01.05.13

2013 Rally Argentina - Pre-Event Press Conference

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

2013 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

RALLY ARGENTINA
 
Pre-event Press Conference
Wednesday 1 May
 
Present:
Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Motorsport
Gabriel Pozzo, Qatar World Rally Team
Dani Sordo, Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team
 
Q:
Sébastien, it’s been a couple of rallies since we saw you; Rally Sweden. We’ve missed you; have you missed us? 
SL:
No! I enjoy my new life. I haven’t got a lot of time to think. I’ve done a lot of testing, driving, racing, everything, so it was okay.
 
Q:
We thought you were taking a step away from WRC to relax a little bit, but you seem to be doing more work than normal.
SL:
Yes at the moment, but I will relax soon, maybe, but for sure I decided to enter the GT Championship plus the test, I do some Super Car races, also I’ll do Pikes Peak plus some rallies. A lot of things but okay at the moment I enjoy it, I will be busy these months now but after I will be more quiet at the end of the season.
 
Q:
We have all been wondering how you would adapt getting back into the rally car; we heard you say to the press that you could be a little bit rusty, but on the Qualifying stage this morning it was business as usual. How did it feel getting back in the car?
SL:
It was okay. I didn’t do everything to prepare as well as possible to come here because I did only one test since Catalunya last year on gravel. It’s not a lot of driving so I didn’t know really how I would be or feel in the car. The first pass was a little bit strange, I had to think more than usual. It was not completely natural but then the feeling came back, the feeling of the car was good, so until now it’s okay.
 
Q:
How are you feeling about the event itself? I know you’ve said in the past you only compete to win, so I’m guessing that is the objective this weekend?
SL:
No. I compete because we planned that since the start of the season that I will come here. For sure I don’t like to lose, I prefer to win and if I feel well in the car, I will push and I will try my best. For the rest, I don’t have really the pressure to win. It will not change my life if I win or not here, so we will see.
 
Q:
So that’s not really yes or no, is it?
SL:
I am here to have fun so I will just try to take the feeling with the car. Today was okay. If it is the same tomorrow and we are in the fight that’s great, if not, it’s not a drama.
 
Q:
You tell me that you have been busy and have not much time to see what’s happening in the WRC. But what have you thought about your team-mates performance since you’ve been away?
SL:
They tried their best, but I think that Seb [Ogier] was a bit faster since the start of the season. So they are defending their position, but it seems at the moment the fastest is here. 
 
Q:
Sébastien, leading the 2013 Championship by quite a margin; do you need to go out there and push to win this weekend?
SO:
Obviously we have a very good starting position. The gap as you said is quite good and there are a lot of days to go. This weekend the most important thing is to score good points, not to score the maximum, but as we’re competitors of course we’re going to try to get the maximum points. And like you said there is another competitor here this weekend. I knew Sébastien Loeb would be back here; it will be an interesting race I’m sure.
 
Q:
Seb is back as you mentioned. Mads Ostberg seems to be getting quicker. Dani Sordo is very much back on form now. How are you feeling about the competition around you?
SO:
You mentioned Dani and Mads, they were very fast in Portugal so I’m sure this weekend they will be there again and also Jari [Matti Latvala], because Jari was not bad in Portugal. We’ve seen this morning he’s able to go really fast. He did the best time. So it will be a big competition. For me the most important thing is to fight with these guys and think about the Championship. But of course if I can get another victory I will do my best for that.
 
Q:
Who do you see as your main rival out there this weekend?
SO:
I think on my right [Loeb] there is a good one and you’ve mentioned Dani. He was very fast before his mistake in Portugal so if he manages the speed here, of course he will be in the fight. And I’m sure that Jari will be here also.
 
Q:
Looking at the event itself, the stages, the days we have, what would you pick out as being the most difficult section of the event?
SO:
Good question. We’ve seen during the recce that there were a lot of rough parts and sometimes we are going to have to think about the car and save a little bit the car and not push too much on these rough sections. I think the last part of the long one tomorrow is quite tricky, quite soft ground and lots of loose rocks. So it’s easy to break something. 
 
