WRC

Rally Portugal: Pre-event press conference

Present: Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Sebastien Ogier, Citroen Junior Team Ken Block, Monster World Rally Team Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team Bernardo Sousa, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship Kevin ...

Present:
Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sebastien Ogier, Citroen Junior Team
Ken Block, Monster World Rally Team
Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Bernardo Sousa, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Kevin Abbring, FIA Junior World Rally Championship

Q: Jari-Matti, the win in New Zealand now puts you in second position in the Championship overall, your consistent formula paid off there; will you adopt the same approach here?

J-ML: It was a very special moment. But it was also the battle how we got it, those last three corners made the result: when Ogier made his mistake. At that moment, I didn't know at the end. It was a big confusion. But it was also good because we won it by not being fastest on any of the stages. It was special and nice for the team with the 75th win. But now we are in Portugal and New Zealand is history.

Q: What's your approach going to be here?

J-ML: I try to keep going, that's the plan to keep the consistent driving.

Q: Portugal 2009 was the scene of the biggest accident of your career, the same stage remains for 2010. Was there any trepidation when you went through there on the recce and how much have you adjusted the notes from that section last year?

J-ML: The stage will be run the same as last year, okay towards the end there are some changes, but that area is the same. I did some work with the notes. The distances [in the notes] were incorrect, especially in that place the distance was wrong. That was one of reasons I go off the road. We slowed down there and had a look. It looked even more narrow than last year and very nasty. It's very well marked in the notes now.

Q: We are in Portugal a little later in the season than in previous years; the temperatures are higher so what difference will that make in terms of tyres this year?

J-ML: I think the tyres could be an issue on Saturday afternoon. We need to be careful; when you want to push you need to remember how this is going to use the tyres. You need to find the balance -- that's a very important part of this rally.

Q: Straight after New Zealand you competed at the Nurburgring 24 hour race, how was it and what did you learn from it?

J-ML: It's different to rallying. The Nordschleife reminds me of a long special stage, it goes over the valleys and hills and it's quick. It's the same wide road as in Catalunya, not like the modern circuits. It was interesting and there were a lot of very fast cars overtaking, a lot of traffic. You have to follow the mirrors a lot. I had a little incident in practice: I was watching the mirrors and I hit the right side of the car. But that was experience too. It was good experience. I look at the other guys and I had a feeling I was turning in too early -- I was not brave enough. When you go early in you can lose at the exit, that's something I need to work on in the test.

Q: Sebastien, you narrowly missed out on victory in New Zealand after what was an impressive performance there. Is the goal to aim for the top step of the podium here also?

SO: I will try to continue. It was a very good rally for us in New Zealand. After the finish it was a big disappointment, but I am still happy with my race -- we improve from the start of the season and that's the most important. I did this rally last year, I know it a little bit better, I arrive here with confidence.

Q: Do you feel your confidence in your ability has increased this year after a string of good results?

SO: Everybody asks me what I change, but I say nothing special. I just experiment and I'm more and more confident with the car. I find my limit and, for the moment, it's going well, but I haven't won anything, so I have to stay concentrating.

Q: It's a little later in the year for this rally: how was the recce and what do you think the conditions will be like?

SO: There will be a little more loose gravel and it will be a little bit more hot, maybe it can be a problem on the second loop for the tyres, but it will be like last year.

Q: Do you like this style of gravel rally?

SO: Yes, it's a beautiful rally with the nice roads, but it's tricky with the trees close to the roads. I had a bad memory last year, but not like Jari-Matti. But I will try to do a good rally.

Q: There has been much talk and speculation about you moving into the main Citroen team for next season, is that your aim?

SO: It's the goal of each driver to obtain an official seat one day. It's my goal. But I don't know if it's next year or the future. I have to continue to prove I can fight with the best drivers, we did from the start of the season and I have to continue to do this through the year so I can prove I am worth the official seat.

Q: It's an exciting year though...

SO: It's very exciting. We are six drivers to fight for the victory or the podium. Beside some gravel rally it's hard to make the big difference; the end of the race is always very interesting.

