15.09.13

2013 Rally Australia - Post event press conference

Transcript of the post event press conference organised by the FIA.

Post-event FIA Press Conference
Sunday 15 September 
 
Present:
1st – Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Motorsport
1st – Julien Ingrassia, Volkswagen Motorsport
2nd – Thierry Neuville, Qatar World Rally Team
2nd – Nicolas Gilsoul, Qatar World Rally Team
3rd – Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd – Jarmo Lehtinen, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
 
Q:
Sébastien, so close but yet so far! The title was within your grasp until the final stage dramas. You have still taken the win but not the Championship title - disappointed?
SO:
To be honest, it was a bit of a strange feeling at the end of the last stage when we heard on the radio: “Congrats guys, you won the rally… but you have to wait for the Championship.” Then we said: “Oh ****.” We knew before the start that this could happen, even if we score maximum and win the Power Stage, we knew that Thierry could finish second and do that. In this case we would not be champion. But regarding that, all the weekend we were the virtual champion – at the last minute it was a frustration.
 
Q:
It must have been very frustrating…
SO:
Of course I was a little bit frustrated. It was a special day for me. I was relaxed for quiet long, but on the last loop I was more nervous and thinking more about things. I just wanted to reset my brain and do my job for this afternoon. I had such a good feeling all weekend, my Polo was perfect and we won almost all the stages.
 
Q:
Did you have any moments?
SO:
Honestly, it’s been really perfect, no real moments. It was okay. In this kind of rally when you start well with good qualification, then you have a good starting order. It looks easy when you see we are winning all the stages, but this is because we did a good job with Julien and all of the team. Okay, this is a small frustration, because we cannot write that we are world champions, but it’s almost there – and we are doing a great job for the Manufacturers [Championship] and I am very happy for that. Volkswagen deserves it and it’s my objective [to win Manufacturers’] as well.
 
Q:
You are just one point shy of the title now and the Championship moves to France. How much are you looking forward to your home event and of course the battle with Sébastien Loeb?
SO:
It’s quite easy – we go for the victory in France, nothing other than that.
 
Q:
Jost says you are free to fight in France…
SO:
I’m happy with that, yeah, I expected that… Of course I am happy with that. It’s frustrating for me, but quite soon I will look for the next target and that’s France rally. The competition will be interesting with Dani [Sordo] and Thierry – they are both quick, and, of course, Seb [Loeb] will be coming back and we know he will be on the pace.
 
Q:
What a crazy final stage – how do you feel?
JI:
We came to the end of the stage and we shake hands in the car and then the radio message came from the team. We have been relaxed until the last moment... These things can happen. Today, when you ask me, at one moment I was unable to try to imagine [being world champion] and now I will have to discover this in France.
 
Q:
Does this bring more pressure in France?
JI:
No, to be honest, all the others will have more pressure – I am just happy to be here. We are calm. We could concentrate here, but on our home [rally], now there are more demands around us on that event. There will be a big song around us, it will be big for sure… but we wait a long time for the big story around Seb. There’s only one target and that is the victory.
 
Q:
Thierry, you were third going into the final stage but ended in second after Mikko lost time. It has been a strong weekend for you, especially on your debut event in Australia!
TN:
Yes. I came to this event and I wanted to increase the gap between myself and Jari-Matti [Latvala], I didn't think about wanting to stop him [Ogier] being champion. On the first day I was out of the rhythm, but it got better and finally it was a good result for us. We have scored good points for us and this is another step forward. I must be happy – we had a great rally with the Qatar M-Sport team, there were no problems on the car. I must be happy with the whole season and I am looking forward to the next two rallies. In France, I hope to fight with the two Sebs and I am sure Mikko and Jari-Matti will be in the fight as well. 
 
Q:
On the opening morning you were not comfortable - why was that?
TN:
Coming from Germany and driving the car on tarmac I didn't feel anything on the gravel. I know from the past that when I switch cars, it takes me too much time – the notes were too optimistic. We had to change a lot. I know I have to work on this. We see that I always lose time on the first day of a rally and then get stronger – we have to work on this.
 
Q:
There are three rallies left; can we see a Neuville win?
TN:
Of course I’m going to try again, but it’s not easy – we give our best. There is another step for us to get on Seb’s pace, I know that but I know I have a little time to improve on this point. It’s also interesting for the Championship when there are a few more drivers fighting. But we do have another step [to take].
 
Q:
Nicolas, how tough a challenge has the recce for Australia been?
NG:
It was tough. There were a few stages when it took us time to switch from tarmac to gravel mode. It was also difficult to do the recce at 80 kph in the dust of the other cars. It was difficult. Okay we did it. Now we have learned new things and we are stronger for the future.
 
Q:
Your confidence must be growing?
NG:
Yes. We are even [spending] more time together than with our respective girlfriends, so the confidence improves on each stage.
 
Q:
Maybe the Wedding Bells stage was for you today..!
TN:
This was special for us…
 
Q:
Mikko, it has been a strong weekend and relatively drama free for you, until the final stage! What happened?
MH:
I don’t know. We don’t know what is the reason for the puncture. We were on a long straight then we have the big vibration and I knew we would lose the tyre sooner rather or later. It’s really disappointing. It was quite a good weekend until that – we were comfortable in second. These things happen, but this year it’s really often. It’s been a long year so far...
 
Q:
Were you happy with your pace across the weekend?
MH:
It’s been alright I think. It’s what we can do at the moment. Friday was good considering qualifying was bad and we did not have the ideal place on the road. The start of the rally was really good to get into second on the first day.
 
