RALLY NORWAY 2009 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Pre-event FIA Press Conference Present: Petter Solberg, Petter Solberg World Rally Team Henning Solberg, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally...
2009 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Pre-event FIA Press Conference
Petter Solberg, Petter Solberg World Rally Team
Henning Solberg, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Patrik Sandell, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Eyvind Brynildsen, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Welcome to the pre-event FIA Press Conference.
Q: Petter, you return to the WRC, after missing only one event, with a new team and different car -- the Citroen Xsara WRC. How tough has it been getting everything together to compete this year?
PS: Well, first of all I was very disappointed with the situation over Subaru. It's sad. We had a long relationship with them. We still have a good contact with them. It's part of the game. The day after or two days after, we started to look into every possibility for driving. Me and my wife and a couple of other guys have worked flat out to find the solution. We got everything in place in three weeks; we have the car, the truck and the testing done. I also had time to test the Le Mans car. I think I have been at home for one day and one hour. I have learned a lot and now everything is possible.
Q: What's the plan now, will you do the rest of the rallies this season?
PS: I have a car which is out of production: a 2006 car. If I can show some good performances, then I will be happy. If we are too far behind with the older car, then we have to re-think and come up some other possibilities. I have a plan B, but let's try plan A first.
Q: How different is it working for your own team other than a Manufacturer -- is there more pressure to perform well as you are, essentially, your own boss?
PS: I like pressure. It's just another situation you have to deal with in life. I have a dream for the future, maybe it's a little bit too early. Right now, I have a lot of good people around me, very good catering and it's perfect.
Q: Will we see the old Petter Solberg spark here?
PS: It is tough for what happened. I've been very positive for the last few weeks. I enjoyed the test I had and I have very good help from my old engineer FX (Francois Xavier Demaison). He's doing a very good job with his guys helping me with the car. It's going to be a great weekend. Let's see where we are. Maybe we can surprise a little bit. It's a different situation this time, let's see.
Q: You weren't in Ireland. How tough was that?
PS: It was tough, you know. I followed it a little bit. Henning (Solberg) was there and in his car, so I was looking out for him. I was listening to the radio some times, but it wasn't very enjoyable. But that was it. When you have the passion for the sport, you can't help it. You need to know what's happening.
Q: Can you win here?
PS: I've sat in the car for two and a half days and I have some feeling. Maybe I can find some more feeling in the next couple of days. I'm very interested myself to see how it goes on the stages.
Q: Henning, a great result for you in Ireland and you seemed full of confidence for this one. Do you still feel the same?
HS: We had a good test last week. The car is running well. I will go as fast as I can.
Q: Are the conditions perfect for a snow event?
HS: They're absolutely perfect. I don't think I have seen winter roads like this; this is the best I have seen since I've been driving.
Q: You said you have been looking forward to this event for two years -- do you believe you could achieve your first WRC win here?
HS: We don't know. But if I don't win, you can look out on the stages that I am in a very (big) hurry. I am going for a win.
Q: Petter wasn't in Ireland but thankfully is back with us now -- what was it like without him at a WRC event?
HS: I have never done a rally without Petter; that was the first time. He was on the phone, asking and asking. I kept asking him, where are you? Are you here?!
Q: What can you do here this week?
HS: If I can be top three, the same as 2007, I will be very happy. I will try my best.
Q: Jari-Matti, the last time we saw you on snow was in Sweden last year where you took your maiden WRC victory. You were fifth in Norway in 2007 -- is snow a surface you feel comfortable on?
J-ML: Yes. Snow is the best surface for me. I enjoy all of the surfaces, but snow is the best. When I was still a young kid, I drove on the frozen lakes. That's where we all started driving. I think that's why I have a good feeling for this surface. It's nice to be here in Norway and the conditions are perfect. We haven't seen it as good as this since the 1990s.
Q: In Ireland a mistake deprived you of drivers' points, but your road position here is good -- how much of an advantage do you think it will be?
J-ML: Rally Ireland was definitely a big disappointment, but at least, I think, the positive from that is the good start position we have here. Tomorrow, on Friday, the surface is a bit softer. There's some soft snow on the top that will be cleaned a little bit by the cars ahead. But, the advantage won't be the same as the one I had on the first day last time in Sweden.
Q: What is your strategy for the weekend?
J-ML: Simple things: fast and keep the car on the road and be relaxed.
Q: On Friday we have only a 15 minute remote service separating the groups of stages. Will that make you more cautious on the opening stages?
J-ML: Basically, you can't think about the remote service. You need to drive normally. In a competition, if you are in a little bit of trouble... but you can't think before hand. You can worry afterwards if something happens.
Q: You seem more relaxed after you accident in Ireland. Do you feel more relaxed?
J-ML: When I started the season, I thought I was ready to fight for the title. I learned a lot. I did a similar mistake, but a lot of things happened in Ireland. I had a road accident just before. It wasn't my fault, but it didn't help my feeling for the event. I know exactly why I do those mistakes now. It was a really good wake-up call for me. I'm ready to fight for the victories now.