Q:
We saw some dramas in Portugal; is the team confident for this weekend? 
SO:
Yes, we are quite confident; it’s true that in Portugal we were close to not having a happy ending. We had a lot of problems and on the Sunday I was really thinking in the morning that my rally was over. But it’s okay, we know what happened and we know how to avoid this problem. We also think the conditions are going to be different here, it will not be so hard as we had in Portugal for the car. Here it’s more about big impacts and avoiding the big rocks on the road.
 
Q:
Gabriel, we see you compete here as part of the Qatar World Rally Team in a Fiesta. Have you managed to test before the event? 
GP:
For me it is important to be here. I have to say thanks to M-Sport and Malcolm Wilson. The last time was in 2002 with Skoda. After 10 years I’m back to WRC. We couldn’t do any test before. The first time in the car was this morning in the Shakedown. Only 10 kilometres in the car and then Qualifying. It’s difficult but the feeling was good. I’ll try not to make a mistake and try to get the feeling step by step. The most important is to finish the rally and get more kilometres.
 
Q:
We’ve seen you in Group N over the years, how does the car feel?
GP:
The speed in the corners is incredible. It is very fast. 
 
Q:
How are the stages? Are they very rough this year? 
GP:
It’s a long rally, long stages. The rally is too rough, the first 10 kilometres is really twisted and the stages are changing all the time. If we finish the rally, that result will be very good.
 
Q:
Dani, this year we see you back as part of the Citroën team. How has it been to re-join the team? 
DS:
I´m really happy to be back to Citroën. It´s always a pleasure, because they are very professional people that I know very well from years before. I´m really happy.
 
Q:
Before this event you took part in the Citroën Roadshow - it didn't go smoothly for you! Tell us what happened? [In reference to the roll at the Roadshow in Buenos Aires]
DS:
Nothing, we did a show! 
 
Q:
Let’s hope those things don’t happen in a rally. How did it happen?
DS:
I did a roll. 
 
Q:
Just putting on a show for everybody..?!
DS:
It was a very fun track and also people had the good idea to take the times of the three drivers [Loeb, Hirvonen and Sordo] to see who is the fastest, so when you are in a competition, it’s competition! It was really fun, but to be honest the road was really really soft and we took the corner with a lot of speed and we had a problem with the front tyre and we rolled. After the car had a lot of damage, but thanks to the mechanics they repaired the car and we could continue the show the day after. Thanks to the mechanics for working hard, but it was good, really nice.
 
Q:
During Rally Mexico you seemed to struggle on gravel but it all changed in Portugal when we saw a real return to form. What changed? 
DS:
We worked with the team and Mikko [Hirvonen] really hard before Rally Portugal and we took really good solutions for the car and for the confidence and in Portugal the feeling was really really nice. 
 
Q:
In terms of what you can do here in Argentina, you have had good results in the past. How can you turn what you learned so far in 2013 in the car into a good result here? Are you going to be aiming for the win here?
DS:
Of course I will try to fight for the win, but you can see today that Sébastien [Loeb] is coming really really strong. This is incredible, without a test or nothing he arrived and “boom boom boom” Also Sébastien [Ogier] and also Jari-Matti [Latvala] I think it will be a good battle with also Mikko. It will be a good rally for everybody and I think it is not only the speed, you need to be at the end because it’s really tough. We will see. 
 
Q:
Is it a rally that you enjoy?
DS:
Yeah. It’s not my favourite rally, in terms of the stages because it’s really slippery and I don’t like it when it’s slippery like that. I enjoy more the rallies like Portugal or Greece with more grip, but I like the rally and I need to be fast also in these conditions. I need to push hard tomorrow and do good times. 
 
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
 
Carl McKellar
www.redbull.com, Austria
 
Q:
A question for Sébastien Ogier. In Portugal you were not very well. How are you feeling now? Are you back on form? 
SO:
Yes, It took a lot of time because I’ve been sick for one month and it never happened to me before so it was quite hard, but now I’m fit again, but not in top form because I did not train during this month. I had to rest and go home and try to recover, but at least I’m better than in Portugal and I’m happy to feel like that and to feel normal again.
 
Miguel Ángel Sebastián 
Diario Clarín, Argentina
 
Q:
The Question is for Loeb; whether you would accept if Citroën asked you to do more rallies either before or after Rallye de France? 
SL:
I’m not sure I have time with such a busy program, it will be complicated and it’s not the plan. I decided to retire and okay I decided to do four rallies, but if the program is to go on with Citroën next year like I hope to, we will have some work to do, so I think it’s not a good idea.     
 
