2004 Wales Rally GB FIA Post-event Press Conference Present: 1st Petter Solberg / Phil Mills (Subaru) 2nd Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Citroen) 3rd Markko Martin / Michael Park (Ford) 1st manufacturer David Lapworth (Subaru) Q: That was a...
2004 Wales Rally GB
FIA Post-event Press Conference
1st Petter Solberg / Phil Mills (Subaru)
2nd Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Citroen)
3rd Markko Martin / Michael Park (Ford)
1st manufacturer David Lapworth (Subaru)
Q: That was a big battle with Sebastien Loeb, Petter. How confident were you of winning when you started today?
Petter Solberg: First of all I must say it's been an incredible weekend. A really good fight with Sebastien. You guys did an incredible job (looks at Loeb) and it's the best fight I've ever had. Obviously we always have a strategy for things and we talked a lot about it in the motorhome with the team, and I know that I can go quick, and I know that Sebastien can go quick, but I needed something extra if I was to win the rally and this was also in my thoughts; maximum attack. It looked good for a while until I went off and hit a small tree and I almost lost touch but I got back on track again. I gained some time back from there to the finish and from there, well I have a short memory -- I am a rally driver! (laughter). I didn't give up at all. At the end of the second stage this morning my front left wheel bearing was very bad. I remember this before in Safari once so I know a wheel can come and pass you very quickly (smiles at David Lapworth). I thought we would never get through that stage as it was so bad. Then we came to the start of the last stage and I just nailed it from there. Absolutely, flat out! If you guys saw it it was very good fun to watch but Phil was so calm I couldn't believe it -- I was nervous as hell! It went very well and I must say it was a really good fight this weekend and of course next time you might win but this time it was an incredible fight. Definitely.
Q: Phil, how did the rally look from the right hand seat? Was it tougher than last year -- or the year before?
Phil Mills: That's a difficult one to say, really. The first one we were very proud of that, and the second one we forgot that we won the rally here as we were so tied up with winning the World Championship! It was only when we came back yesterday that we won the rally as well! To win it three times in a row goes without saying -- it's a fantastic achievement.
Q: Was this one better than the other two?
PM: This one has been very tough. Normally you stretch out a lead and you get quite comfortable but these guys here (looks at Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena) I just take my hat off to them. That's what's called a fight. These are two great sports and to take a fight like that over three days -- tremendous stuff!
Q: Sebastien, did you back off a bit during the final day? Or were you still aiming to win?
Sebastien Loeb: I was pushing yes, but I had a very good feeling with the car and had made no mistake. There were some very big moments sometimes but no big problems. I saw on the first day I could fight with Petter for the victory so I tried to push to the end of the rally and it stayed very close to the end. It was a very exciting weekend. I don't think I took more risks than normal. I was in a very good rhythm. When you push you sometimes have to find a compromise between coming out of the ruts. Sometimes when I pushed I made more mistakes so I tried to drive more carefully. It was good.
Q: Daniel, what do you think of your championship chances now? Looking very good?
Daniel Elena: For me it was a fantastic battle with Petter and Phil. It was closer than last year but the same finish. The battle is OK, but more important now is the championship.
Q: Sebastien, what did you think of the rally this year?
SL: For me it was exactly the same as normal: fog, rain, big rain and a lot of mud. The only change was that we had to choose the tyre on Friday and we didn't have enough soft tyre to do the whole event. We had to make choices for every bit of weather. You don't have enough tyre to do everything.
Q: Sebastien, how much confidence do you take into the rest of the year? You've proved that you can fight for victory on every surface now?
SL: Sure, the lead we have now is very interesting and for me it was very important to finish here, especially with Petter finishing and winning. But as Petter said before, anything can happen, so I hope we will not be very unlucky and everything will go well. We have to stay very concentrated and I hope we can keep scoring points.
Q: Daniel, what are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?
DE: For me, Rally Australia is a pleasure.
Q: Markko, during the rally there was the ongoing story about the future of Ford. Was that a distraction for you at all? Did it affect your driving?
Markko Martin: No, not really. I know many things have been going on for a long time but we all knew that and there's nothing we can do. It should not affect us. We just do the best performance wise. It would be easy to blame something like that. It's a distraction that we have had but I don't think that's the case.
Q: Michael, obviously you know this event very well. What do you think of the organisation and structure of this year's rally? Is there anything you want to do differently?
Michael Park: I think the rally as a whole has been organised and run very well. Maybe we picked up a fault with the new Epynt stage where we had the little narrow road in the middle, that cut up very badly and again I think the weather didn't help the organisers with that. Had it been hot and dry like we were all expecting then that road would have stood up to two passages a lot better so we can't blame anybody for that, it was just circumstances. It's been great stages as always, unfortunately it hasn't been as dry as we were hoping it to be. It would have been fantastic fun to drive on these stages in the dry but it was great fun anyway but I think the organisers did a great job.
Q: There was, of course, quite a big gap between Petter and Sebastian and everyone else. Why do you think that was the case?