Q:
There are still three rallies left this year. What can you do?
MH:
Let’s see. Like Thierry said, it’s been a really nice season – there have been more drivers fighting and this makes it more exciting. I still have the chance to fight for second [in the Drivers’ Championship], but it’s going to be tough. 
 
Q:
When did you realise you could not catch Seb?
MH:
It was probably on Saturday morning. I felt like he was playing with us – the splits were really close: I was ahead, then he was ahead. The pace was comfortable, but then if we pushed harder we could make mistakes. I knew by driving I couldn't catch him on Saturday morning.
 
Q:
Jarmo, how frustrated are you?
JL:
We are not here for second place, but we have not lost second like this [before]. When you don’t know [what happened], it is frustrating. It’s so much easier when you hit the wall or something goes wrong with the car. But when you have this, it’s so frustrating. You know you start to fight with the tyre and then you have some moments. And then you see the split time and you can then say: “Okay, now we can stop fighting.”
 
Q:
When will we see you return to the pace we have seen before? 
JL:
For me, the pace hasn’t been so far [away] all season. There have been some small mistakes and some issues with the car, it hasn’t been perfect this year. But this weekend everything was going like we planned but finally it didn’t work.
 
Q:
Jost, with all the drama on the final stage could the team quite believe what was happening?
JC:
It’s difficult to describe the feeling. Going into the final stage was very tense – everything can go wrong in the final stage. This happened with Jari-Matti and the same happened to Mikko, when they have the big vibration with no idea why. Seb was on the way to a very good time and that would have secured the title and then okay, these things happened. To start, this is not too bad, Mikko is still second, but then it changed. Okay, this increases our advantage in the Manufacturers’ by quite a margin. But I am not so happy for Seb and Julien. They have done an outstanding job and all of the company is very proud of them. But it is good for the Manufacturers’ and we are supporting them [Ogier and Ingrassia].
 
Q:
The Manufacturers’ Championship is getting close?
JC:
For Volkswagen, this is very important. At the start of the season we never thought we would be in a position to fight for one title, but now we are in this position and we want both. To get the lead with more than 40 points, this allows Seb to really fight in France. If the gap was smaller, we might have had some tough words [with Ogier], but now he can really go for it. I’m sure he’s happy for this.
 
 
FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP 
 
Present:
1st – Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari
1st – Killian Duffy
 
Q:
Abdulaziz, congratulations on your third win this season! How do you feel?
AA-K: 
This is a great feeling because it was not an easy rally to finish or win. The drivers here have been very fast drivers and I was not pushing to the max – especially on Friday, this was like a brain day where we have to use our brain. We were very cautious and looking to finish. Yesterday and today we pushed hard and won the rally. This was our third win and sixth podium. I am really happy also for Killian, who takes his first points in the World Rally Championship and this is his 25th event. Now we will be watching France on the laptop to see what Robert Kubica is doing. But we have to celebrate now.
 
Q:
Were there any dramas?
AA-K:
Of course driving in the World Championship is very difficult and there were some stages where we have some small moments, but nothing too big. We are driving very safe because we are coming to the event for the first time. We could trust the notes, but we had no big moments. I am happy to be on the safe side and to win the rally.
 
Q:
Are you surprised? Before the rally, you said you were coming here for experience…
AA-K:
Before the rally I said a top five result in the WRC 2 would mean that I would lead [the Championship], but that was not enough. This was what we needed, but it was unexpected, especially when Yazeed [Al-Rajhi] and other fast drivers were here with big experience of maybe seven or eight years. This is our first year. I am very happy.
 
Q:
When you got the big lead yesterday, could you relax?
AA-K:
No. We kept pushing until the last four or five kilometres of the last stage, when we could see the split times. Our times were improving on every stage. I’m really enjoying this WRC. Before my experience is only in the Middle East and really there is nothing to learn in the desert. Every rally I am learning more and more here. When I compare the times to Mexico, it is good. In Mexico, my time was five or six seconds to the WRC drivers and today I am only two seconds and that’s a big improvement for me in only five rallies.
 
Q:
Did you imagine you could be in the title fight?
AA-K:
No, not at all. Talking to my sponsor SeaShore and M-Sport and Mr Malcolm [Wilson] we say, if we can be in the top five with a lot of big names then that is good for us in the first year. We were not expecting to be leading – I hope we stay until GB.
 
Q:
Killian, congratulations – how tough has this been?
KD:
Very tough, the grip level changes all the time and it’s hard to read the road. I was here in 2011, but we superallied twice on that event. But this time there were no big dramas and we really enjoyed the event.
 
Q:
Could you relax?
KD:
Because we were making new notes and amending the notes on the first and second pass, it was difficult. On every event, the notes are improving and this is part of the process. We could go quicker on the first loop, but if we did that we probably wouldn't be sitting here leading the Championship. 
 
Q:
You’re getting quicker and quicker…
KD:
We are getting quicker for sure and every event we go to we feel these stages are the hardest in the world. When we get to Rally GB, I know this event, but I think he’ll find it very hard with the mud and the fog.
 
Q:
It could be a great fight in GB?
KD:
It could be and it’s only two hours on the ferry from Ireland, so I hope to get some great support.
 
AA-K:
I want say one more thing, I think we need to take more care of the WRC 2 drivers. We are not treated like WRC drivers and many of the stages are not safe for us. On Friday, on the last stage they [WRC crews] had four minutes and we had two. At the start, there were 10 WRC cars and we start with nine cars – it’s almost the same. We are a support championship, but everywhere we say the same thing, especially in Sardinia when we had one minute. You can’t imagine how not safe this is. We should have somebody to talk for us. In WRC 2, we say this all the time and nothing happens. I hope this stops. We should be treated like WRC drivers; we are all paying the money the same.