WRC

Rally Sardinia: Post-event press conference

RALLY D'ITALIA SARDEGNA 24 May 2009 Present: 1st - Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 1st - Miikka Anttila, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP...

RALLY D'ITALIA SARDEGNA
24 May 2009

Present:
1st - Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
1st - Miikka Anttila, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Petter Solberg, Petter Solberg World Rally Team
3rd - Phil Mills, Petter Solberg World Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson, Team Principal, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team

Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.

Q: Jari-Matti, the second win of your career, a great event for you after what has been a very tough start to the season, you must be thrilled...

J-ML: Yes. It's an unbelievable feeling what I am having now. It's been so tough and difficult,t a lot of things have happened. I have done a lot of mistakes. I have to say a big thanks to team. The team has had no doubts, even if other people did. I got the small things together this weekend. The secret was consistency and a little bit of luck with starting position this morning. Great feeling.

Q: In Argentina you were told it was caution all the way; here it has been a total contrast. How have you dealt with that?

J-ML: I had a lot of pressure on me in Argentina after the accident. On the other hand we didn't feel so much pressure, Malcolm told me to finish and get back on the right track. That was a very important lesson one. We started here with a good position, but when I was a bit more confident on the afternoon of Friday, the team felt it is now time to try and work for the victory and they sent the message saying: "Push, push." I asked my co-driver: "Do we really go flat out?" He said: "Yes! Keep going!"

Q: You were first on the road on Saturday and today -- normally it's a disadvantage but today with the dust is was an advantage!

J-ML: There was only a bit of dust from the zero car at the end of the stage. It didn't distract me. That was my advantage for being first on the road. I know how hard it was for these guys. But yesterday, I was also first on the road. It wasn't the easiest job, but when you start to like it, it's nice. It's nice when you have the clean road with no lines or stones.

Q: How much has your performance here now boosted your confidence and self belief?

J-ML: This was a big lesson for me. We need this consistency for the future. We spoke with Mikko, when both of us are there we can put more pressure on Citroen. When I go off the road, I load more pressure to him and we can't fight Loeb. We need to work together to get the pressure to them.

Q: When you got out of the car, you kissed the bonnet. Tell us about the relief.

J-ML: It was a big relief. The pressure I have had is unbelievably high. Petter, he told me on the road section in Argentina: "Jari, take it steady, you will get back there." And I really did. It was a fair point from Petter.

PS: I have heard the same from Malcolm, you needed some help.

J-ML: I heard it from Malcolm as well. People have told me you have to be steady. One of the reasons for my mistake is from pushing too hard all of the time.

Q: Miikka, we know that Jari-Matti has been easily 'distracted' of late -- how did you keep him fully focused this weekend?

MW: Tell him about the big stick, Miikka!

MA: Actually, we have a big weapon in the car: a golf club, stick or knife under my seat. It's different each morning so he doesn't know what is coming. No, just joking! This rally is good for Jari-Matti, it's easy for him to concentrate here and do a good result. From the start of the rally, there was no pressure. Okay, Malcolm said you have a good starting position, you will probably lead after the first three stages then let's look after the afternoon stages. In the evening, we were leading by 40 seconds. That was a small surprise. But when we were driving back to service that night, we talked and we thought we could win this rally because of the back-up behind us.

Q: Mikko -- its second position again! Hanging dust spoiled the party this morning but it's a great result for the team!

MH: Yeah for sure a little bit. Last night I thought we had the chance to fight for the win. But this morning the dust was so bad, there was no way to fight for the win. It's a fantastic result for the team. We haven't had consistent results for two cars, so I'm delighted.

Q: We know you wanted to win -- how were you feeling after that opening stage this morning knowing that time was slipping away from you?

MH: It was game over. The gap was almost half a minute and I knew we would have the same problem in the next. I played it safe.

Q: We expected team orders to give you maximum points for the Drivers Championship, it didn't happen, was it the right decision?

MH: Definitely. I'm definitely happy how it ended. It doesn't leave a bad taste. Fair play, Jari-Matti drove well, he deserves it.

Q: What about the Drivers' Championship?

MH: Yeah, it's almost in our pocket! We lost important points in Argentina. If we can finally start winning rallies, who knows what can happen.

Q: Are you confident for Greece?

MH: I'm sure it's going to be a good rally for us. We improved the car for this rally and I think we'll do the same result as here.

Q: Jarmo; you have been ill today -- how did you cope?

JL: If every rally was this bad, then I would have to ask myself: do I want to do it? Mikko was ill straight after the recce and then I started to get ill yesterday morning. I promise you I go straight to bed now -- I feel finished.

Q: Talk to me about the tactics on Friday night when Mikko emerged from the final stage ahead of Loeb instead of behind; how did that mistake happen?

