FIA press release
Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Evgeny Novikov, M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team
Q: Séb, you lead the Championship as we head into a brand new event here in Australia. What do you think of the stages?
Sébastien Loeb: Sure it’s always more difficult when it’s a new rally. You must be more concentrated in the recce with the notes. The stages are quite wide and fast. Some have narrow bits but are generally quite fast. The second leg is looking very similar to New Zealand, the first and third similar to Australia in previous years.
Q: How much loose gravel is out there?
SL: The first day is not the worst. There are some loose parts but some [stages] are generally quite clean. It depends on the weather as well, as we have heard about rain. It’s important to find the right rhythm. In my position, being first on the road, it is not always easy but we will see.
Q: You have a 25 point lead over team-mate Sebastien Ogier; do you need to win here in terms of the Championship?
SL: It’s not crucial to win but it’s important to push and fight and score manufacturer points.
Q: There’s a chance that Citroën can win the Manufacturers’ Championship this weekend - I believe it’s a one-two result that’s required?
SL: I know it’s possible. It’s like every rally; you go into every rally wanting to score good points. We have three long days to go so we will concentrate on the rally.
Q: After team orders were deployed on Rallye Deutschland, will we see a straight fight between the Citroën drivers this weekend?
SL: I think we will start to fight with Ford first and we should be more worried about their drivers. I think that maybe we will not be in the easiest position at the end of the weekend.
Q: There was a lot of attention on the team during the last event, with regards to the battle internally between you and Sébastien [Ogier]. What is the atmosphere like within the team?
SL: It hasn’t really changed. We work together and we are doing our best. We work in all aspects together and nothing’s changed.
Q: Sébastien, what are your initial thoughts about the rally? Do you feel these stages will suit you?
Sébastien Ogier: Yes I hope so. I’m really happy to be here. It’s always good for me to drive in the Southern Hemisphere. It was good for me last year in New Zealand. It was good two years ago in Australia; it was the first time we really fought with the top drivers. Hopefully this year will be nice. It’s always good for me to start a new rally. It gives me the same level of experience as the other drivers. Hopefully it will be the same here.
Q: After taking maximum points in Germany how confident do you feel about your Championship title battle?
SO: Sure, I don’t have the advantage for the moment. I’m behind compared to the leader. Still four rallies to go and anything can happen in motor sport. I’ll continue to do my best and we will see what happens.
Q: How much are you prepared to risk to win the title this year? Will we see a flat-out approach from you at every event now?
SO: No more than usual. We’re trying to do our best all the time. It’s really close between everybody. When the fight is close like this it’s difficult to do more than that. We have the same goal to score maximum points for the team and for ourselves and we’ll try to do that this weekend.
Q: Are you still committed to the Citroën Total World Rally Team for the future or are you considering a switch to another manufacturer?
SO: For the meantime, I’m happy to drive with Citroën. I have a very good car. With that car I’ve already won four rallies this season. I think it’s a good opportunity for me to show what I can do. For the moment it’s still like this and I’m happy with the situation.
Q: What about next year?
SO: It’s difficult but for the minute we’re taking rally after rally. Things can change for sure for everybody, but for the moment I’m happy with this car and firstly, I want to finish well this season.
Q: Malcolm, it’s been eight events since a Ford was on the top step of the podium. It seems to have been tough year for the team. Where did the plan go wrong?
MW: I wish I could sit here and say. You can imagine how bad it feels for everyone in the team. It’s even more frustrating because this year we have been more competitive than ever before, especially on Tarmac. It’s very difficult when you’re this competitive and are losing by the smallest margins in history. It’s not the best position to be in at the moment but we’re confident that we’ve got the pace and the guys can do the job and we have to really try to win all of the remaining events. In terms of what has gone wrong, if you look at the small margins, it’s difficult to say something has gone wrong. When you lose a rally by thirty seconds or more, you can pin-point a problem, but when you lose by two seconds over three days, it’s difficult to determine the problem. It’s a sad thing but it goes to show how competitive this sport is, but it’s a shame to be on the receiving end of bad luck.
Q: How would you assess both Jari-Matti and Mikko’s performances this year?
MW: The performance has been there but there have been the odd problems and we can’t escape it, the odd technical things, or driver errors. We’ve now seen to win at this level everything has to be one hundred per cent.
Q: We are still awaiting a decision on whether Ford will continue within the WRC. Can you give us any insight into when that decision will be made and whether it will be favourable?
MW: I’ve been in the job a long time. Ford is the longest established manufacturer in the WRC. There is no question that there is the desire to stay and continue in the WRC. We’re in negotiations at the moment and let’s hope we have a favourable announcement to make in the future.
Q: If Ford were to continue next year would the driver line-up remain the same?
MW: My priority is to keep Ford in the WRC.
Q: Are there talks with any other drivers within the current WRC ranks?
MW: As I said, my priority is to keep Ford in the WRC but of course we want to strengthen our driver line-up, hence our relationship with the likes of Tänak. To be honest, you can’t discount anything but our main priority is to keep Ford in the WRC.
Q: How much pressure is on the team for a good result?
