04.05.13

2013 Rally Argentina - Post-Event Press Conference

Post-Event Press Conference organised by the FIA for the 2013 Rally Argentina.

RALLY ARGENTINA

Post event Press Conference
Saturday 4 May
 
Present:
1st - Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Motorsport
2nd - Julien Ingrassia, Volkswagen Motorsport 
3rd - Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Motorsport
3rd - Miikka Anttila, Volkswagen Motorsport
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
 
Q:
Seb, congratulations on your eighth consecutive win here at Rally Argentina! This will be the final time you race here in Argentina; how does it feel to have won again?
SL:
I feel good for sure. It has been a great rally, nice stages, different ones from what I’m used to here in Argentina, always a lot of spectators. The atmosphere here is really special. It was really a good weekend; it was not easy for sure. We had to push hard. There was some pressure. The conditions were quite tricky. Finally at the end we are here.
 
Q:
It was a really fierce battle; when we look back to Thursday and Friday, how much were you pushing and on the limit?
SL:
I was doing my best, that’s what I always do. When I start a race I always try to go as fast as possible. The start was not easy. I started with a set-up that I didn’t know and I was doing a lot of little mistakes here and there. I was not completely confident with the car. I think I lost a little bit and the reason is that I have only done one day of test since last year on gravel. It was not so easy, the first stages felt really fast but then the feeling came naturally again, and then I just had to do the set-up on myself. And after that it was okay.
 
Q:
How difficult was it this morning?
SL:
I started the stage looking at Seb’s [Ogier] splits and he was not pushing because it was really rough and we know that we can break something easily there. I didn’t push. It’s not a nice stage. The second one, Condor, is not bad; the first one is not so nice. The landscape, the people are, but the stage is not interesting. 
 
Q:
What does it mean to you that your last gravel rally is here in Argentina?
SL:
It means for sure that I’m happy to win on maybe my last gravel event. It was for sure not easy. It was not easy to come here without any competition. Today Seb is dominating the Championship; everybody speaks about our battle, and all that. It was not easy to do it like this. I don’t come especially for the win. We decided at the start of the season to come for four rallies, it’s like that. For sure when I start I want to compete, I want to fight, to push hard, and Seb was pushing really hard. I get in the game and move on. It was a nice weekend, a nice battle.
 
Q:
You keep saying four events this year, but now you’ve said ‘maybe’…
SL:
I have a plan to do a rally in France with the Super 1600 car with my wife, on gravel.
 
Q:
Daniel, how was it to compete in Argentina for the final time - and win!?
DE:
I am very happy for my last race on gravel, maybe! It is special, it is important for us, for the atmosphere, with a lot of fans; it’s unbelievable on the stages when you see a lot of people with flags and the barbecues. It is the most impressive race with the people for us, maybe after France, because France is special for Seb, and I enjoy when I win here.
 
Q:
You mentioned the fans; there seems to be even more support for you this year than any other year, perhaps because they realise they are not going to see you again. Does that make you emotional at all?
DE:
Yes. We saw lots of flags with ´come back’. That is the difference from last year but for us and the car it is the same.
 
Q:
Second position for you after you were leading for quite a long time during this event. It did, unfortunately, go wrong. How do you feel about that because you still lead the Championship and you’re a long way ahead.
SO:
As you mentioned, the most important is to finish the rally with good points and we scored 20 points. So again, it’s a very good advantage and we’re staying in the lead. But of course, at the end we felt a little bit of frustration. We know that the car is very young and we´ve still got some struggles in these conditions. But we had a really great start to the rally, I think our pace was very good but unfortunately, to beat Seb you need not only a good pace, you also need to be consistent and have no problems. We had a bit too many problems this weekend. But it is still a good result.
 
Q:
You mentioned problems there. Was the handbrake an issue when you went off the road? 
SO:
It was a really tricky corner with a lot of gravel. Also there was a lot of mud. In these conditions you need the handbrake to work. The problem is that mine was not working since the last stage. I didn’t feel it because nobody uses the handbrake too much. At that time, it just locked my front wheels and in that case you just go straight and I had no other chance than to go off the road. Luckily, we did not get stuck in a ditch so that was the most important. After that, it was still possible to be in the fight, to put a little pressure on Mikko [Hirvonen], and we did, and on Seb as well. Unfortunately then we had a puncture and the game was over.
 
