Rally of Turkey: Post-event press conference

Rally of Turkey: Post-event press conference
Jun 15, 2008, 10:18 PM

Present: 1st -- Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 1st -- Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 2nd -- Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 2nd -- Miikka Antilla, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 3rd ...

1st -- Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
1st -- Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd -- Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd -- Miikka Antilla, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd -- Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd -- Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson, Team Principal, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team

Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.

Q: Congratulations on your second win of the season Mikko, you now lead the Drivers' Championship going into the second half of the season. A thrilling end to the event - pleased with the result?

MH: It's a fantastic way to end the first half of the season. It's been a great effort from Ford. What can I say? I'm really pleased to lead the Championship.

Q: A stall on the start line of the opening stage, but you didn't lose a huge amount of time despite the fact that you were sweeping the road. Was it a huge push on that stage?

MH: It gave me a boost. I thought: "I'm not going to let that ruin my rally." After that, I did a fantastic time.

Q: That final stage was incredible; to see three drivers battling for the win, you won't forget that stage for a while...

MH: We had a fantastic time for the short stage. I managed to take a little time out of Jari-Matti, but Sebastien did a good time as well. I wasn't 100 per cent confident. When we had the first split, 5 kilometres in, and Sebastien caught us by five seconds -- I had to push. But then the tyres were going and on the last three kilometers I was so slow. I was sure Jari-Matti would be coming past me.

Q: You are back in the lead of the Championship going into the summer break and will lead going into you home event in Finland for the first time -- that will be special?

MH: It's definitely going to be special. I can't wait to get to the second half and start again. Hopefully we can keep the consistency. That's the key for me, that's what we've been doing. We can fight for the win in Finland and we hope to do the same on Tarmac.

Q: What was it like waiting at the end of the stage waiting to see if you had sealed the win?

JL: The splits helped. We knew already. We saw Seb's splits going down and we knew he must be losing his tyres as well. When we crossed the finish line I was 100 per cent sure we had done it, but of course you still need the times to be sure.

Q: How do you feel about the second half of the year?

JL: The next gravel rallies are better for us. These Mediterranean rallies are tough for us, we knew we had to survive these. But we are happy to be leading. Okay we know Tarmac is coming, but there are events which are good for us.

Q: Another strong performance from you here which puts you into third position in the Drivers' standings; what a fight on the final stage...

J-ML: I am very pleased with the result. Today was a fight I have never been in before. It was unbelievable to see the split times when Sebastien was eight seconds ahead. Incredible. The first 15 kilometres, I was slow. After that, I start to push. It was very exciting. I gave all I was able to do. Mikko was faster. I am very happy.

Q: It's great for the Championship to have a finish like this, don't you think?

J-ML: For the television and spectators and for even the drivers, it's very exciting to have a last long stage like that. I don't remember when it was such a good fight for the top three drivers.

Q: How do you feel about the second half of the year?

J-ML: I'm really looking forward to rallies like Finland, New Zealand and GB those are the ones to push hard on for me, and maybe Japan: it's a new one. Also the Tarmac, I need to improve my driving there. I'm really waiting for the second half.

Q: Looking back over your performance in the first half of the season, have you been pleased with what you have achieved?

J-ML: I am very pleased. Now we climb to third on the Drivers' Championship and we got some very important points for the Manufacturers'. The first half of the year has been up and down; the speed was good, but there were a little too many mistakes. We need to work with the consistent level and get more victories.

Q: The first half of the season in a works team with some great results -- has it lived up to your expectations?

MA: Already last year we were in the Stobart team, we were with professionals in a proper car. The only difference this year is that we have proper tests. This is the biggest change and not so many days at home!

Q: How have you seen Jari-Matti improve this year?

MA: That comes with the kilometres we have done in testing. In one day of the test, you can do 250 kilometres. Doing that in a World Rally Car cannot make you go the wrong way.

Q: Seb, third overall at the end of the rally. That final stage was incredibly exciting for us all to watch. At the service earlier, you seemed resigned for third, but you were chasing down the Ford boys on the final stage, what made you push on that stage?

SL: We all knew it will be difficult for the tyres in the stage. My position, I was 25 seconds behind Mikko and 13 behind Jari-Matti, I had to try. It worked well in the start of the stage, but in the middle I feel it's too much for the tyres and we destroyed them. It's the same for everybody. We had to give up. I only had one spare wheel. We wanted to be light. For me it was really important not to have two punctures because I wanted to make it back to the finish. So I understood that it's finished and I drove to the end.

Q: When we had a finish like this, would it be good to finish with a super special instead?

SL: Sometimes the long stage is just before the super special, so the final super special will be just for fun. If the gap is more than five seconds then it's not important in the super special.

