WRC

Rally Norway: Post-event press conference

Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 3rd - Jari-Matti ...

Present:
1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi 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, we have had perfect winter conditions this weekend and an incredible battle!

SL: I feel quite good. I'm really happy and satisfied to finish like that. I also feel happy to finish. It was really a difficult weekend mentally. You don't know if you can finish the rally or if you can finish in a snow bank, or if you can win the rally. It was a big, big fight. It was an extra motivation for me to know I am not favourite for this event. Snow is not my best surface, I really wanted to try and win and we had a great fight with Mikko. To win with a few seconds like this was a good moment.

Q: Mikko was on a mission this afternoon, how much pressure were you feeling on the closing stages?

SL: It felt good. But in the stages, especially the long one, I was losing time. The conditions we had was some snow in the stage. You want to go faster, but to do this you need to go slower, or you can lose the rhythm and go in the bank. It was tough to find the rhythm. When we had ice and I felt well, it was okay.

Q: Have you been on the limit all weekend?

SL: Yes. From the start to the end, I had to be on the limit all of the time.

Q: How were the conditions?

SL: It was fantastic. I think that these were the nicest stages I have ever done before. The road was full of ice and snow banks, you can push even more than the limit when you have the banks to help you. It was a great weekend and a good battle. When you are under pressure, you can take a lot of pleasure.

Q: Cyprus is the first mixed surface event for a number of years. What do you think of that challenge?

SL: For me, if we do a mixed rally, it would be good to have tarmac tyres and brakes for the tarmac day and gravel for the gravel. Now we have to drive the (gravel) tyre on tarmac, we have to test. I don't think it's a good idea. We can't push; we can do three days gravel or two days gravel and one proper day on tarmac. The tarmac is the first day, so we'll see some tactics there.

Q: Daniel, how did you cope with the pressure?

DE: It was better for Sebastien to take the pressure. If it was me, I would brake late and crash in the first corner! For me, it's difficult to feel and read the notes, you have to feel the speed and anticipate the braking. The speed is high and there is not always the same grip in all of the corners. But you enjoy the sensation, it's a dream when you are sliding at 180 kph and touch the snow bank, it's a fantastic feeling.

Q: Mikko, you complete the event 9.8 seconds behind Sebastien; how are you feeling?

MH: For sure I'm disappointed we didn't win the rally. I am sad, but I am also glad it's behind us -- it was crazy at times. It's a miracle that Sebastien and I didn't make a single mistake, that we didn't go off the road or overshoot a junction. When you are at the limit, it's incredible. It was a nice fight. I enjoyed the weekend.

Q: There was just 7.7 seconds separating you going into the final stage. Did you think it was too much?

MH: I gave up a little bit, maybe 5 km into the final stage. I couldn't go any faster and the car was moving. I had no grip. I saw from the splits, I was two seconds behind. I had to back off and settle for second.

Q: Would you do anything differently?

MH: Maybe I would try to be faster on Saturday. I tried all the way though. There was this talk about tactics on Friday: did I lose 10 seconds in tactics? No I lost one second. That made no difference at all.

Q: Mikko, how do you beat Sebastien?

MH: I go to the next rally and try again. My son is three and a half years old, he plays with his small cars and says: "Here's Sebastien, it's very difficult to beat Sebastien...". He's going to think it's impossible if I don't try. We were so close to the limit. If I want to do it, I need to be perfect in every corner. On Saturday, I wasn't.

Q: How was the atmosphere in the car?

JL: I can tell, on the road sections we have never been so quiet. We were both so focused. There was no speaking on the road sections. On the stages, especially in the long one, it was like in the movies. It was unreal; you can't turn it into words. Every place you are 20-30 kph too fast compared with gravel, you just hope the snow banks save you.

Q: This was only the second ever Rally Norway, what did you think of it?

JL: I have no complaints. The first time control was okay. It's not the same every time (rally). Points go to the organiser for that.

Q: Jari-Matti, it's third overall for you and your first podium of the season, are you happy with that?

J-ML: Honestly I can say I'm not happy. I'm disappointed. I came to this rally with the feeling to fight for the victory. We lost time on Friday morning, and fought back in the afternoon. But then I lost it again on the Mountain stage. I really tried in the afternoon and set some good stage times. Today I have been cruising around. I really needed to finish this rally. It's been a tough start to the year for me, like last year.

Q: You found a good set-up only yesterday, and with that came good pace -- but was it all a little too late?

J-ML: Yes. We went a bit softer with the car. Mikko was softer at shakedown. We started harder and then modified it during the rally. It was a good thing to do on Saturday. I don't know how much it would have affected the result if we had started like this. I don't think we could have won. I don't find the last bit to push on the stages. I didn't find the feeling from me.

