2008 FIA World Rally ChampionshiP Uddeholm Swedish Rally Pre-event FIA Press Conference 07.02.2008 Present: Per-Gunnar Andersson, Suzuki World Rally Team Gigi Galli, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Petter Solberg, Subaru World Rally...
2008 FIA World Rally ChampionshiP
Uddeholm Swedish Rally
Pre-event FIA Press Conference
Per-Gunnar Andersson, Suzuki World Rally Team
Gigi Galli, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Petter Solberg, Subaru World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen, BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Patrik Sandell, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Andreas Aigner, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.
Q: It was a great start to your campaign with Suzuki in Monte-Carlo, P-G. Did you expect the car to be as competitive as it was?
P-GA: Of course I did. They made a very good test before the start. The boys worked very hard and the event went well. I didn't have any expectation during the rally. I just wanted to do my race and not think about the rest.
Q: How much testing have you done for Sweden?
P-GA: We did 300 kilometres in the middle of January. The car feels good, the handling is okay.
Q: You made your WRC debut in Sweden in 2002 and won your class. You have won here twice in the Junior World Rally Championship as well as your successes in the Swedish Championship. How much will that experience benefit you this weekend and what is the goal for the event?
P-GA: Of course, snow and ice is my favourite condition. To be in the World Rally Car in Sweden, of course it's a dream and it will help me being with the snow and ice. But the drivers around me know about snow and ice as well. It will be tough.
Q: What are the snow and ice levels like on the stages? Is there enough to constitute a good winter event? Will it be difficult on the second pass through?
P-GA: There is some snow -- more than I expected. It will be soft and slippery without many snow banks. Of course, there will be two lines with gravel in the second run. You have to stay in there (the ruts) and keep the throttle down to stay on the road.
Q: You are the local hero here in Sweden. Since you have stepped up to WRC level have you noticed an increase in media attention - are you besieged by fans?
P-GA: Around 600 per cent or something! It's good fun and nice to be in the WRC and trying to do the best we can. It's the long-term programme we want. We have to take it steady and learn the car this year, but at home you want to do the best you can.
Q: Ten years ago you made your debut in the WRC at this very event, finishing 16th overall. Does this rally bring back good memories for you?
PS: We've had a lot of good results and fun here. The memories from 1998, from when me and my brother (Henning), were here are different. We weren't thinking so much about the rally; it was about seeing Carlos (Sainz) and meeting Didier Auriol. They are more the memories.
Q: I'm sure you plan to finish higher than 16th this year; what is the strategy for this event?
PS: As in Monte-Carlo, I did my own race; nothing stupid, just a steady pace. It's going to be the same here. I will push, but I'm not going over the limit. I will not do the big, big risk. We want points from as many rallies until the new car comes -- then we will have the big attack. I don't feel 100 per cent and when that's not there, it's difficult to do the big attack -- things can happen.
Q: The team picked up a good result in Monte-Carlo. Has that boosted confidence and morale within the team?
PS: We have done a one-day test before this rally. All the budget, as you can see from the service area, is pushing towards the new car. We have to respect that good decision. We will fight very hard at the top later in the year.
Q: What news on the new car? When might we see it?
PS: Well, I said something and then got a big (b******ing) because I got excited. The new car will come when it's ready.
Q: The rally has changed from its previous format and utilises remote service each day. What do you think about the new format?
PS: I haven't thought about it; I don't care. It depends what the organisers and manufacturers want. Ask me some other question.
Q: Markko Martin is testing the new Subaru which we hope to see later this year. What can you tell us about the progress and development of the car?
PS: It's good to have Markko there. It's one more guy to hit the table. It's going really well. We don't want to say more than that. There's more work and more testing to do. I'm looking forward to trying it.
Q: Where do you think you will finish on Sunday?
PS: A podium would be good for me. I'm just waiting for the day to say I'm going to win the rally again. It's not yet.
Q: This event must hold good memories for you Gigi, especially when you were battling with Daniel Carlsson for a podium position. How much do you enjoy the snow events?
GG: Of course, it's been a very good memory for us two years ago. It would be great to be in the same position. Of course we have to consider it's the first full season for us. Some people are talking about my very quiet start in Monte-Carlo. I say again: it's our first full season. This year, for us, is a great opportunity to work with a great team and a very fantastic car. I like to keep my pace and go step by step. I would like to have a big battle here like before, but my first goal is to find a good compromise.
Q: You're back in the WRC with a full-time drive with the Stobart team. What does it mean to you to be back in the WRC?
GG: It's my first time; it's quite exciting. I think that. I try to enjoy like always. I like to share everything, every single moment with the people -- the fans. What is important is for me to find a good balance for my head -- this is the problem.
Q: What is the strategy for the year and what do you hope to achieve with the team?