Q: It's been a tough event for you having to sweep the road clear on two days, the Ford boys played tactics on Friday night to ensure that. How did that make you feel?

SL: It feels like, for sure, it's not nice to clean the road, but I think if you look at the tactics it's really good. They are first and second. The regulation is not completely right. For the sport it's not so nice to see that, but it's normal for Ford to use it. Everybody is talking about the tactics, it would be nice to talk about the speed. Something is a bit wrong. In this race, Ford played it well and we lost. It's normal.

Q: Citroen still trails BP Ford in the Manufacturers' standings, but could the second half of the season prove a stronger playing field for Citroen with the Tarmac events?

SL: We will try. Usually me and Dani (Sordo) are good on Tarmac. This would be good for the Manufacturers' Championship. For me we have to try and score more points also on the gravel as well. We need to finish all of the rallies and not make mistakes. We need to score points everywhere. We look at the Championship now: we win five and we are second, it proves we need to be consistent.

Q: Looking back over the first half of the season are you happy with what you have achieved?

DE: Yes, so far it's a very good first half season with five wins. Mikko has just two wins and he's leading. The rule with the points is not so easy. It's the same for everybody. In the second half I try to push hard for the finish.

Q: A great result for the team, which puts you back in the lead of both Championships and Turkey marks your 100th point scoring event. It couldn't really have gone better could it?

MW: I have to say it's definitely one of my best days since running the team. To see the work put in back at base and here, it's great. Everybody knows we were expected to win in Greece. The guys and team have learned a lot since Greece. It's okay for people to say you have to do tactics, but we have to be brave -- that was a big lead to throw away. This is the dream result, though. It's great to go into the second half of the season leading the Championship. It's also important for Ford to get the 100th point-scoring finish. This is something which started in Monte Carlo, 2002. To get the 100th finish is testament to the strength of the Focus.

Q: The second half of the season is shaping up to be very interesting. We know from previous experience that Citroen is very strong on Tarmac -- with regard to team strategy, are you on course?

MW: We are ahead of schedule. I didn't expect to be here at the mid-point. I always said the guys would be better in the second half of the season. It's a bonus to us and I guess we'll be sweeping the road in Finland...

Q: How was the last stage for you?

MW: After 11 kilometres it wasn't looking very good. I knew the guys were going to try and look after the tyres -- Jari-Matti in particular, of course. But when we see Sebastien do the times he did, it was worrying. When they got to the 16 kilometre split and Seb had not taken more time out of them I relaxed a bit. I kept flashing back to the previous split on the first time through the stage to see that Mikko was on course. Then he dropped four seconds and Colin came on rally radio to say he'd had a puncture and we had no idea how much he'd lost in that last sector. That was all a bit worrying and a bit stressful then.

FIA Production Car World Rally Championship

1st -- Andreas Aigner
1st -- Klaus Wicha

Q: This is becoming a regular occurrence -- your third win of the season -- three in a row, something that I believe has only been done once before by Toshi Arai.

AA: We are in really strong position now. But Jari [Ketomaa] has done two rallies less than me. We will have to see in Finland and Japan how he does. Thirty points is really good. In New Zealand, I must try be more careful. Maybe fourth or fifth place is good for me.

Q: You have shown great consistency this season...

AA: We did a good job. The car is so strong. On these rough rallies, you need the car to be strong. All of the team did a very good job.

Q: When we spoke on Friday you said a win wasn't your priority, but it does mean now that you have a good lead in the Championship, doesn't it?

AA: I tried to be careful from the start. We see we're on the pace. On Friday we say: "Okay, Patrik (Sandell) is quite close, we see if we can push." But it's difficult, you have to be careful between pushing and making mistakes. It's been very good though.

Q: What about the rallies to come, it's looking good, Klaus?

KW: We have to wait for Finland. Ketomaa is very strong there. It will be a key rally for us in New Zealand. From my point this Championship's not over.

Q: Did you have any problems?

KW: Sometimes we have little bit problems with the brakes and then in SS15 we had some small gearbox problems -- at the same place as Sandell. Also, there was some overheating. Maybe we had some kind of luck.

Q: Which is the most satisfying win?

AA: It's difficult to say. Every one is important. Every rally has been hard and tough: Argentina in the fog, rain and mud. In Greece it's rough like this rally. These are the kind of rallies I like.

Q: Your confidence must be sky high now.

AA: It's quite high now. I'm sure in Finland and NZ I'm not so quick as here. I'm going to be careful and not go off the road.

Q: What's the reason for your success this season?

AA: Maybe it's my driving style. The new strong Pirelli tyres have helped me. Last year I have a lot of punctures and I was quite hard for the tyres.

-credit: fia

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