Q: You competed in Mexico and Turkey this year; what is your evaluation on your performance so far this year?

KB: Good question. Actually it's difficult to answer. For me I didn't expect the pace I had in Turkey. I was happy with that. My problem was the consistency and minimising the mistakes. I'm here to smooth those issues and have a good event.

Q: You tested before this event and I believe you had former WRC star Markko Martin alongside you to give you some tips -- what was his advice and how did it help?

KB: Actually, Monday was my second test of the year and I did 70km in the car, which was great. And I did two runs with Mikko [Hirvonen], so it was good to see what he's doing with the car. It's very easy to drive the car, but very hard to get the top levels of speed. At the end of the test Markko Martin sat with me for three runs and gave me some good direction. It was a big, big help and I feel more confidence from that test.

Q: What has been the best part of the WRC experience for you so far?

KB: Getting to drive that amazing car, it's the epitome of rally technology and I'm just stoked that I have been able to drive one before they go away.

Q: Has anything surprised you about the WRC?

KB: I've been around it [the WRC] for a while, so there's nothing too unexpected. But every time I get on the stages and see I'm pretty far off the pace I'm amazed what these other guys can do with the cars. But I hope, with some more testing, I can be there. It's one thing to watch these events on television, but something completely different to be there and do it. That's when you say: "Holy s**t! I've got a long way to go!"

Q: What do you think of the stages here in Portugal from what you have seen on the recce -- have you competed on anything like them before? What will be your approach?

KB: They are very, very different. There's not one stage that's the same or one stage that I can say, I know this or I remember that; there's not one stage that's easy or fun. They are all so different, you know: big jumps or bigger trees at the side of the road or something like that. These are the toughest stages I've ever seen!

Q: You have a busy season competing on the WRC and also in America, busy times!

KB: I had a good time! I had a good weekend in Le Mans last weekend. It's tough travelling, but these guys just got back from New Zealand, so it's not a big deal for me. I'm very appreciative to come to MotoGP last weekend and then come straight here. Hey, this is a dream come true for me. I try to get a little bit of extra sleep where I can, but it's not a problem.

Q: It's been a difficult start to the year and we have yet to see you on the podium - how can you start to turn that around?

DS: I will try here of course. It's a really nice rally and I will try for the podium and try to finish. After five rallies this year it's very difficult.

Q: Why do you think it's been so difficult?

DS: I started very well in Sweden... and after I make a mistake in Mexico and then in Turkey where the corner is slippery and I was having some bad luck: many people go off, but I was the one who stayed off. I have two zeros in the Championship and that's hard. You think about things and then it can make a big difference when you try to drive fast and go on full attack. But, I make good pace notes to get a podium

Q: Do you feel there is more pressure on you now because Sebastien Ogier is doing so well? Do you feel your position in the team is under threat for next season?

DS: Not only for me, for everybody. He is very fast, it's nothing special pressure for me. Okay, maybe a little bit because he is in the same car and the same team, but I am looking to win a rally and of course Sebastien makes the good time. I need to win a race.

Q: It must be nice to compete so close to home. This is not Spain, but it's not far away...

DS: It's not Spain, but it is really close. It's very exciting to see so many spectators, the family, the friends, it's good.

Q: Tell us about the DS3 WRC you have been testing...

DS: It's a really nice car. It's very nice to drive. I enjoy a lot with this car, there is less technology and it's more physical. I really like this car.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Marco Giordo
Autosprint, Italy

Q: A question for Jari-Matti first, do you have a free race, and then Ogier, what do you know about Lanterna Rally and Sardinia?

J-ML: I am second driver, so I am still concentrating on my job and what it means to bring as many points for the team, but the battle is so hard with these guys: Ogier, Sordo, Loeb and Petter. You need to be close to these guys to make a good result. By driving carefully, you can't achieve anything, but I try not to take the last risk.

SO: So, my next two rallies will be in Italy and I get more experience. Next week is my first time in the Peugeot on gravel, I want to try and help Peugeot and maybe Kris [Meeke] with the championship and then the week after I can do more with the C4 on tarmac. I didn't do so much with this car on tarmac and I need experience if I am to fight with Sebastien and Dani.