MH: We have a good explanation. As Christian [Loriaux, Technical Director] said, the car is so good -- you can't even slow down enough!

JL: This was my answer! It was the plan to be behind Sebastien. Citroen tactics played well. We were caught by surprise how much they slowed down. First Mikko didn't slow down enough and then I couldn't stop him. It was 50:50.

MH: Let's be honest, he told me to slow down and I didn't slow enough.

Q: Petter, you take away third position from Italy after Loeb was handed a penalty -- irrespective of how you gained the position it's been a good rally here in Italy for you hasn't it?

PS: It's been a good event. We have done a lot of good stages. In Argentina we missed third place. I'm quite happy now. It's too bad for Sebastien, but it's nice to be here. It was a good fight with Sebastien. When I woke up this morning, I was ready and it was good to be fighting again. We had good first two stages, then we had a problem with the steering after service. I fixed it after the first stage and then we were on the limit on the last two. There was nothing more we could do, it was great for Phil and me.

Q: Will we see you in Greece now?

PS: I feel stuck in the corner. I have done a few rallies now and I know where I am. We are going to have this question, me and Phil and see what we can do for the next rally. It will be the same temperature on the next rally, we have to really think -- I don't want to waste time. I'm having a lot of fun, but now we have to sit down and analyse. I know it's not possible to push harder in the warm temperatures. I still have a little bit to go. We have good fun and a lot of good results. I have no plan for the next rally.

Q: You talk about a rally by rally approach, but this exposure must be helping.

PS: I am realistic. I have a lot of good rallies now, but to go to a rally you can fight for fourth or if you're lucky you can get third, it's not so easy. I am here to fight and push on. Today I enjoyed very much the fight with Sebastien, but it's over the limit, I could have ended in a tree. It's so big differences and to sit in the car and feel this, it's frustrating.

Q: The opening stages this morning we expected to see a charge from Loeb but you kept him behind, even extending your lead over him going into the mid-point service -- but you picked up a steering problem -- did that happen within the first stage of the afternoon?

PS: I have seen this on most rallies, when it's cold. I'm on the pace, but when the heat comes I go backwards. You wonder if it's you, but you can feel such a big difference between the warm and cold. I think we pushed to the limit, we were more off the road than on sometimes. It was a hell of a fight, whether we were third or fourth.

Q: Phil, let's talk about some of the stages here because we had a few new additions -- the opening stage on Saturday morning seemed to cause concern, what did you think?

PM: It was rough. The second passes were rough, where everything happened. It has been a tough event. They talk about Greece being the roughest and toughest, but I don't think that's true anymore.

Q: Was it enjoyable?

PM: Yes, it's always an enjoyable event here.

Q: You're a private team and you've had some extraordinary results so far.

PM: Yeah, it's going quite well. As you say it's a private team and an old car -- okay, it's one year younger, but we can't do any more.

Q: Six rallies in Malcolm and the first win of the season -- a one-two for Ford, maximum points a great result!

MW: What can I say? It's been a fantastic result and a great performance by both of the guys. We've always known if we can have both guys performing at their best at the end of leg two, we can push Sebastien and put him under pressure. It's fantastic for the team to see we have the result we have felt we could get all season. All credit to these guys, they have done fantastic job.

Q: Just back in Portugal Jari-Matti had the biggest accident of his career, and in Argentina he was under strict orders to finish. Here he has had the pressure of being told to push and has come through to seal the win -- did you imagine he could turn his performance around so quickly?

MW: Yeah, everybody knows the potential of Jari. At least he got the opportunity of getting in the car very quickly after Portugal. In Argentina, it was really important to take a sensible approach and get kilometres under his belt. He must be the only driver in history who rings his team manager after the stage and says: "I'm sorry, I didn't intend to be fastest." Him and Miikka knew what they had to do. I think Miikka and I thought maybe it wasn't the right time and he needed more time from Portugal, but it has happened and I'm pleased that when we told him to push he did. And he drove first on the road. And credit to Mikko, he was unfortunate with the dust this morning. But this result is just what we needed, we're all very happy.

Q: How do you feel about the Manufacturers' Championship?

MW: No question if you can keep pulling these results, then it can happen. We realise it's a mountain to climb, but there are rallies coming which will suit the drivers and the car. We go away from here with confidence and I know what that means when things are going with you. There has been a lot of pressure for the team, the way Sebastien has been, but we had a good test and the guys were full of confidence -- that's been the turning point.

Q: What was it like back at Ford HQ in the service park? Were there nerves around at the start of the event?

MW: It's fair to say that I'm glad Petter told him as well, I'm not sure if he took notice of Petter -- he certainly hasn't taken notice of me for the first five events. There was pressure but once we saw what he could do it was okay.

