FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Rallye de France -- Tour de Corse Media FIA Post-event Press Conference 23.10.2005 Present: 1st Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena -- Citroen 2nd Toni Gardemeister, Jakke Honkanen -- Ford 3rd Petter Solberg, Philip Mills...
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Rallye de France -- Tour de Corse
Media FIA Post-event Press Conference
1st Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena -- Citroen
2nd Toni Gardemeister, Jakke Honkanen -- Ford
3rd Petter Solberg, Philip Mills -- Subaru
1st Manufacturer Guy Frequelin -- Citroen
Q: Seb, this was your first win in Corsica, but was it more important to win the rally or to set fastest time on every stage?
SL: Winning the rally was the most important thing. That's what I came here to do. I have won Monte Carlo, Germany and other rallies several times, but never here. I was very motivated to score my first Tour de Corse victory. I attacked on the first day and set fastest time on each stage. After that I consolidated a little, but still the fastest times kept coming and coming -- even though I wasn't taking any unnecessary risks.
Q: Daniel, how do you feel about this weekend's performance?
DE: The Tour de Corse is an event we've been trying to win for many years. We have led many times, but something has always intervened to deny us victory. It feels great to win -- and to have set fastest time on all 12 stages is a bonus.
Q: Seb, it has been a record-breaking season. Do you ever wonder when this is all going to stop?
SL: It has been a fantastic year. We've had a great package -- a good car, tyres that work well on every kind of terrain and fortune has smiled on us. It has definitely been our year, but right now we have to make the most of it. Things might go somebody else's way in 2006 -- Petter's, or Marcus Gronholm's maybe. I'll enjoy this while I can.
Q: Petter, do you ever wonder when this run of form might end for Seb?
PS: He's done a brilliant job and so has his team. They deserve their success. Me? I'm waiting for things to turn around. I am very impressed with the job Pirelli and my own team have done on this rally. We've come much closer than we did last season. Next season I hope to have a good fight with Sebastien to put on a good show for the public. With new rules coming in, things will change and I don't think he'll win so often.
Q: Guy, what do you think of the fact that Seb won every stage?
GF: It was very important to Sebastien and Daniel that they should win in France -- and a home win is important for Citroen and Citroen Sport, too. To be honest, I wasn't too interested in the notion of pushing for victory on every stage. I wanted him to look after the car, but he is a grown-up and knows what he's doing. He drove according to his feelings and ended up with 12 fastest times. I'd like to compliment both of them on what they've done -- it's a fantastic achievement and I'm thrilled for them.
Q: How disappointed were you not to be able to seal the title for manufacturers this weekend?
GF: I'm very disappointed about what happened to Francois Duval this morning, but that's rallying. He wasn't feeling very well and I told him not to push too hard if he didn't feel up to it. There was no need to chase Petter and he didn't even have to keep Sarrazin behind him, but we all saw what happened. It's disappointing, but we are still in a strong position and hope to clinch the title in Spain or, failing that, Australia.
Q: There has been a lot of speculation about Citroen Sport coming back to the WRC in 2007. What is the situation at the moment?
GF: If the FIA World Council approves certain measures this week then I am optimistic we will be back in 2007. We like working with Sebastien and Daniel and I think they like working with us. We have a fantastic relationship. We'd like to work with them in 2007, but that's not sure. We know we won't be present officially next season, but we will supply cars to customer teams and hopefully Sebastien and Daniel might work with one of them. Hopefully there will be some good news from the World Council on Wednesday.
Q: Seb, Marcus Gronholm has taken one Ford seat next season. How much does that limit your options?
SL: Well there's still a second Ford seat, but it limits them a bit. It was my decision to wait to see what Citroen has in mind for the future, though, and I'm happy with that. If that closes any opportunity with Ford, so be it.
Q: Toni, second place equals your best result on a world championship rally. Was this your best performance to date?
TG: I can't say that it was the best, but it was certainly one of them.
Q: Jakke, Finns are traditionally very strong on gravel rallies. Is Toni the exception?