Q:
So, that’s when you realised you couldn’t push anymore?
SO:
Yes, then it was. It was too late to take a risk like that and especially because Mikko was not there anymore. 
 
Q:
Has this been one of the toughest events so far for you guys in the Volkswagen team?
JI:
Yes, for sure. It was almost the roughest event in this year. But we still have to see what it is going to be like in Greece. But I think here it was already a little bit of hardness and we knew that we would have to be very careful so we were doing the job between the stages as we did in Portugal also. For a young car, we can be already proud.
 
Q:
From your perspective as a co-driver what is the challenge of Argentina? What is the most difficult thing?
JI:
It wasn’t easy. There are long stages and two stages that you do two times so it’s different than when you do three or four stages in a row. And with different parts, and sometimes big straight lines and you have to catch another rhythm. There are also other impacts that you cannot imagine during the recce. For me, this is it.
 
Q:
Welcome to the podium for the first time here in Argentina. Jari-Matti, third position after a great battle with Evgeny Novikov today! You obviously won that battle. How does it feel to be on the podium here? 
J-ML:
It was really really great to be on the podium first of all here in Argentina, I’ve never been on the podium here. It was my sixth time and also we had a really great day fighting with Evgeny Novikov. I’m really happy with the fight with him. I’ve been up and down but the final day was really good.
 
Q:
You seemed a little frustrated at the start of the event but things got better, did you make any changes to the car or to yourself?
J-ML:
I came to this rally with completely new differentials and there were little things that we have to guess what we will do, because when you change things you should test but we didn’t have a test so it was a little bit of guessing with some of the set-ups and we also did some experiments with the suspension. Finally we got everything right for the last day but then I also had some issues on the first day with the handbrake, it wasn’t working, I lost some time with that but then also my driving wasn’t on the level of Seb [Loeb] and Ogier but then it was good. I just need more days like these.
 
Q:
Were you really on your limit today?
J-ML:
The Mina Clavero stage second time I have to say I came so fast over the bumps taking the risks because there were big stones and I was counting that the sand would keep us on the road. I couldn’t really increase the speed anymore on that stage. That was the best that I can give and I thought if Evgeny [Novikov] is going to be quicker than I am then maybe I can quit rally.
 
Q:
Do you think that you are ready to go out and start challenging for the win? You seem a little frustrated that you weren’t up within the top three at the start of the week.
J-ML:
To be honest, it was really hard to come back to this rally after two years because I broke my shoulder last year and you could feel it. Now I have more confidence, the car seems to be performing well. We still have work to do, we still have some issues like Seb [Ogier ] had the handbrake, I have the handbrake, we need to have this sorted out but the next gravel events are really nice and I’m looking forward to them. 
 
Q:
Miikka, what was the atmosphere in the car today? Was he fully focused today?
MA:
Yes. Today it was sort of easy because there was a big purpose for Evgeny [Novikov] because the only target was that and at the start there were more than eight seconds with the four stages. And actually when we started the first day it was quite safe driving and then we got the first split and then we were behind. It was much better that stage and all of the rest of the stages. Today it wasn’t so easy because we weren’t here last year and this stage was not in the best memories.
 
Q:
Did you feel it from a co-driver perspective?
MA:
Yes definitely I did. I would say yesterday when we made the tyre choice before going on to the stages, the second time too, I wasn’t confident that the soft tyre was the correct tyre but obviously everyone else knew it from last year. But when we go out to the stages the soft tyres will last because, even if the stages are long, it’s so sandy and it’s humid anyway.
 
Q:
Yves, it is a second win for Citroën this year, both have been with Sébastien Loeb. Are you feeling confident that Mikko [Hirvonen] and Dani [Sordo] can produce wins this year?
YM:
Yes. They showed that there is pace in Portugal and Mikko here but they need some more consistency to win a rally and I’m confident that they will feel better with the car. It seems that the work we did after Mexico brings a lot of effects on the car.
 
Q:
Looking at the Manufacturer’s Championship, Volkswagen continues to lead but Citroën is not far behind. Is it going to be a real challenge between the two teams this year?
YM:
Yes, we are very close and confident that we can come back. This weekend we were really good but I hope we can come more rally after rally.
 
Q:
Sébastien mentioned the word ‘maybe’ before, have you persuaded him to come back for another gravel rally this year?
YM:
No, but I hope it would be like a new challenge for me!
 