FIA JUNIOR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
1st -- Martin Prokop
1st -- Jan Tomanek

Q: Martin, what a weekend you have had -- electrical problems on day one, two minutes worth of time penalties, clutch problems today --but you have taken your second win of the season in JWRC, a great result!

MP: This race was maybe the hardest of my life. In the beginning I decide I want to win and we were pushing to the maximum from the first stage. We had the electrical problem and a big penalty, then we get this [penalty] time back, but the next morning we hit the problem with the electrics again. But this time we were prepared for it -- but we get the penalty again because I took a few minutes too many. The car worked very well and I have never pushed like this. I don't want to do it again, it was too dangerous. The only thing is that I know the stages very well, maybe this is why we didn't crash. We had a problem with the cars ahead of me with Alessandro [Bettega] and Bernardo Sousa. It can happen. Yesterday, it was my biggest push of my life. I wanted to get the time back and get as close as possible to Michal. Again I came close to Bernardo and I get dust, and I hit the tree. We had big luck not to destroy the engine. We come back to the road and win by 10 seconds, but not by 30 seconds and we are happy to be alive. We push like hell because we want to win every rally. We need a lot of points to get past Michal. We want to win this year.

Q: This win doesn't put you into the lead of the Championship -- but its an important win nonetheless...

MP: That's right. We have to make a good result at the end of the Championship in Spain. This was hard with the temperatures and many problems. I was quite nervous. Maybe that makes me ready to fight. We had trouble and we were ready to fight for first position and nothing else. Today we could have done second place very easily, Aaron was eight minutes behind, but we had one aim and that was to win.

Q: This result must be good for the team as well...

MP: Yes. The team did a very good job. Every service the team changed a lot of parts. In the middle of the day, we changed the gearbox and everything. The guys worked fast like hell. I have to thank them very much. Without them, we wouldn't be here.

FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
1st - Nasser Al-Attiyah
1st - Giovanni Bernacchini

Q: Nasser, what a thrilling finish to the rally, you claimed the win on the final stage -- it was incredibly close!

NA: Actually, I am so happy about this win. After Argentina, we worked on a lot of things. We improved a lot and really concentrated on the top three in Sardinia. I have less experience, but Giovanni has helped me a lot with the stages. I find a lot of confidence. We try sometime, but sometimes we are not fast, but in others we are. The last two stages, we found ourselves thinking: we can do it, we can win the rally. I talk with Giovanni and say let's do it. We won by 1.5 seconds and it was a great win.

Q: You seem to go well on rough rallies. Are you looking forward to Greece, the next round?

NA: I have a lot of experience of the rough, maybe coming from cross country helps. We do a lot of rallies in the Middle East, in the desert and I know myself well in the rough rally. We have a lot of experience and a good car, good team. Most of the time we have good result in rough rally.

Q: It wasn't a totally problem free weekend for you though -- you did lose some time on the opening day -- what happened there?

NA: We have one problem with the steering rack yesterday. This was normal because it's a standard part, but we understand it's a Group N car and I hope we find a good solution for this. It's for the safe side. After we really push a lot. We save the car most of the time. I am really so happy to win.

Q: You have really turned things around from last year...

NA: I am so happy. We improved things a lot and I concentrate a lot. Last year I did a lot of races. I was competing in four FIA Championships and this year I only have the Middle East and PWRC and we concentrate on PWRC this year. Now we are leading and I am happy. Greece, the next race, will be very important for us. I hope we have a good result there.

Q: You now lead the Championship, ahead of Armindo Araujo by two points with Sandell three behind -- how do you feel about the rest of the year?

NA: Yes, it will be exciting. The S2000 will be a really good car in Greece, but I hope we have a good result in Greece and I have a lot of experience in this rally. We know which part we can change in the car and we keep it like brand new on every surface. The team did a really good job. It's the complete package and if you want to win, you must do these things.

Q: Giovanni, second win for you and Nasser in PWRC, but maybe more importantly a win at home for you, how do you feel?

GB: Yes, for me and for Nasser it's a fantastic moment. The second victory in the row and now we lead the Championship. I am a special winner, it's my home country, but it was very difficult. It was an amazing rally. In my career, we never stopped believing in the victory, and we pushed until the last corner. I am very happy and I can't believe it.

-credit: fia

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Petter Solberg , Jari-Matti Latvala , Mikko Hirvonen , Nasser Al-Attiyah , Malcolm Wilson , Jarmo Lehtinen , Miikka Anttila , Giovanni Bernacchini , Jan Tomanek , Martin Prokop , Armindo Araujo
Teams Citroën World Rally Team