JH: Well one driver has already won this event twice for Finland -- Markku Alen. Toni is not an exception, then, but he is exceptionally good on asphalt. I have taught many young drivers and he drives on asphalt exactly as it says you should in the rally school manual.
Q: Toni, the Focus seemed very strong this weekend.
TG: It doesn't understeer at all. It's very balanced and very neutral. It feels a bit like a circuit racing car, very precise. I know it's a year-old car, but I was sure it would still be competitive.
Q: Do you think this performance has helped your future? Might we see an all-Finnish line-up at Ford in 2006?
TG: I don't know what they want to do. I just try to drive as well as possible, but good results should help, obviously.
Q: Petter, we're off to Spain next. What are your realistic expectations?
PS: To fight hard again... for third place. I always want to win, but you have to be realistic. Things are very difficult on Tarmac compared to gravel, but I hope to be fighting for the podium in Spain and to be battling at the top again in 2006.
Q: How frustrating is it when you are pushing to the limit but other drivers are getting away?
PS: That's just part of the game. Everything in the world goes up and down. It has been a difficult year but everybody is working hard to get back to the top and I'm sure we'll see different results next year on Tarmac.
Q: Phil, we are in the middle of two back-to-back events and there is a chance that there will be more on the calendar in 2006. Does that make things harder or easier from your perspective?
PM: It's not more difficult -- it just means I have to do a bit more preparation work at home before I set off. It should be more cost-effective for teams, but it also throws up the possibility of more work -- a situation we can see that Citroen is faced with before Spain. As with most things, there are pros and cons.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Seb, that looked like a very straightforward victory from the outside. How was it from where you were sitting?
SL: I didn't have any real problems. The event went well from start to finish, but Corsica is never an easy event to drive. I felt at one with the car, though, and was comfortable on all the stages.
Q: Guy, we know that some cost-cutting proposals are being discussed with the FIA, but there has also been talk about spicing up the final stage of a rally, possibly even to change the result. Might that influence Citroen's decision about whether or not it wants to compete in 2007?
GF: I think there have been some misunderstandings between the FIA and the press about the nature of this proposal. I won't discuss what has been said behind closed doors, but it is no great secret that there have been proposals to spice up one of the final stages of a rally -- but not necessarily in a way that alters the outcome of the event. If a proposal is made that increases public interest, enhances the sport's image and attracts more investment, I'm sure that everybody on the Commission, including the manufacturers, would welcome it.
2005 JUNIOR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st Mirco Baldacci, Giovanni Bernacchini -- Fiat
Q: Congratulations to both of you on your win in the Junior World Championship. Mirco, how does it feel?
MB: Firstly I'd like to thank those journalists who have stayed to listen to us... The rally got off to a good start, but I didn't think we'd be in a position to win. If things go well, however, good results will follow.
Q: Giovanni, how do you feel about the way things turned out?
GB: The Citroen C2s looked very strong initially and I'm a bit surprised they both had problems. That's part of the sport, though. I'm very happy for Fiat. Mirco and I did a very good job -- and that's the most fundamental thing. When our rivals hit trouble, we were in a position to capitalise.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the Punto.
MB: The car is basically the same as it has been all year, but it's a good car and asphalt is one of my biggest strengths. We could have won Monte Carlo but for electrical problems and now I'm optimistic for Spain.
Q: Giovanni, who do you think will win the JWRC title?
GB: Unfortunately we're no longer in it because of our problems earlier in the season. From what I can see Dani Sordo has the best chance. He has been very strong all year and has not made any mistakes. It's all stacked in his favour.
Q: Mirco, you have tested the S2000-spec Fiat Punto -- as has Colin McRae. What did you think?
MB: It could be the future of the sport -- it's an interesting category. After Catalunya we'll crack on with the S2000 test programme. We'll see what happens with the category, or whether any other manufacturers commit.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Can you describe what conditions were like after the WRC cars had passed through the stages?
MB: This was my first time in Corsica and I thought the roads would be clean, but they weren't. The WRC cars throw up a lot of stones and dirt, which creates a serious risk of punctures -- a hazard I hadn't anticipated.
Q: When will you test the S2000 Punto again?
MB: Straight after Spain.