WRC

Wales Rally GB: Pre-event press conference

Present: Matthew Wilson, Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Petter Solberg, Petter Solberg World Rally Team Sebastien Ogier, Citroen Total World Rally Team Patrik Sandell, FIA Super 2000 World ...

Present:
Matthew Wilson, Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Petter Solberg, Petter Solberg World Rally Team
Sebastien Ogier, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Patrik Sandell, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Armindo Araujo, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship

Q: Matthew, we've seen you in the sport now for many years. Is the passion still there?

MW: Definitely! I don't think we would be here if we didn't have that passion. I've probably said this a few times this weekend but rallying has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I still get the same kick out of it and every time I jump into the car I still have that same feeling. You're making me feel old here! We are trying for next year to get something sorted so we can return.

Q: Looking back across this season and your time in a World Rally Car, what have stood out as the high points and the low points?

MW: There have been a few. We have been driving WRC cars in the British Championship and stuff like that before, so there are a lot of memories from those days, including winning my first British Championship rally with one of them. And also Japan, and getting that fourth place after the big battle with Companc. We want to go one better and achieve that podium and it's something that we're a little bit disappointed not to have done with the World Rally Car. A lot of memories for sure, good ones too.

Q: There is always a lot of attention surrounding you at home, I hear you have been putting in a lot of training ahead of this event; have you changed your approach at all? Have you done anything differently this time?

MW: We are fortunate here in that we were able to have a test and we don't get that often to have a full week in the car last week. Obviously the Focus is coming to an end but it was still good to have that, and especially having done a little bit in the Fiesta it was nice to get back in the Focus and back into that mentality. That's the preparation we've had and it seems to have gone quite well.

Q: What are the plans for next year? Will we see you compete in an S2000 as part of the Stobart team again? Is that your hope?

MW: I have been involved with the Fiesta from basically the first time it turned a wheel, which has been quite exciting, and you see the development of the car from day to day because it is still so raw and so new. That's been exciting, and obviously Jari-Matti and Mikko have driven it now as well, but even in the last couple of days before we came here we were doing some endurance work with the engine and stuff like that. Even though you might be running around an airfield you're still learning about the car. It's exciting, definitely. At the minute there is nothing finalised for next season but if we can have a good rally here and finish the year off well then we are in a good position to start looking at next year and what we can do. There are obviously talks happening but at the minute nothing is confirmed. For sure after the driving we have done with the Fiesta it would be a shame not to be out there next year and actually competing. We are working on that and hopefully we can get something sorted.

Q: What will be a good result for you here? These boys are all gunning for the top step of the podium...

MW: I think these three boys here (Solberg, Latvala and Ogier) are going to be going fairly hard, and then you throw Mikko and Sebastien and Dani in and it's going to be one hell of a fight. But as we have seen before, anything can happen, but if we come away with a top four or five finish that would be really good for us.

Q: Jari-Matti, we always see a big battle at Wales Rally GB, maybe even more so this weekend as we have the battle for the runners up spot in the Championship between you, Ogier and Solberg...

J-ML: My target has been to be in the top three more this season because the last two years I finished fourth. I would really like to be there in the top three but Petter is pushing me for sure, and I am 11 points behind Sebastien and in normal conditions it is not easy to catch him. You need a little bit of luck or something if I am to catch him because normally there is no chance. The main thing is to battle for that third place in the Championship, and if I am to get that I need a good result here. I believe it's going to be a big battle.

Q: You have a lot of experience here and this year marks your ninth participation. Last year you suffered drive shaft problems and only had remote service to try and fix the problem; with two remote services this year will that alter your approach at all?

J-ML: You can't think about it too much; you just need to drive. If you think too much, then you worry too much and it's just not going to work.

Q: What were the conditions like out on stages during the recce?

J-ML: There were very muddy conditions, especially in Myherin and Sweet Lamb. It's a difficult start from Hafren because it is so muddy. The second and third day when we recced, and yesterday, the weather was alright and the grip was actually good. The second day was not too bad, but some sections were quite slippy, and the third day it was surprisingly dry. If it rains, what I hope is when the rally starts it is still raining because it's always harder when the rain has stopped.

Q: This year we have seen you take two wins - in New Zealand and Finland - and deliver a far more consistent performance. How would you describe your year?

J-ML: It has been a much better year, definitely. After last year we sat down and thought about what we needed to do because things were not going in the right direction. It felt that after 2008 I was actually going backwards and not forwards. We realised that we were pushing far too hard and needed to concentrate on our consistency. If you want to be a World Rally Champion you need to be consistent -- that's the key element. So we started to work on that side and I am happy to see the results coming. Okay, there have been a couple of down moments -- we went off the road in Portugal, off the road in Turkey -- but we have made improvements on tarmac and I am happy to see that. Generally I am very happy how things have gone this year but obviously this last rally will give the last impression.