GG: So, there is no strategy. What I said is to try to find the good balance between the performance and consistency. I would like to improve my pace from Monte-Carlo, but it's quite difficult when you're behind the steering wheel to find that.
Q: How are you adapting to the Ford Focus? Does the car suit you?
GG: The car is very easy to drive. The feeling and balance is good. I didn't change things, I just trusted the engineer. My goal is to adjust in the car and understand its character; nothing else.
Q: Mikko, you want to win the Drivers' Championship this year and seem confident you can battle against Sebastien. We didn't see that battle in Monte-Carlo; will we see it here in Sweden?
MH: Well, hopefully. I definitely feel a lot more confident on this rally and surface than I did (in Monte-Carlo). We had good rallies in Sweden and Norway last year. If I am able to find the same speed, we will be very strong here.
Q: At the last snow event, in Norway in 2007, you led from start to finish. Do you consider yourself favourite for this event? Do you feel pressure to win here?
MH: Hopefully I can fight for the win, but there will be plenty of other drivers. It will be hard for the tyres this time, with a lot of gravel on the roads. There is more of a risk with punctures, but it will be a good fight and I hope it lasts for all of the weekend.
Q: If the temperatures continue to rise this weekend and the snow and ice starts to melt, how will that change your approach? What will be the main concerns?
MH: I can't change my approach -- it's flat-out. Of course it will be harder for the tyres and more tricky for the drivers. Like I said there could be punctures in the places where there is a lot of gravel.
Q: How was the shakedown run this morning, with the little snow and ice we have here in Karlstad. Was it useful?
MH: Normally on shakedown we just go and check the car; it's not for testing. In that point of view, it was okay. Surprisingly there was a lot of ice in the shakedown; unfortunately it's not going to be the same on the stages.
Q: When you tested for this event it was in far colder conditions. Are the set-ups you used at the test still relevant now and if not what changes are there?
MH: We have one set-up for all the conditions; tarmac, gravel, snow and ice -- we don't have to make any changes.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Q: Andreas, it's your second year in the PWRC with the Red Bull Rallye Team. Why have you chosen to stay within PWRC this year?
AA: There was a lot of strong competition last year and we learned a lot from that. We decided to come back and face many strong competitors this year.
Q: You had quite a successful year in 2007; is the Championship title your aim this year?
AA: We try to get the title. Last year we saw we needed luck, points and finishes to be successful. There are only six races in our season, so we need to finish as many and get as many points.
Q: How difficult will it be with such an impressive field of drivers and who do you think your main rivals will be?
AA: It will be tough and it will be the same drivers again: Toshi (Arai) and Nasser (Al-Attiyah) will be right there for sure. Also, Patrik (Sandell) and then many other strong competitors.
Q: You have a team-mate alongside you this year. Do you think his support could help with your Championship chances?
AA: We will see. For sure there's a lot to learn and it's his first year in PWRC. We will see if it's possible.
Q: New tyre regulations for this year; how much testing have you done with the new tyres and what are your impressions?
AA: The tyres worked well. But today we saw the WRC boys cutting like hell; it's nearly the same as without mousse.
Q: How will the roads be?
AA: Maybe on Friday there are some parts where it could be quite difficult, but on Saturday and Sunday, for sure, it should be okay. It could be soft snow, but it's okay.
Q: What sort of result are you looking for, can you win?
AA: It's going to be difficult against the locals, but I want to try and win PWRC.
Q: A new year and a new car for you Patrik -- the Peugeot Super 2000. I understand you haven't had much chance to test it yet; how many kilometres have you done and what are your initial thoughts on the car?
PS: I did a 140 kilometre test. I quickly got a very good feeling with the car and the driving style is similar to the car I drove in the Juniors. The speed is similar in the corners (to the JWRC car), but the feeling is good.
Q: This is the first time a Super 2000 car has entered the PWRC. How do you think it will match up against the other PWRC cars?
PS: The car is really competitive. During last year we saw on some rallies they could fight with the Group N cars. If we take this surface, it's quite hard so hopefully that can help me. I have good support from Sweden and France. I'm really looking forward and hope we can win some events.
Q: You are doing both Championships - PWRC and JWRC - this year; a busy year ahead. Is your aim for both Championships the same?
PS: Every time I sit in the car I want to win and score as many fastest times. If we could win it would be the perfect result for me and for Peugeot.
Q: What are your thoughts on the condition of the stages here?
PS: The stages are normal. There is some ice underneath and then I use the snow banks as my friends. Hopefully, we'll get home and have a good event.
Q: It's your home event; do you feel any pressure to perform in front of the home crowd?
PS: No. It's a big honour to start this event in this car and with this project. It's a fantastic feeling and I hope we get some good support and a good feeling. I'm driving for the win.