Q: So, we could be looking at win number two here?
J-ML: It would be great to win here, because I have had the bad start, but I can be happy for the top three. But we are here and we are in the rallies, we can have the passion for the win. But if things don't look so good, we can look for points.
Q: Dani, a great result for you and the team in Ireland, but the last time we were in Norway you were 25th overall. How are you feeling about this weekend?
DS: It's very different to Ireland, but after the test and Sweden last year, I have confidence in the snow.
Q: In Sweden last year you were sixth, would you say your confidence is improving on this surface?
DS: Yes. I learned a lot on this surface. I have confidence, the shakedown went well and the feeling with the car was good.
Q: What is your strategy going to be this weekend? It could be challenging being second on the road...
DS: I think for the first day it's not a good position. I will try and finish in the best position. I will try and take some points for the Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships.
Q: Do you expect tactics to come into play this weekend?
DS: I don't know. It's difficult for the start position. As I said, I go the best and fastest way. It's not necessary the tactics.
Q: What result would you be happy with on Sunday?
DS: I will try to finish on the podium. I had confidence in Sweden, I started with a five-minute penalty and without that, I would have been fifth or fourth.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Q: Patrik, you start the year with a brand new team and car; the Red Bull Rallye Team and the Skoda Fabia S2000 -- a great opportunity for you?
PSa: It will be perfect. We have done a test in Sweden, closer to my hometown. It worked really good. The car was good from the start. Okay, you always want more grip and traction, but I'm sure that we'll find that. The shakedown was good as well this morning.
Q: The Red Bull Rallye Team won the PWRC last year with a Mitsubishi - what do you think of the Skoda?
PSa: It's a really good car. Compared to the car from last year (Peugeot 207 S2000), it's something similar. The chassis works differently, but the engine is the same; you can only tune a two-litre engine one way. Red Bull likes to win, in one way I have some pressure on my shoulders.
Q: You have done well on snow events in the past but never a win in your class; could you get it here?
PSa: I hope this is the time and rally for me. Rally Norway is a bit more of a home rally than Sweden. This place here is closer to me than my home. I'm really looking forward to the rally. I hope to be on top.
Q: How do the stages here differ from the ones we see on the Swedish Rally?
PSa: The roads (in Sweden) are more narrow and tricky. Here, it's super-fast. From the event in 2007 to this year, the roads are faster this time. It's quite the same, except there's more snow in this area. This is more a proper winter rally with the snow banks. I really like both of the rallies, but, here in Norway, you need to be really focused all of the time.
Q: Patrik, last year, we saw you do both the Junior and PWRC series. Why have you focused on just the PWRC this season?
Q: How much would you like to add the Production title to the Junior Championship title you've already won?
PSa: It would be just amazing. Nobody has ever done that. If I do that this year, it's a dream come true.
Q: Eyvind, home event for you, the weather seems fantastic -- have we got perfect conditions?
EB: It looks like a postcard. We have between one and two metres of perfect snow and perfect blue skies. This is more than we expect from Rally Norway and more than the drivers expect.
Q: You were second in Group N last time in Norway, what is the hope for this event?
EB: There are many good drivers in the rally and in Super 2000 cars. It was Patrik (Flodin) I fought with the last time we did this rally in 2007 and now it will be another Patrik (Sandell) I expect to fight this time. I know I can score points. It easier to do this event at home than it is to go and try and score points in Argentina.
Q: You won the latest round of the Norwegian Championship, that's good preparation...
EB: Okay, it was completely different conditions. We had snow, between 60-70cm of snow on Saturday. If it snowed (on this rally) then it would be the same. It was a good rally, we had good speed, and it's always good to get some practice in before the start of a rally.
Q: There is a good line up in the PWRC this year -- what is your aim for the year?
EB: All of us are looking for a title. Rally drivers all want to win, but I'm young and I need points and I need the experience of the rallies. Okay, I will try to score points in each rally, but we will see what happens when we get to the end of the year and add all of those points together.
Q: And who do you think your major competition will be?
EB: Many of them. Patrik is a World Champion, then there's Toshi Arai, (Martin) Prokop and on this event, (Andreas) Mikkelsen, maybe seven or eight drivers can win each rally. It's hard. This rally it could be Patrik. The Skoda is a good car; it has good speed, Juho Hanninen proved this on the Monte Carlo Rally.
Q: What is the secret to getting it right on snow?
EB: We all have a different point of view on snow. Snow can be tricky, it's like gravel but there's less traction. If you miss the line, you can be off the road. I don't know, maybe go flat out and see what happens.
Q: Patrik, I noticed on the way in you're wearing heated boots. Are they going to help this week?
PSa: Well, they're normally used for skiing, it's absolutely perfect. They keep my feet heated.
Q: Eyvind, do you have any of those?
EB: No. My feet are frozen flat (on the throttle). That's perfect...