Q: You had an exciting final stage. Tell us about it...

J-ML: I wanted a good stage to finish. I was coming down the straight at 190 kph, there was a crest into a junction right. We went with the maximum braking and just managed to get the car turned in, but I hit the front on the snow bank. We only lost a couple of seconds, but on the next long straight the (bonnet) pin was gone and the bonnet was coming open. I was really scared the bonnet would come to smash the screen, I was off the throttle to make sure this didn't happen.

Q: Your goal was to finish the event and take points. Do you feel your season has started properly now after the disappointment of Ireland?

J-ML: I'm not thinking about Ireland any more. Even though I was unable to fight for the victory, this weekend has taught me how to prepare for the rallies, the constant driving, no mistakes. It's about building the self-confidence. It's a good level for the next rallies. Now I need more speed, step-by-step.

Q: Miikka, has this been a disappointing result. Do you ask what if we'd got the set-up right?

MA: For sure we came to fight for victory. It was slightly surprising for us that from this new wider tyre we didn't get the advantage with our start position. After Ireland, the only positive for us was the start position, but then that wasn't so good -- so actually there wasn't anything good for us in Ireland!

Q: Congratulations Olivier -- a great battle and a great result for Citroen...

OQ: It's quite a great result. It's like Finland in August. In Finland it was nine and something else seconds, this time it was the same. Seb won today with Daniel, so, for the team, we are quite pleased. We came with 10 points and we wanted to keep them. We didn't lose any points, so we are quite happy.

Q: Olivier, let's turn our attention to the Citroen Junior Team: first event for Evgeny Novikov and first event in the snow for Sebastien Ogier. How do you think they have fared?

OQ: This performance is quite good. But what Sebastien did, everybody was surprised, but you have to speak also for Novikov. He did a good job, he is quite fast. With those two drivers, we have found some good solutions.

FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

1st - Patrik Sandell
1st - Emil Axelsson

Q: Your first win in the Production category -- congratulations, how do you feel?

PS: It's absolutely the perfect start. I had a really good rally from the start. We had big fight with Mikkelsen and Flodin at the start, and when they went off we stayed focused to bring the car home.

Q: You led right from the start of the event and made it look easy. Was it?

PS: We had a good speed and rhythm from the start. It's easier to be in the fight than leading for two minutes, when you never know whether to push or to back off.

Q: It's your first time with the Red Bull Rallye Team and with the Skoda Fabia S2000. What did you think of it?

PS: It felt really good; we had a good test before the event. The engine works really good and the chassis is perfect and it goes all the way to the finish. Really good.

Q: You had quite a big gap behind you after Mikkelsen developed problems. What kind of pace were you driving at after that?

PS: Just into day two, we took it a little easy on the first stage. I lost some time. I didn't know what the speed should be. After that, we found a good pace. Before every stage we said, now we're going to have fun and we love to drive on snow. It's easy to forget that we are here to have fun.

Q: Emil, congratulations, what a great start to the season!

EA: Of course. It's always good to have a good start to the season, it makes the rest of the year easier. Everybody is satisfied; the team and Skoda and of course we are too.

Q: What about Patrik's driving? How good was it?

EA: His performance was really good. We drove with no risks at the start and still made the others make mistakes. We had some small problems knowing which speed we should have. When you back off a little bit too much, the set-up of the car doesn't suit you.

Q: Was this a good event, it's only the second time WRC has been to Norway?

EA: It was a fantastic snow rally with the snow banks and the people and the organisers. It couldn't be better.

Q: How much does this win mean?

PS: For sure it means a lot. The victory means even more to Skoda and the team. For us it's also really good to start with 10 points. It makes it all easier. I know I can drive on snow, but it means more to do this on asphalt and gravel -- I look forward to those victories as well.

Q: What about the rallies to come?

PS: Well, I've done them all except for Cyprus. Cyprus is completely new for me. We have to find a good set-up and see what we can do. We are fighting for victory

Q: Did you have any moments this weekend?

PS: We had some small moments, but nothing really big. That's what rallying is about.

Q: How will you celebrate?

PS: I don't really know. We'll start with dinner with the team and then see.

-credit: fia

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Sébastien Loeb , Daniel Elena , Jari-Matti Latvala , Mikko Hirvonen , Jarmo Lehtinen , Miikka Anttila , Sébastien Ogier , Patrik Sandell , Emil Axelsson , Evgeny Novikov , Olivier Quesnel
Teams Citroën World Rally Team