MP: Because Seb has done a fantastic job this year and the Citroen has never let him down. All the other drivers behind Sebastian have had various non-finishes due to various things that have gone wrong with either the cars or accidents or something. They tended not to do that and they deserve to be where they are. If they had some of the bad luck that we've had then it would be a lot closer. But they've done a great job and they fully deserve to be where they are, and that's the easy answer.
Q: David, moving over to you. A very tense and exciting rally. What made the difference for Petter on the final day?
David Lapworth: I think it was those last 15kms that really made the difference. We knew it was going to be close and we knew that Petter had got something special up his sleeve for the last stage but when we heard the weather conditions and when we saw those first few splits coming through, I had to admit that a few doubts started to creep in. Petter says not for him, he said that even though he dropped a few seconds at the beginning he had the feeling that he could do it. I think when we saw the last few split times come through, we couldn't believe how quickly Petter has gone. I can't wait to see that in-car and I think it's that final spurt that did it and it's been a great battle as these two guys have both said. Fantastic to watch.
Q: Now, it seemed to be an even tighter and closer fight for Petter this year than it was last year. Why is that the case? Do you think the opposition have got better?
DL: No, I guess, these two guys need to answer that really but my guess is that both of them drove this rally really for the win. Last year, there was the double pressure of the Championship and the event going on at the same time. I think that affected the way that both of them approached the rally. My impression, although as I say they are the only ones that can answer it, is that both of them this year were only thinking about this rally. For us, the only way to win the Championship is to go for wins anyway. So there's nothing else to think about and Sebastian is in such a strong position now that, as he says, with some good rallies to come, the pressure is maybe off a little bit as well. I think that's what made it such a good fight.
Q: Does the fact that Sebastian has got such a large lead ease the pressure on you a bit?
DL: In terms of strategy, yes. We're clear that we're going to go out and try to win every rally until the end of the year. And I think we can win every rally until the end of the year. You know, each rally is winnable for us, you never know. And we'll go after every one for the win and see what happens. We always seem to finish the season stronger than we start it, it seems to have become a tradition for us now that we have a fast finish. We've probably left it a bit late this time for our sprint finish but it won't stop us from having a bit of a go and you never know. If we can close the gap a little bit maybe the pressure builds up but that's not really the way we're thinking at the moment. We just think rally by rally, how we're going to win this one.
1st Guy Wilks / Phil Pugh (Suzuki)
Q: Guy, first of all many congratulations. Talk us through your weekend.
Guy Wilks: Agreeing to get my hair cut was a bit of fun, but it turned into a bit of a disaster, but never mind. The rally didn't quite go according to plan to be honest. I had a very frustrating Friday. We had a good start in Brechfa, we were fastest by four seconds from Mirco Baldacci. On the second stage, we picked a rear puncture about 7.5kms from the end and we lost a bit of time. From there on our stages seemed to go from bad to worse with small niggly problems, an intercom failure and so on and so forth. Then all of a sudden a jump start penalty that we didn't even know we had, which got rectified but obviously when it was hanging over us we didn't like it being there because we knew we hadn't done anything wrong. Saturday was a very difficult day, ups and downs really. In the middle of the day Mirco was leading and we were able to take some time back. We struggled with the car set-up all weekend but finally last night in Margam we managed to get it close and had a cracking stage time, I think we were 12 seconds faster than anyone else. I don't think Mirco Baldacci slept so easily last night and we got up this morning obviously realising that he needed to do something to fend me off. When we realised he rolled in the first stage this morning, what could we do? We were just sat there in first position and had it all to lose and had nothing to gain.
Q: Phil, when you got up this morning, how confident were you that you would be able to win the rally? Were you thinking of winning or finishing second?
Phil Pugh: I don't think you ever think of trying to finish second. You're always trying to win the event and with it being our home event our plan was to try and win it. It didn't really hit home that we had won the event until we started spraying the champagne which was a fantastic feeling in the end. But I'm all chuffed that we've won our home event.
Q: Guy, how well placed are you for the rest of the year?
GW: The Championship has got some good drivers and as the top guys, Sebastian and everyone was saying, it's good to have a level playing field I don't really think it matters where you take drivers of this calibre to, to do a rally. I think you'll always have the usual suspects. You could take them somewhere totally different and say right, you're going to do a rally here. I don't think it would make any difference. But there's going to be a tough battle between myself and Nicolas Bernardi. We've got a bit of work to do but I think we're slightly favoured on the gravel but as soon as we come to the tar in Catalunya, he definitely had a good result there last year. I think we can do a little bit of work on the Suzuki just to see if we can get more points before we get on the tarmac.
Q: How much do you enjoy tarmac events?
GW: Obviously I drive on tarmac all the time but with doing a gravel based Championship it's difficult to get tarmac experience on the World Championship rallies. But I'm quite comfortable on tarmac, just as comfortable as gravel so I'm looking forward to them both.
Q: Phil, very difficult conditions with it raining, quite muddy conditions here. How does that affect your driving in a two-wheel-drive car?
PM: I've been blamed for the bad weather all weekend just for being Welsh! We were thinking about a dry gravel set-up before the event but soon changed that. We had to get our heads around that it was November again, basically!