Present:
Bernardo Sousa, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Kevin Abbring, FIA Junior World Rally Championship

Q: Bernardo last year at shakedown you had an accident which meant you could not compete -- we hope all is okay this year and shakedown went well?

BS: Yes. I managed to arrive here, 100 per cent complete so I'm looking forward to the rally.

Q: How was the recce?

BS: It was a lot of dust. The weather in this season made it quite hard, it was hot and dusty. It was rough, but it was the same for everybody. It went well on the recce. I was pleased with the stages. I don't know the roads so well, but I managed to get it okay. I made some new pace notes. I did a good job.

Q: It's a big weekend for you here, not only are you contesting the SWRC but also the Portuguese National Rally! Which for you is taking precedence?

BS: It's hard to choose. I really want to win the SWRC, I almost did it in Jordan, but we had some issues. I have to choose the Portuguese Championship. I won both of the first two rallies and now I want to win the third. I want as many points. It's not just one event, it's two events here, so I have to be clever, maybe not to win but podiums

Q: And what about the competition in SWRC, it's fairly intense isn't it?

BS: All the boys want to show they're fast. This is not the moment I need to change things - not like last year. I need to be smart this year and maybe not try to win. The other boys have done some other rallies in S2000 and it's like they're driving their own car. I cannot think about the win, let them drive and I think about my own rally.

Q: Is there an added pressure being on home territory?

BS: I don't think about it, so there's no pressure. I just do a rally in Portugal and not focus on the other boys. The other Portuguese boys are not used to this kind of level, or to the Pirelli tyres, so I will have an advantage from them, but I didn't win yet. If I feel confident then I will go after the other boys [in SWRC], but you're going to win this rally by being smart and that's my goal. I understand they will give me pressure and try to let me know I can win, but I've learned from my mistakes and I'm not going to be pressured.

Q: Now that you have done a few events in the Fiesta S2000 what are your thoughts on the car?

BS: The car is great. We had some small issues, but it's part of the car. It's young. M-Sport did a fantastic job building the car. I just love the car and when we stop with the small issues it will be even better. These things happen, we didn't have much time to test the car, but we have to accept this when we haven't had much time to test the car.

Q: It's only the second round of the JWRC -- the first round in Turkey was pretty tough for you but you still managed to finish third. How important is it for you to take maximum points here this weekend?

KA: We think we improved the car quite a lot compared to last year. The car feels perfect, we can really push hard. But the conditions have changed from last year, it's warmer -- we'll see what happens with the tyres.

Q: How will you manage the tyres?

KA: Yes, by being clever. On one side we try to push on the Friday, but we need tyres for Sunday. Already on shakedown it's quite hard after two runs, and that's only 10km.

Q: How was shakedown?

KA: Okay, but it's only shakedown.

Q: How was the recce?

KA: We had a few punctures on the recce and the dust was quite bad. I think the temperature will be quite a big problem for me.

Q: What are your thoughts on your Championship chances this year?

KA: We have only two gravel rallies this year, I wanted to go for the win, but it didn't work out. It's about surviving and maybe it's a bit more on my side this year. It's competitive: a lot of good guys in good cars. It's really good.

Q: You talk about the importance of gravel rallies, why doesn't asphalt favour your car?

KA: It's because of the weight of the car and it's not so good [for] brakes as the S1600. On gravel we have the advantage with more torque -- it's quite equal on gravel.

Q: I believe you were competing in Croatia recently in a race of champions style event, beating, Armin Schwarz and Juha Kankkunen -- what was that like?

KA: I think they are just getting old! It was quite fun to do and nice to drive against the experienced guys. It worked out well. The conditions were changing all the time: raining then not raining, then different cars -- it was good.

-source: fia

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Armin Schwarz , Juha Kankkunen , Jari-Matti Latvala , Ken Block , Markko Martin , Bernardo Sousa , Sébastien Ogier , Kevin Abbring
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport