WRC

Tour de Corse: Post-event press conference

1st: Markko Martin, Michael Park, Ford 2nd: Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Citroën 3rd: Carlos Sainz, Marc Marti, Citroën 1st Manufacturer: Malcolm Wilson, Ford Question: Markko, a fantastic performance – you took the lead on the first...

1st: Markko Martin, Michael Park, Ford
2nd: Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Citroën
3rd: Carlos Sainz, Marc Marti, Citroën

1st Manufacturer: Malcolm Wilson, Ford

Question: Markko, a fantastic performance – you took the lead on the first day, challenged only by François Duval. How close do you think he could have pushed you to the end, without his problem ?

MM: It is very clear that only challenge came from inside our team, no-one else could catch us. It was a great fight between François and me, but I think he would have had no chance to day. He was 30 seconds behind on the first day, then managed to come back, it would have been difficult for him to catch up today. It just shows that the Ford Focus is probably the fastest car on tarmac, and in combination with fantastic Michelin tyres, it was a killing package, and I don’t think anyone could match us. The only bad thing from this weekend was that it was a shame that François had to retire, it would have been nice to have a one-two but these things happen.

Question: “Beef “, congratulations on your part in this victory. It was not always straight-forward, you had a big moment with a fire on the second day…

MP: You’re right to say that we had a problem. It manifested itself during the stage, it didn’t happen right at the end, Markko noticed it five km into the stage. It turned out afterwards that it was power steering oil leaking onto the hot exhaust causing the fire. The power steering went two km after the stage. If it had happened earlier, we would have been stumped, and if we had another stage afterwards, we would have been stumped too. For once luck was on our side, it happened just at the right time, causing no problems at all. We just went back to the service, where the guys did a great job and fixed it. So we were very lucky.

Question: Seb, many congratulations, not only on second place today but on winning your first FIA World Rally Championship drivers’ title. How nervous did you feel this afternoon ?

SL: Until the last two stages I was fine, I was concentrated and everything was going well. In the last stage, around five km from the end of stage, it became more and more difficult to stay concentrated. At this time, you begin to hear a lot of problems with the car, you begin to think what will happen after the race, if you will be Champion, so it was a lot more difficult to stay concentrated. I was driving very carefully. It is very nice for me and all the team to win the two titles here, in Corsica, in France. This was the nicest thing we could hope for this year.

Question: As a French driver in a French team in France, was there some pressure during the rally or were you relaxed ?

SL: Sure, there was a bit more pressure as I really wanted to win the title here. In Sardinia, I did not want to win there, I wanted here, so there was a little more pressure. I was happy to stay as concentrated as I did. It was not a problem.

Question: if you had not had the pressure of winning the title, could you have taken the battle to the Fords ?

SL: It is difficult to say. I didn’t start the race in the same frame of mind that I would have done if I was aiming to win. When don’t think the same in your head, you see the times of the Fords and they were going very hard. But if you push hard you can make a big difference. We will have to see next time in Catalunya

Question: Daniel, did you have some problems or was everything under control ?

DE: I think the rally went like a dream. We went well with no problems, we managed the race well, with just one big scare under braking, but everything went as planned. However, I would like to say that I am very happy to be the World Champion of Co-drivers. I come from a very small country, Monaco, and this is the first time this has happened. I am very happy to be World Champions but I am a bit sad since the start of the season, and I must be the first world co-driver champion not have had his name or flag on the car. I would have been very proud to see those there today.

Question: Carlos, were you nervous for your team-mate or was it OK ?

CS: I think honestly that it was just a matter of time that he was going to win the Championship. It was very clear for me. In June last year I predicted that he was probably going to win last year, or if not then, this year. I was right, I was very confident that he could do it. He has been driving fantastically, very confident, making no mistakes. He deserved to be Champion. And no, I was not nervous.

Question: What did you think of the route ?

CS: I think the stages were very nice, no question about Corsica stages – they are always very good from a drivers point of view. What I don’t like is to do two stages, and then repeat them the same day. Either in Monte Carlo or here, I don’t like it. I think it would be nicer, even without changing the stages, to do 2 stages one day and then another two different stages the same day and then repeat the whole day the next day. It would not be as boring. I realise it would require more effort from organisers to control four stages instead of two. But from the driver’s point of view it would be more interesting than going just round two stages per day.

Question: Marc, this rally was characterised by difficult and changing weather. How difficult did that make your task of choosing the tyres ?

MM: of course, it was very difficult. The most important thing is to have the right information. I think we did a good job with the team. Of course there is more pressure, more tension as you do not know you have made a good choice. But it was the same for everyone.

Question: Malcolm, what made the difference for Ford here ? Your cars were in a class of their own.

MW: I think Carlos thinks we had another 50 horsepower, but sadly we didn’t. In fairness, there is no change to car from Germany. The crucial thing is that we did very good tests, we tested in similar conditions and I really feel that is key factor. As for the specifications, there was really very little difference.

Question: Are you disappointed not to have a one-two here ?

MW: Of course, we are all very very disappointed for François, because he drove a fantastic rally. I think it was just a little lack of experience which meant he was not closer. But I am sure that is going to come in the future, no question. As you can imagine at this moment in time, in the situation we are in, one thing that is more positive than negative is to win this rally. As you know, we are working hard to find a solution to keep Ford in the World Championship, and things are certainly better than they were two or three months ago, and I am very optimistic that maybe in the next two or three weeks we can come up with something more positive

Question: How much easier does this result make your job in persuading Ford that rallying is a good thing to remain involved in.

