to make it back into the lead. Everything went well for you yesterday it was just a case of going as quick as you could today?
TA: Today definitely I didn't have to win, maybe second or third is no problem. But just before the super special stage I'm leading by 0.6 seconds, so okay we said Iet's try to win. Then I drive harder.
Q: It certainly was a very exciting special stage for PWRC, just 0.6s between you and Niall (McShea). What were you feeling through that super special?
TS: The stage gets a bit rutted and cut up by the end so it's easy to get a puncture or put a tyre off the edge or damage something; we had our hearts in our mouths all the way through it!
Q: You have come to this rally with an injury - recovering from an operation on your knee. Has it affected you at all this weekend?
TS: I wouldn't say it has affected me, but I'm a bit slow walking around the place.
Q: Obviously you won, but overall was it a successful weekend?
TS: To come from behind and win is always like the dream result and being my home rally then it's perfect.
Q: Toshi, it's late winter here in New Zealand so they are very changeable conditions. How have you coped with those conditions?
TA: It was very, very difficult with very confusing tyre decisions and not so easy for me. Leg 2 was very, very muddy and in other places completely dry so it's been a very difficult rally.
Q: It would be great for you to win the series in Japan. If not, it's a case of waiting I suppose, because that's the last event for you as you are not competing in Ireland and GB.
TS: We nominated six events and there is still Japan, Rally Ireland and GB afterwards, so if we're not in a strong position at the end of Japan we'll just have to wait and see.