Q: This is the last time you compete in the Ford Focus RS WRC, what has been your best moment in the car?

J-ML: I won my first WRC round in Sweden in 2008 with it and beat my idol Henri Toivonen's record. That was special.

Q: Petter, you have competed in a number of WRC cars - the Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza, Citroen Xsara and the C4. Now that we are saying farewell to the current group of cars what is your best memory and which one was your favourite?

PS: For me it is no big difference. The new cars are just another type and different spec. They are still World Rally Cars anyway. I remember also back to the Toyota days and they were also good. I think it's just the name that changes.

Q: How are you feeling about the weekend ahead? Does this place hold special memories for you?

PS: Of course a lot of good things have happened here. I remember my first win very well and that was just an incredible feeling, and also winning the rally and the World Championship here. It's not an easy rally, it's quite tough. Anything can happen so it doesn't pay to be too smart on this event.

Q: You've said at quite a few rallies that 'this is the one; I'm going to take the win here'. I know you want to definitely take the win in Wales, but can you do it? There are so many drivers who can win out there this weekend...

PS: I am sure I am up for a big fight but I am willing to push and will take big risks. Ogier's last couple of rallies haven't been quite so good so perhaps he is mentally not so strong! Just kidding! I have nothing to lose. I have no team orders standing over me and I am fourth and can only gain places, whereas these guys can only lose places. I think it is going to be a great rally and if the fight is on at the last stage on Sunday it is just like a Wales Rally GB should be.

Q: What are the plans for next year? We hear rumours that you could be joining the Citroen Junior Team, what can you tell us?

PS: I don't know! I am working all the time and nothing is final. I have an option with something but nothing is fixed. I talk to many people; there are a lot of nice people around! We have to fight and win -- it's not enough to be just a part of the Championship, I want something more. If I go to a team I want to be part of a team that really wants to fight. So long as I have the same testing and same equipment then no problem. We all want to fight for victory.

Q: What have been your favourite moments in the WRC cars?

PS: Each different car has had its own special moments. In the Ford on the Safari Rally with Colin (McRae) it was a huge event and a lot of things happened. With Subaru so many nice things happened: first podium, first Championship, and even in 2004 I don't think we were credited with how much speed we had. And even now, with starting my own team with the Xsara, even that was an unbelievable feeling and winning the first stage on Rally Norway with that car was incredible. And this year a lot of great things happened too. I have lots of great memories with all the cars.

Q: Sebastien, two wins this year, Portugal and Japan, you are now battling to retain second position in the Championship; 2010 has been a good year?

SO: For sure I am very happy with this season -- it is better than we expected at the start. Now we are second in the World Championship and we want to stay in this position but we still need a lot of luck this weekend because we know that Petter and Jari-Matti will push very hard to catch me. I still have a good advantage though, so I can watch what they do and just score the points I need for the Championship. It's the last race for the C4 WRC and I we had a lot of pleasure with this car and I just want to enjoy the car for the last time.

Q: From what we have seen from you this season, usually your plan is just to go flat-out constantly, not really watching what anyone else is doing...

SO: Yes I know, it's not usually like this. Last time on tarmac I had the opportunity to secure my second place but I prefer to push hard and to improve my drive on tarmac. It's always difficult when you fight against Sebastien (Loeb) on tarmac, but I try and I have no regrets about that, but this weekend we will see if maybe we can be different. It's a very difficult and tricky rally with changeable weather and differing amounts of grip so it's not easy to see. On gravel we are always able to fight for the podium, so I need to start the rally with a good rhythm if I want to fight for that.

Q: You are currently second in the Championship, with your experience from this year do you feel that you can challenge for the drivers title next year?

SO: Of course I can! We will all start the season with the same chance and the same challenges so it will be interesting for everybody with these small cars. I am happy to go and be part of the official team and especially to be team mates with Seb.

Q: What have your favourite moments been in the WRC car?

SO: It is difficult to say -- we had a lot! The car is absolutely fantastic to drive and when I won in Portugal this year against Seb it was amazing.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Martin Holmes
Martin Holmes Rallying, UK

Q: Petter, the respect that you have created this year, as being the team manager as well as the driver of the car, has challenged the establishment. Do you really want to go back to simply being a driver?

PS: If that is what it takes to win, definitely. I am a driver and I want to win the Championship again and I wouldn't have started the team if I knew that I wasn't good enough. You must be stupid to start something like that and just drive slow. I want to drive and fight. It's my life and I enjoy it but its bloody hard work I tell you! Sometimes I think I need more sleep!