MW:At the end of the day the results have never been part of the equation. Everybody knows what the European manufacturers are going through at the moment. It wouldn’t have really made a difference if we had won the last three rallies on the trot. But it can’t do any harm. Between us and Ford I hope we can come up with a solution to keep us in the Championship.

Question: The Ford is the fastest car on asphalt – can we expect a similar performance in Catalunya ?

MW: I certainly hope so. I know that both drivers are very confident especially considering their performance here. Ok, as Sébastien said he was in a different situation and now he has the Championship under his belt the situation may be different. But I think as Markko said we were dominant here and strong through the whole rally with all other things being equal. We did a reasonable test in Spain as well, so there is no reason we won’t be competitive.

Question: Sebastien, the next two rallies are Catalunya and Australia – now you have won, does this mean you will go flat out to win the other two rallies ?

SL: Yes, there is now no reason not to try to win. We will try to win in Catalunya for sure but it will not be easy. We saw Markko and François were very fast here. I had a big fight with Markko in Catalunya last year, so it could be very interesting.

Question from the floor:

Jeremy Hart (The Times GB): How much of a difference will this title make to you in France in terms of recognition, especially considering your participation in the Race of Champions at the Stade de France ?

SL: Sure, for me it is very nice to win in France, it is nicest thing that could happen to the whole team. I hope people will come to see me race at the Stade de France. I think they will come to see Schumacher but if they come to see me too that would be nice.

FIA Production Car World Rally Championship

1st: Xavier Pons, Oriol Julia, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo

Question: That was not an easy win, you had a big problem at the end with the gearbox, did it nearly cost you the win ?

XP: Yes, ten kilometres into the stage, we noticed that everything was wrong in the gearbox. We were going in 4th gear, and when we tried to get 3rd, it did not work. We stopped and tried to get at least one gear, and finally did the whole stage with 5th gear. We are very happy as we did not think at the start of the season that the car could win two races.

Question: Is it you or the Mitsubishi car which is particularly suited to tarmac rallies, or a combination of both ?

XP: I think that it is a combination of both things – the car is very good on tarmac, the tyres too, and in Spain we do a lot of tarmac rallies and they are therefore possibly easier than gravel rallies for us.

Question: What about Australia ? Can you explain your championship situation ?

OJ: We will not be eligible for points for that rally. We have already done all the rallies we can do, but we are going to learn the stages for next year.

Question: You have done a full programme, in both the JWRC and the Production Championship. Which do you think is the best route for young driver ?

XP: I think that a bit of everything is good . The Super 1600 is a fantastic car. The production car is 4-wheel drive like the WRC cars. Both are good.

Question: How was this event, considering the conditions and the weather ?

OJ: It was very difficult. Everyone says that the conditions in Corsica are very difficult. This year it was very difficult on the Friday and Saturday, but it was the same for everyone. The rally was very good. When you think about tarmac, you think about this rally.

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers

Winner 2004 (subject to art 131 of the Sporting Code): Citroën
Guy Frequelin, Team Principal

Question: If possible, can you describe the emotions you are feeling at the moment ?

GF: This is a very emotional time for me. In 1981, I came close to the same title. And this title of Sebastien’s is, in some part, mine as well, I take a small part of it. It allows me to live this emotion of winning the Drivers’ title through Sébastien. I felt something very strong at the end of this rally, very strong for the whole team too. I am very happy to see Sébastien up there on the top of the podium. I discovered him through our promotion formula in 1998, and for a sporting director to take a young driver from the promotion formula all the way up to the top of World Championship is something very special, both for the man and for the sporting director.

Claude Satinet told me last year that there was only every one ‘first time’, this is the second time for the Manufacturer’s Championship, the first time for Sébastien, and the first time we have won both titles, but I must have remained a child at some level, as for me, every time is a first time, with the same passion, the same delight, whether it is a rally win or a title win. I am like a child with a new present every time. I must have remained in my childhood with all the joy that goes with it.

Question: Do you think this will be the first of many titles for Sébastien ?

GF: When I discovered Sébastien, I discovered the talent he had and I became interested in him. I leant him a car in 2000 for the Rally du Var, and then again for the Rally Sanremo. He did a good job and showed he had talent. From then on, I had plenty of hopes in Sébastien, to the point that whenever they asked me if I was surprised by what he achieved, I replied no, I was not surprised, because I had put the bar very high in terms of my hopes for him. Of course, I have never been disappointed, but I understood that I had discovered this talent from the start.

For the future, I think that he has the potential to win a number of titles, but these things are difficult to predict. It depends on the car. You need a good driver, a good co-driver, a good team and a good car. I hope that we will be able to continue to give him a car worthy of his talent.

Question: And what about the future for Citroën ?

GF: I risk disappointing you here. Concerning Carlos, he has not yet made his decision. I do not think he wants to do a full season. He does not want to give up driving, but I cannot answer for him, he has to make his decision, and relatively quickly. Concerning the future of Citroën, Claude Satinet said quite clearly during the press conference he gave during the Paris Motorshow, that he would announce the programme only when the definitive regulations for 2005 and 2006 and after were released, and that the names of the drivers would be released at the same time, that is to say at the end of November.

-fia-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team