 
FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP
  
Present:
Abdulazis Al-Kuwari, Seashore Qatar Rally Team
Marcos Ligato, Top Run SRL
 
Q:
This is your first time in Rally Argentina. How does it feel to be in Argentina? What are your thoughts on the stages from the recce? 
AA:
First of all I would like to thank everybody in Argentina, nice people. The crowds are everywhere even today in the Shakedown, the same as in the recce. I didn’t expect to see crowds even in the Shakedown but there were many. It’s a different challenge and a different rally. I thought there were tougher rallies in the world but this is a really rough rally with some nice sections. Saturday’s stages are very rough, more than Thursday and Friday, so we’re looking forward to this rally and we’re going to have a good challenge with Marcos [Ligato] who has good experience and also Nicolás Fuchs. It will not be easy. 
 
Q:
You mentioned it’s your first time and how difficult it is. What are your hopes for the event? Is it possible to get a win here? You did not have any experience in Mexico and you won.
AA:
To be honest I have a very good advantage in my car and I’m the only one driving in a RRC car and they all have Group N cars. This is a good advantage. This is our first time here but we have our best notes because we did twice every stage in the recce.  We have to trust our notes and do our best. It won’t be easy. This gentleman has a lot experience [Marcos Ligato]. And of course, he wants to win all the points, as everyone.
 
Q. 
How much pressure are you putting on yourself?
AA:
If you put yourself always under pressure you can make mistakes. I will try to enjoy every moment in this rally. I’m here because I may not come back next year so I’ll try to enjoy every moment. As Marcos said, SS14 will be the end of the rally so the rally will not finish before that stage and I also want to win the second category here because Nasser [Al Attiyah] won many times in PWRC in the previous years and that’s what we hope, to lead the WRC 2. We’ll try to do our best. Marcos said it; he put me under pressure now. I’ll go flat-out tomorrow.
 
Q:
How much testing have you done before this event and are you happy with the car set up? 
AA:
We did no testing because we came back directly from Jordan and the stages there are completely different than here, but we did the Shakedown so I think we’re ready, we’ll start very well.  
 
Q:
Welcome back Marcos. You do have a lot of experience. And it’s your home event here in Argentina. What are your hopes for this event? 
ML:
Hello everybody. I’m very happy to do Rally Argentina again for one more year. I hope to win the rally, no? Last year we were very close to win, we were fighting very close to Kosciuszko, Fuchs and Guerra but we lost a lot of time in one stage and this year also there are a lot of competitors as last year but there is a big difference with the new rules in WRC 2. We don’t know very well the difference between our cars and the regional cars. I think maybe with my experience in the stages and their advantage in the car we could be close and fight all the rally. Also Fuchs is going to be a very difficult competitor. We must finish this rally but we want to win. And I want to win, I won’t be happy if I don’t win.
 
Q:
The organisers changed the route this year. We have two groups of stages together. Is that a concern with tyre wear?
ML:
It’s going to be difficult. The last day will be roughest of all the days because you have two laps without service. All the stages in the Mina Clavero zone every year are very rough and a lot of cars stop there. But I think the first day it’s going to be good and we can push, the second day also but it’s a very long lap between the Service Park and the stages. You must finish the stages and come back to the Service Park.
 
Q:
Are you going to see what’s going on, or are you going to flat-out from the very beginning?
ML:
The problem is that if we don’t arrive to the last day with a good an advantage it will be difficult to fight with them because the last day is very hard and the regional cars are stronger and if we must push in the last day, I think we can break the car. 
 
Q:
You put a lot of pressure on yourself if you say the first position is the only one you want…
ML:
I’m at home, I need to win this rally not only for the Championship and the points but also for me and my people, and because everyone wants to see me winning this rally. 
 
Q:
How much testing have you done?
ML:
We’ve just done the Shakedown because the car has just arrived from Portugal and we did not have time to test but I felt the car very well in Portugal and also today in the Shakedown. I think we have a very good car.
 
Q:
The weather seems to be very good now, dry. Are we expecting any rain this weekend? Could that make things difficult?
ML:
It’s more for the people, when it’s raining they don’t enjoy the rally. It’s more difficult for them. For the cars, the stages can be wet and no problem; we don’t have problems with the mud. Here you can drive with no problems.