Marco Giordo
Autosprint, Italy

Q: What are your thoughts, Jari-Matti and Sebastien Ogier, on the new Fiesta and DS3?

J-ML: The Fiesta has great balance. I drove it for two days on tarmac and one day on gravel and it works very well. It's an easy car to control and reacts very quickly. Of course it's slightly more nervous with a shorter wheelbase than the Focus, and less powered because it has a 1.6 turbo engine but I felt surprisingly good in it. You just have to give it more revs. The biggest difference is the gearbox, where you have to go from hydraulic paddle shift to sequential: that needs a bit more work and you have to get used to it because sometimes when you are hard with the revs and the wheels are spinning you can't change gear so easily. You have to wait and be a little bit patient with it. But the gearbox works well and generally the whole package works well too.

SO: For me, I think Jari-Matti explained very well the challenge. We have had a bit of testing on gravel with the DS3 and the car is a bit more nervous, but it will be nice to see for the spectators -- maybe more than the WRC cars now because these new ones will be more spectacular. The performance will not be so far off the C4, maybe faster in places.

Present:
Patrik Sandell, FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship
Armindo Araujo, FIA Production Car World Rally Championship

Q: Patrik, it's a three-way battle for the SWRC title between yourself, Xevi Pons and Jari Ketomaa -- you lie nine points behind Xevi and two behind Ketomaa. What will be the approach from you this weekend?

PS: For sure it will be tough, and Ketomaa will be super-fast. I think my idea is to go fast, but not too much. If we are in a good fight on Sunday morning then the boys have to go fast!

Q: With remote service on two days it will be essential to get the car through the stages without sustaining any major damage. Will it make you more cautious?

PS: No, not really. The car is so strong and if everything works as it should it makes no difference.

Q: With all the talk about finding a 'balance' how much do you want the title and how much will you risk to get it? And where do you see yourself next year?

PS: For sure it means a lot to win the title, because I would like to become a real World Champion. On the way you have to prove you are fast and consistent and the title proves you can do a full season. Hopefully that will help my odds to climb up the ladder and fight with the big boys! At the moment I have no idea for next year and on Monday the big work starts for next year.

Q: We have tarmac integrated in the stages on Saturday. What do you think of that?

PS: I like it. It's tricky because it is so narrow and if you miss the line even a little bit you will be completely out because the stones are so big. Also almost all the corners are blind because you are driving against the blue sky and the crests are always tight. We have really good pace notes too, so I am not too worried -- you just have to trust your notes!

Q: I understand you were competing in China at the weekend, any jet lag or are you feeling ok?

PS: I feel 100 per cent ready. Sometimes if you have to go home first for a week it is worse, but here I feel perfect. We are really focussed and for us it is two Championships: not only the title but also the WRC Cup for Teams which we are leading so from that side I know that Red Bull wants us to win that Championship as well. So two things we have to think about this weekend.

Q: Armindo, you are the reigning PWRC champion and you lead the Championship going into the final round, 18 points clear of Patrik Flodin so you have the advantage this weekend. Does that make you feel a little bit more relaxed?

AA: Relaxed in GB is impossible! The conditions are difficult so we tested a lot before coming here. We tested in wet and also in dry conditions so I am very confident in the car -- the team has worked very well. With 18 points in front of Flodin I only need sixth place if he wins, so of course I will not push hard, I will only drive a controlled drive. I am confident but at the moment I need to wait and see what happens. But I think I can win the Championship.

Q: It's been a while since your last gravel rally -- that was back in Portugal. Do you feel ready for this one? How were the conditions on the recce?

AA: The recce went okay, with not much mud and very good conditions and good weather. But now everything is changing so I expect worse conditions now. But that is the way in GB. We are prepared -- I know I don't need to push 100per cent.

Q: For you, you are reigning Champion this year and you could clinch it again this weekend. What does it mean to you if you could do it? Has it changed people's attitudes towards you being the current Champion?

AA: Of course, when you win your first title everything changes. But it is always difficult to find sponsors and money to get here. I think we are improving, especially in Portugal, and to win the second title will help us get more sponsors and more money.

Q: What are the plans for you next year? Would you continue on in Production or are there other plans?

AA: At the moment we are looking at new projects and have some good ideas for next year. Everything is possible at the moment but later on we will see if they work or not.

Q: Your thoughts on the tarmac sections on Saturday?

AA: I agree with what Patrik said. I like the tarmac bits but they are in tricky places. Even a small mistake will be very bad!

-source: fia

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Petter Solberg , Jari-Matti Latvala , Matthew Wilson , Armindo Araujo , Sébastien Ogier , Patrik Sandell , Jari Ketomaa
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport