Post-event Press Conference
Sunday 14 February
1st - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
1st - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Sebastien Loeb
, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Daniel
Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Jari-Matti Latvala, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Miikka Anttila, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson, Team Principal, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.
Q: Mikko, congratulations on your first win of the season and the first time you have won the opening round of the WRC. A great start to 2010!
MH: It's good. It's really good. After last season, I was thinking I need to win more rallies to fight for the title. There are more to go, but now we have the first one.
Q: You stated before the event you would be less cautious this year. Is this the new, braver Mikko Hirvonen we are seeing?
MH: I don't know, but it worked out well on this rally. For sure it was a very close fight for two and a half days with Sebastien (Loeb), it always is. It's really great when it goes like that. Maybe we took the risk with the tyres yesterday and then we lost out in the super special, but we made 12 seconds overall. We made a good plan and we stuck with it. It worked out.
Q: Jarmo, are there new dynamics in the car? Are you both hungrier for the Championship maybe after losing by just one point last year?
JL: Not much, but the small things like we talked about before. Last year we lost Norway and we were not brave enough to change the car (settings). We were worried we would change and go in the wrong direction. On Friday morning, we were not confident, but he (Hirvonen) was brave enough to make the change. We were fastest on the next stage. I could see from his driving, he is the master in the car now; it's not the other way. I was confident from then that this was going to be a good rally.
Q: Sebastien, you did say after stage 18 that you had 'stopped fighting', which is unusual to hear from you. When did you realise that you could not catch Mikko, on that stage or before?
SL: The thing was that we were fighting since two days at one second per stage. And this morning, we had 16 (seconds) to catch. I had to try in the morning and we did the same time (on the first stage this morning). So, the second one, I try hard again and after a few kilometres, I was one second ahead, then zero, then plus one. I understood that after two stages we would not reduce the gap, I was then taking some risk for this and I decided to slow down a bit rather than end up in a snow bank.
Q: We've seen some footage of you glancing a snow bank. It looked quite exciting...
SL: It was a nice video, no?
Q: Yesterday afternoon's loop of stages was tough on the tyres and you were not happy with the choice you made. Can you tell us about that?
SL: For sure we made a mistake in the tyre choice. We changed the tyres not at the right moment, but this time we thought it the best decision and we decide to go in to the second stage with the same tyre and keep the new ones for the third stage. Then we destroy the tyre. When we put the (new) tyre on for the third stage, we had no rear tyre left; we had no balance with the car. We lost too much time. We took some time in the super special, but it was not enough. We lost contact then. But at this moment, it was always difficult in the second loop. We destroyed the tyre more than the Ford. It was the perfect rally for Mikko, he was really fast. I couldn't do anything.
Q: Daniel, from your perspective what has been the most difficult aspect of the weekend?
DE: The temperature on the first two days. It was -22C and yesterday -25C, and checking the tyre pressures at the start, it's very difficult. And the road section is very long. It's the same every year. For me the second pass on the stages was difficult, there was not a lot of ice. The organisers decide to pass a national race, with 100 cars, over the stage and the road is destroyed. For me, we need one pass, the second pass is not the Swedish Rally, it's a gravel rally.
Q: Jari-Matti congratulations on third position. It took a little while for you to get into the rhythm on the event, how do you feel about your performance this weekend?
J-ML: I'm pleased. The last five years I have had a bad start. 2005 was the last time I got a good start. Also, I had no chance to fight with Mikko and Seb; that was not the plan. We wanted the podium and points for the team and we did that.
Q: You have a new role within the team this year as the second driver; how do you feel about that and do you think you can adapt and become a consistent support driver?
J-ML: If I can do it in this rally, I can do it the whole year.
Q: Was there more pressure on you in this rally?
J-ML: Friday was a little bit difficult time for me. I try to avoid the risks, but the back of my mind, I know that I can't do the mistake. If I do, I will look ridiculous. I couldn't relax and the feeling was to struggle with understeer. On Saturday, we get the car right and I started to relax when I started to catch Dani (Sordo). Then I got things together.
Q: Miikka, how much pressure was there in the car?
MA: For sure, there was. But also, Jari-Matti handled the pressure well, all credit for him. The start was not so good. We keep the same speed as Dani Sordo, but all the time we knew when we get the car with the right the set-up, when we get the pieces together we would not have any problems.
Q: Malcolm you described Mikko's Saturday as the perfect day. Do you stand by that?
MW: He's even topped it by going one step further by getting a fantastic victory. Yesterday was the perfect day, the best I've seen him drive and the best he has managed the situation. The pace he has shown and the way he managed the tyres and got the full advantage through the day was fantastic.
Q: And Jari-Matti did a great job for the team?
MW: He did do a great job, yes. He's done exactly what we asked. He was under pressure, but when he started to apply the pressure to Dani (Sordo), and then Dani made the mistake it made it easier for him. This is something to build on for the future.
Q: Martin Prokop won stage 16 in his Fiesta S2000. Coming on the back of the Monte Carlo win, this has been an encouraging start for the new car.
MW: We've had a fantastic start to the season. Mikko won in Monte Carlo and then we come here, the (S2000) cars have all been competitive, none of them have had any issues. Okay, it was only a super special, but to be the first S2000 car to post a fastest time is very special. There was great feedback from the guys -- now we're really looking forward to the rest of the S2000 World Championship.
Q: A question to all of the drivers. Is there room for more than one snow rally on the calendar?
MH: Yes. Yes!
SL: Yes, Monte Carlo!
FIA SUPER 2000 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Per-Gunnar Andersson (Skoda Super 2000)
1st - Anders Fredriksson
Q: Congratulations on the first win of the SWRC. You made it look easy, what was it like?
P-GA: For sure it's a great relief. My expectation was to try and win this rally. It was a one-off programme to start with. We did a fantastic job, especially on Friday. We had to go hard to try and build a gap and we got one minute. Today, I had to concentrate and keep the speed. I tried not to make any mistakes, it was not easy.
Q: A few dramas yesterday afternoon, what happened?
P-GA: I was struggling a little bit. I had a jump start on Friday and then a small spin in the Hagfors sprint stage. I was playing a little bit, but it didn't pay off. Then I overshot some junctions, I lost maybe 30 seconds with stupid mistakes.
Q: How close was it?
P-GA: I thought it would be a close battle for three days. I was quite surprised I took so many seconds after a few stages on Friday and then we could make the gap bigger in the afternoon. It was a bit easier than I expected. I would have liked a closer battle until the finish line, it's easier to drive the car hard and keep the focus then.
Q: What are your plans for the rest of the year? Will we see you compete in the SWRC again, being that you were a 'Guest Driver' in Sweden?
P-GA: It's always a chance. This result will help. I'm looking for more sponsors, but I need to find a decent budget. I'm hoping this will help and I want to be in the Championship to show the people who is the quickest!
Q: Would you stay in the same car?
P-GA: Many cars to choose from, but I like the Skoda. I'm happy with the car.
Q: Was there much pressure on you?
AF: There was not so much pressure. There were three small mistakes and that's all. On Friday night, we led by more than a minute and then we keep the gap -- no problem.
P-GA: It wasn't that easy...!
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Patrik Flodin (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX)
1st - Goran Bergsten
Q: Patrik, congratulations on the win here in Sweden; a big challenge this weekend?
PF: On Friday, it was a close battle. On Saturday we struggled with the set-up. We changed the suspension and then on Saturday afternoon, the car was mine and we had a go to make the gap. We started with 20 seconds on Saturday morning and then we had 1 minute 30 seconds. Today we were cruising and not doing any stupid mistakes. We came close in the ski track, we had no studs and it was so, so slippery...
Q: What were the stages like?
PF: The second loop was terrible. Our car is so heavy we were killing the front tyres. It was not so much fun to drive this Swedish Rally -- it was a summer rally.
Q: What has been the most difficult aspect of this event?
GB: The (tyre) studs going off on almost every stage. Saturday afternoon we took a small chance to do the Sågen stage on the same wheels. We knew it was quite wide and less gravel and we raced over it, then we had two new tyres for the last stage -- it paid off.
Q: You were clever with your tyres?
PF: I think normally I like the battle, not thinking about tyres, now we had to think and take it easy in some stages. Rally Sweden, for me, should be to go and not think about tyres. This is how it is, but this is a very good result and a good rally.
Q: Patrik, you are a wild card entry, what's the chance of you doing some more rallies this year?
PF: We are trying to do the same at P-G and get some more sponsors. If we can do this, we want to carry on. It's very good when we start the season with the full points.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Martin Holmes Rallying, UK
Q: Group N cars have the big turbocharger here, but they were uncompetitive against the S2000 cars. Why was that?
PF: The tyres, we were killing the tyres. Our car is so heavy. We were 300 kilos more than P-G and we have most of this is in the front. Now we have rally stars like P-G in F1 cars... We have no chance to follow these cars.