Swedish Rally: Pre-event press conference

FIA World Rally Championship Uddeholm Swedish Rally February 8, 2007 Present: Anton Alen - FIA Production Car World Rally Championship Oscar Svedlund - FIA Production Car World Rally Championship Daniel Carlsson - OMV Kronos Citroen World Rally...

FIA World Rally Championship
Uddeholm Swedish Rally
February 8, 2007

Anton Alen - FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Oscar Svedlund - FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Daniel Carlsson - OMV Kronos Citroen World Rally Team
Luis Perez Companc - Munchi's Ford World Rally team
Chris Atkinson - Subaru World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen - BP-Ford World Rally Team

Welcome to the Pre-event FIA Press Conference of the Uddeholm Swedish Rally.

Q: Welcome Anton, your father is fairly well-known in rallying circles, have you spoken with your him about this rally? You came close to winning the Arctic Rally recently, what was that like?

AA: Of course there's been lots of help from him. I have to do the driving myself, but it's a big help and privilege for me. We tested last week and the car felt good. Tommi (Makinen) has been instructing me, driving-wise. Everything should be okay for me. I drove with Tommi for only about 10 kilometres, I learned some small things, nothing major. Two weeks ago, I lost the Arctic so it wasn't a big step forward. It was good, but it is also better to win - it's not perfect. I have driven one snow rally, so I should know what to expect.

Q: Oscar, you've got a lot of experience of this event. What does it take to drive effectively on snow? Can you push quite hard or do you have to look after the car to some extent? For this event you are a guest driver on the Production Car World Rally Championship, but do you think you will have any other outings on the World Championship this year? What are your plans for the rest of the season?

OS: It's very competitive this year. There are some Finnish guys, (Kristian) Sohlberg, (Juho) Hanninen and Anton Alen. Hanninen won here last year. It's going to take a lot to get first place here; it's going to be tough. Now it's a bit of gravel on the road and on the WRC cars they have the mousse tyre, so we have to take it easy on the inside to avoid the punctures. What can I do? You must follow the lines. Next week we go to Norway, then Ireland, Finland and Wales. It's going to be an interesting year.

Q: You're in Production for the rest of the season?

AA: I hope I can do some more WRC events this year. I will have to wait a few weeks for the whole programme.

Q: Oscar, one of your big rivals in Sweden is Jimmy Joge, who won the Swedish Championship this year. He is here this time with a Super 2000 Peugeot, competing within the Production Car World Rally Championship. How do you think your pace will compare?

OS: It's difficult to say. We haven't seen the Super 2000 yet. All I know is that Jimmy is a very fast driver. He knows the Swedish well, he was here in WRC last year.

Q: Have you looked at the stages, what condition are they in, Anton?

AA: Like Oscar said, the WRC cars cut the corners more than us, we have to look out for the rocks. There aren't big snow banks, it's snowing now, but it would be nice if there was more. The conditions could be better, but they could be worse.


Q: Anton, we didn't see you at shakedown. Did you go?

AA: We didn't, the road was in so bad condition. It was better to go into the race like this, it wasn't planned for us to go.

Q: Daniel, welcome back to you as well. Last year you finished third in a Mitsubishi here after a fantastic battle with Gigi Galli that was one of the highlights of the rally. This year, you and Gigi are in Citroen Xsaras, although run by different teams. Do you think it might be the same battle again? What do you think about the Citroen Xsara; how does it compare to the other World Rally Cars you have driven?

DC: I would love there to be another battle. Everyone is talking about this battle, but there are a lot more drivers. I only had one day testing, this Monday. I told myself, I had to give myself time to adapt to the car. It will take me time to adapt to the car, maybe one stage, one leg or two. I have six events with Kronos, it's a good chance for me, and I have to see it in the long term. It's very hard to say about the podium. It won't be easy with all of these good drivers. The truth is, in the last year I did one and a half rallies and it feels like the others have done 200. It's not fair to all of these other good drivers for me to walk in here and talk about the podium. I don't think it's realistic. I'll go in and see what the times on the board say at the finish.

Q: Hello Luis. Here you are beginning what will be the most exciting season in your career to date. What are your plans for this year and what are you looking to get out of it? Thinking specifically of Sweden, what are your objectives for this event? Have you had the chance to drive this car on snow before?

LPC: This year will be very interesting for me and my brother. We have two Focus WRC06s. It'll be a very good and challenging year. Last year my evolution from the leaders was very good. I get close to them with my times. I want to improve in the 10 events. The car is very good, it gives me a lot of confidence to push hard. This is my second time in Sweden, I like it very much. I'm going to push hard. The grip is incredible. Today in the shakedown I make three laps, the times were better and better, so I just keep it for the race. I'm very excited about this. My goal is to get in the points. That would be the highest goal, but keeping in the top 10 is also good. The drivers from Sweden, Norway and Finland, they're born in the snow. It's going to be tough, but we'll do good.