 
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
 
Carl McKellar 
www.redbull.com, Austria
 
Q:
Sébastien, is it possible for you to say after your eighth win in Argentina which has been the greatest?
SL:
No. It’s impossible to say. I don’t remember them all.
 
 
FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP 
 
Present:
1st - Abdulazis Al-Kuwari, Seashore Qatar Rally Team
1st - Killian Duffy, Seashore Qatar Rally Team
 
Q:
Congratulations Abdulazis. First time at Rally Argentina; you won in Mexico and you’ve won again here. How tough has it been out there? 
AA:
First of all, thank God for this win, the second in the season in WRC 2. I would like to thank my sponsor, Seashore Group. Actually, it has been very tough; the stages are very rough but a lot of fun. And you see a lot of crowds. I heard that in the first stage there were 300 to 400 thousand in the stage, which is a huge number. And the last stage every kilometre - from start to finish - was full of people. You can’t see any place empty. It was really nice, the atmosphere here in Argentina. When I was younger I heard a lot about Rally Argentina and about the people and the stages, especially El Cóndor. And now I’m driving here and I want to thank the team, drivers and co-drivers. And also because we’re leading the Championship; now I’m proud because we’re leading. So that’s good. 
 
Q:
Talk to me about the stages because in the Pre-Event Press Conference you spoke about how rough they were in the recce and that you were a bit concerned about them. 
AA:
Honestly, every day has a different character. Every day the stages are totally different. Thursday, they are long with some narrow places. There was a big fog especially in the long stage. We had to drive like 15 or 20 kilometres in the fog and we could see for 20 metres in front. It was not easy for us. We don’t have experience to drive in rainy and foggy conditions. The second day had much faster stages. It was really rough in some sections and really fast in some others. Today was totally different also. The first one, Mina Clavero, was a killer for the cars. Thanks God that the plan we had before worked because we took a very good gap and we didn’t have to push in the last day. That was exactly our plan. Still we weren’t pushing in Mina Clavero the second time. It was nice, I really loved El Cóndor. I hope to do it again with no problems. 
 
Q:
In comparison to other gravel rallies you’ve done, has this been one of the most difficult?
AA:
I think it is the most difficult because of what I said; in every country I go for the first time. I thought Portugal was the toughest rally and now here, I say this is the toughest rally. This is the toughest up to now; I have to discover other rallies, maybe Sardinia this year. This is tough and not easy to finish. Sometimes you have to drive with your feet and sometimes with your brain. Sometimes we have to slow down. And that’s what we did, exactly. We are very happy to finish this rally. I’m very happy. 
 
Q:
You have a lot of experience as a co-driver but it’s your fist time here in Argentina. How did you find the experience Killian?
KD:
Brilliant. I think it has covered all the levels; the crowds, the stages and the atmosphere as well. Very fantastic. The stages have been fantastic, I really enjoyed it. 
 
Q:
From the co-driver’s seat, what has it been the toughest aspect this weekend?
KD:
I suppose it’s because it was so bumpy and rough. We have 24 hours more ahead to travel. So I’m sure we will sleep all the way back!
 
Q:
It’s not going to be a week of rest. Straight away, you go back into another rally in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship. 
KD:
Yes, we do enjoy the Middle East rallies. Recce starts on Tuesday, we land there [Jordan] on Monday morning and we leave 18.10 this evening. It’s hard, we started a long way from Jordan and we will come back to Jordan again. 
 
Q:
How tough do you think the season is going to be in the WRC 2 Championship? You have two victories under your belt but there are strong European contenders out there. Do you think it’s going to be a real challenge for the title? 
KD:
Yes, of course. The first thing is to finish and we have got very strong scores already half-way through the year. That’s a pretty good advantage. We just have to be consistent for the rest of the year. 
 
Q:
Consistency, Killian said, it’s going to be key. Is that the strategy for the rest of the season?
AA:
Before we started the season we talked a lot, me and Killian. And also the Seashore Team and even with Mr. Malcolm Wilson. We said we had to put a plan together that if we can finish in the top five of the WRC 2 it will be really great. Until now, we’re leading. We still have the same target. We are still not the the fastest in WRC 2 but it’s not always the fastest that wins. You don’t have to be flat-out everywhere. Regarding Jordan, now we’re going from this cold weather up in the mountains to 40 degrees and to the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea. That will be very tough. We have been flying for two weeks; driving the car in Jordan then all the way here. Then back the same way. We have to sleep well; maybe a one hour massage will be good now!