MW: Certainly a good result would definitely help. We want to win. It’s what Ford wants as well but that won’t be the final decision about WRC. We need to get Ford back on the top step of the podium.
Q: Evgeny, the rally hasn’t even started and there has been drama at shakedown. An off road incident for you – what happened?
EN: On the second pass I cut the corner too much and the steering arm was broken but the car is not bad so no, it’s not a big problem for me.
Q: How much damage has been done to the car?
EN: The car will be okay for the rally.
Q: Let’s talk about the season so far because we have seen a different approach from you – you seem to be a lot calmer and not attacking the stages quite so much. What has changed and why?
EN: It’s difficult to say but priorities have changed this year. In 2009 I tried to always drive maximum not caring what would happen. This year I’m trying to get more experience. I need experience for the future so my priorities have changed.
Q: Do you find that frustrating as a driver or do you feel it’s doing you good this year?
EN: It’s not so bad this year. The speed is not so bad but we’ve had some problems during the rallies but I hope everything will be okay for the future.
Q: What will be the approach here?
EN: I’ll start the rally and see how it goes and then I’ll make plans for the rest of the rally. For the moment I don’t know.
Q: Have you competed on roads that are comparable to here?
EN: Some of them are quite similar to New Zealand, sometimes similar to Japan. They’re very good and I like them.
Q: What is the plan for next year, will we see you return as part of the WRC?
EN: I don’t know plans for the next year. I need to finish this year. There are still three events to go for me so I don’t know yet.
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Q: Hayden, a huge weekend in prospect! You could win the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship here in Australia if you win the rally. How are you feeling ahead of it?
HP: In all honesty, we’re treating this like any other rally. We’ve still got two rounds left in Spain and GB so we’ve got a good buffer. I need to show more speed. I know there’s more speed to come. Everything has been comfortable and easy today so we should be able to find some more speed on roads that are very similar to home.
Q: You have had great success this season winning all three of your nominated events so far. Does that give you confidence or are you concerned about the threat from Australian drivers Reeves and Quinn?
HP: They’ll be fast, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve competed against Reeves and he’s very well prepared and Quinn is on his home soil so it will definitely be a challenge. We’ve got to worry about our own game. We’ve got a good car and our team has done a good job so providing it all goes well, there’s no reason we can’t be up the front.
Q: Some drivers have mentioned some stages have a similarity to New Zealand, would you agree?
HP: Day two stages are very similar to New Zealand. The main difference here is the lack of camber in the road and the gravel is very different. There is not quite as much grip on offer so it’s about as close as you’ll get to roads like in New Zealand, outside of New Zealand.
Q: What do you think are going to be the major challenges for you this weekend? Will you have the Championship in mind and will it distract you?
HP: We’re not really worried about that until the last day. The stages on day three are a lot more technical and twisty and not to my liking, so when we get to that point we might think about the Championship. For the meantime, the first two days are flat out. The challenges are going to be to find the top times but I’m going to try and go a bit quicker and get into to the top 10 and get Championship points. We’ve got to keep aiming high. It’s going to be a big challenge but we can do it.
How much would it mean to you and how much would it help for the future if you could take the title win away here?
The stages on day three are a lot more technical and twisty and not to my liking, so when we get to that point we might think about the Championship.
HP: So close to home would be incredible. Particularly with our New Zealand team here. It’s unfortunate that our European team couldn’t come down but we’ve still got our New Zealand team here. They have been helping me for 14 or 15 years so to do it with them would be great. In terms of the future, we’re already planning towards 2012. We’re starting to look at the budget and fingers crossed we’ll be here next year with a faster car perhaps and keep moving forward.
Q: Could we see you in WRC next year?
HP: We’ve got a plan in place. We don’t want to rush ourselves as we do need to take the logical steps to make sure we have the necessary experience and speed but if the opportunity came up for the WRC, we would need to see. But I’m never going to say no to that kind of opportunity, but we’ll see what comes out of the woodwork.
Q: Despite the Championship being up for grabs, you’re still pushing yourself and obviously wanting to get drivers’ points too.
HP: You need to take someone like Tänak for example. We’ve competed against him and he’s very good. He’s a fast driver. He’s had a lot of bad luck and hasn’t had the results but from a personal side of things, he has outright speed. Our aim is to win the Championship but we’ve still got three rallies to show our speed.
Q: Valeriy, it’s been a learning year for you within the PWRC – how do you assess your season so far?
VG: I’m going to drive the first year in the PWRC and I want to learn something new and drive every rally to the finish.
Q: From what you have seen of the stages from the recce do you think this rally will suit you?
VG: Yes, I like the stages and I hope to be fast in this rally.
Q: How did shakedown go this morning? Are you happy with the set-up you have?
VG: I have to find the good set-up as it’s my first time rallying in Australia and I think I have found a good set-up for the rally.
Q: What is the future for you? Will you return to the Championship?
VG: Yes I understand it’s really difficult to show the results in the first year. I’m planning to come back next year in the PWRC.
Q: Not only are you a driver within the Mentos team, you are also the Team Principal for the three cars! How difficult is it juggling two roles?
VG: I like to do it so that I know everything and I want to be a Team Principal because I want to know every small detail and I like it.