Q: We've been used to seeing you on the podium recently, but that hasn't happened over the last couple of rallies. Is this when we see you fight back? In Monte Carlo, the Citroens were quicker than everything else, but your team boss Malcolm Wilson said he expected that. Do you think that you and team-mate Marcus Gronholm can outperform them here in Sweden?

MH: It's a new season now, so it's definitely not going to be easy. I like the (Swedish) rally, so let's push hard and see how it goes. We are very confident we can do it. For sure, Sebastien (Loeb) will go fast and, who knows, maybe (Daniel) Sordo as well. We have a good car, I'm sure we can beat them.

Q: Chris, you and Mikko were a big highlight of the super special in Monte Carlo, when you were trading tenths of seconds. In the end you prevailed and took a great fourth place. Do you think you're capable of a similar performance here? Of course, you're still in the 2006 car, which suffered a few mechanical problems here last year, so are you confident that you can have a reliable run to the finish? You've been busy adjusting to BFGoodrich tyres from Pirelli; what do you think of BFGoodrich's snow rubber here?

CA: We come here with the same expectations. We want to be in the top six, in the points, we need points in the old car. The battle in Monte Carlo was good fun; it's even more good fun when you win. That's life, I'm sure it'll go the other way some times. Mikko (Hirvonen) had a good end to the year last year, so it's good to be competitive with the Fords, but the main aim is points for us. I think the team has come a long way in the last year and those issues which we had earlier last year have been addressed. We lacked speed with the car last year, but the feeling today was totally different given it's essentially the same car. I'm sure we can do a good job with the team and get in the points. The tyre seems okay. Pirelli and BF Goodrich have some advantages on the snow. Gigi (Galli) is the only driver on Pirellis. When there's a lot of snow on the road, the BF Goodrich feels the better tyre. We adapted quite quickly to the new tyre in Monte Carlo, I'm sure it'll be the same on this event.

Q: The other big change for you Daniel is your new and experienced co-driver, Denis Giraudet, and a switch to writing pace notes in English. How difficult was it to adapt? And you've got a new sponsorship deal as well, the campaign against drink driving. What is that about, briefly?

DC: It's been a bit tricky in the beginning. Mainly writing and him telling me, it's not so bad, but when I'm doing the changes at speed during the stages; that could be difficult -- changing gear and everything, then it might be a problem. Denis' experience will mean a lot; his experience doesn't fit in a small Citroen! We had to take something off to fit his experience in! As I told you before, I was a bit out of work; last year I didn't drive much. I looked into rallying, with 800 million viewers per year, it's good to sell to marketing people. Then I look at the problem with drink driving. It's something when there's a bus driver driving small kids around who has been caught three times drink driving. There were 16,000 drivers caught in Sweden and one third of them are aged 18-24, and mainly guys. I reckon I can reach out to them in a very efficient way. There has been a lot of articles in the magazines. It's a good way to say to the boys, okay, have a beer on Friday night, but what the hell, don't get the behind wheel.

Q: Did the recce go well for you, Luis? What is the most difficult thing to get used to, for somebody who is inexperienced on this event? Are you expecting good and consistent snowy conditions throughout the rally, or do you think there will be some places where there is gravel exposed as well? Does this make tyre choice more difficult?

LPC: The recce was good for me. There are a lot of similar stages, with a couple of new ones. I like the fast stages, here they're very fast. It's going to be fun. I think the tyres will be okay, you have snow in the last days. There's not a lot of snow banks, but I think it will be okay for us.

Q: For Ford, a Citroen one-two in Monte Carlo was not an ideal situation. How important is it for the team that you and Marcus (Gronholm) stop them from extending that advantage? Does this mean that you will both be pushing quite hard from the start? It's quite a high-profile event for Ford, simply because there are so many Focus World Rally Cars here.

MH: Of course, we have to try it, but it's going to be a long season. We saw Citroen is very strong on asphalt and there are a lot of those rallies at the end of the season. We will have to get as many points early in the season, but like Chris (Atkinson) said, Subaru has a new car in Mexico, so there will be some more fights between ourselves. It's good and nice to have so many Fords. I'm sure Malcolm (Wilson) is pleased!

Q: What do you think about snow rallies Chris; you probably don't see much of them on the Gold Coast in Australia! You still don't have a lot of experience on this surface; is that going to hold you back? What do you reckon to having the two snow rallies back-to-back in Sweden and Norway; do you think that will help you build up a lot of experience quite quickly?

CA: Not so much, which is probably a good thing. If it snowed there (Gold Coast) I might have to leave! This is my third snow rally. It's so much fun to drive, it's awesome. Every year I look forward to the test, this one road was the place I first drove a World Rally Car. Maybe it's not fast, but to go as sideways as you can is so much fun, it's awesome. I think it's key to have a good rally here, to have the confidence for Norway. We had a test recently, so it flows on nicely, test, rally, rally -- it's going to be good.

-credit: fia

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Daniel Carlsson , Oscar Svedlund , Mikko Hirvonen , Denis Giraudet , Gianluigi Galli , Malcolm Wilson , Chris Atkinson
Teams Citroën World Rally Team