31.07.13

2013 Rally Finland - Pre-Event Press Conference

Transcript of the pre-event press conference organised by the FIA for the 2013 Rally Finland

2013 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
NESTE OIL RALLY FINLAND
 
Pre-event Press Conference
Wednesday 31 July
 
Present:
Kris Meeke, Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Motorsport
Mads Østberg, Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
 
Q:
Kris, a great opportunity for you this weekend as we see you compete with the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team in a DS3 WRC. How much are you looking forward to the challenge?
KM:
It’s been a long time. I haven’t actually done any rally since 2011, so to get the call to come to Finland with the Citroën factory team is pretty special and an opportunity I didn’t think would come. I’m really happy and excited and it’s already been a pleasure work to with the team. But now is the opportunity to build the confidence and try to show some good speed once I’m comfortable in the car. I’m coming here and battling with these guys after a year and a half out; I need to have my eyes wide open. The main thing I hope is that we can improve.
 
Q:
I believe you did a big test, how many kilometres? 
KM:
We managed 380 kilometres in one day – my neck was very sore after that. We ran through many things and I got confidence in the car. The car was beautiful to drive from the beginning and doing that in this kind of professional environment is the sort of chance that I’ve been after for a very long time. We’ll see what happens…
 
Q:
We have not seen you compete at a WRC event in over a year, how ready do you feel to get back to full competitive form? What do you think you can achieve here, can you challenge for a podium spot?
KM:
Obviously every driver is here to do the best they can. I have to be realistic after a year away and trying to fight for the podium [is unrealistic]… For me I have to take my time and focus on my own driving. I have belief in my own driving. Tonight in qualifying, we beat the stage record by a tenth of a second, but that was only good enough for ninth – these guys move the level all the time. But I’m here with a smile on my face and I’m very happy.
 
Q:
At the moment this drive is a one-off? Is there talk of any more opportunities with the team this year? 
KM:
No, at the moment, it’s simply Finland. But what an opportunity on one of the biggest rallies in the world! I drove Ouninpohja last in 2006, when I was in a Junior [World Rally Championship] car, so that’s going to be pretty exciting! My focus is on the rally. I just want to improve on this rally and then you never know what happens after a good result. This is the main focus – let’s see what happens.
 
Q:
Jari-Matti, you competed in an Audi Quattro in Estonia recently, does that help get used to the roads here?
J-ML:
That’s right, I drove the Audi in Estonia; the roads over there are fast like here, but sure the grip is different. I am very happy with the car and with the rear of the car. Maybe I was just a bit careful in the qualifying sometimes today. The driver needs to improve tomorrow, the rally starts tomorrow.
 
Q:
It seems this weekend that we will have an epic battle for the win here in Finland. Jost Capito has already stated that he will let you and Ogier fight it out - how are you feeling about the prospect?
J-ML:
Well, I think there are other hungry drivers next to me and Mikko [Hirvonen] has done the best time in qualifying. It’s going to be a big fight. It’s free from the team, we can fight, but the main thing for the team is the manufacturers’ [championship]. For the team, it doesn’t matter which order we come home as long as we both finish. 
 
Q:
Is there a secret to winning here?
J-ML:
It’s five different things. It’s confidence; the commitment of the team; stay relaxed; enjoy; be brave…
 
Q:
Do you think the roads will clean? Are you happy with your position on the road?
J-ML:
I took [position] 10. Last year, Sebastien Loeb was 10th or 11th on the road and I started behind him and could not catch him for the whole rally. On this rally, it doesn’t make a big difference once the road is cleaned – after that there are only very small differences. It will matter how you drive, not the road positions.
 
Q:
How much pressure do you put on yourself at your home event? 
J-ML:
Maybe I am still younger on that side, I feel more pressure than Mikko – he has always been better on that side than me; this is the biggest enemy for myself. But I am getting older and closer to 30 – it’s step by step.
 
Q:
Mads, it’s been an up and down first half of the season for many reasons but your pace has certainly increased from last year, what is the strategy now for the second half of the season?
MO:
We know the speed is good. We try to forget the first half [of the season]. There are a lot of nice rallies coming up and this is one. I try to start the new season tomorrow morning and enjoy the second half of the year.
 
Q:
Can you challenge for a win here?
MO:
Everything is possible. At the moment it’s been a bit too difficult in the first half of the season, but the main thing is to find the conditions and then push as hard as we can. In free practice, it worked well. Qualifying was not perfect, but it looks good.
 
Q:
How was the test?
MO:
I am very happy after the test. It was a bit drier and the roads are similar to Friday and Saturday, so I will do some small changes for tomorrow. But nothing too big, I’m quite happy with the speed so far.
 
Q:
Mikko, how confident are you ahead of the event?
MH:
I have a good feeling. It’s going to be a big fight with a lot of drivers. I hope I can do it.
 
Q:
I asked Jari-Matti this question… you have won here before: what’s the secret?
MH:
I only won once – maybe I was just lucky… who knows!
 
Q:
You were testing last week, did all go well? Were you testing specific things or was it general?
MH:
Everything went well. We didn’t do so much, but we have a good feeling with the car. There are some changes from last year, but nothing huge. The car is good to drive. If we have enough power then we should have a good chance?
 
Q:
Who is your main rival here?
MH:
There are many drivers who can fight like we saw in qualification – the guy who was 10th was only two seconds from the front. Last year it was really close. If everybody has a good day it’ll be a close fight through the weekend.
 
Q:
This is your home event, how much pressure is there?
MH:
It’s my birthday today… I think I’m getting too old to take pressure. It’s always the same thing.
 
 
FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP
 
Present:
Elfyn Evans
Esapekka Lappi
 
Q:
Elfyn, the last time we saw you, you were competing in a WRC car in Italy now you are back to WRC 2 business in the all-new R5 Fiesta. How are you finding the car?
EE:
It was a surprise to be in Italy with the World Rally Car and a really enjoyable experience, but now I focus back on WRC 2. We have a brand new car here, which is a very exciting prospect. I’m really looking forward to seeing how we fare against these very fast Scandinavian drivers.
 
Q:
How was the recce?
EE:
It went well. I was here last year, so I had some notes and the feeling is positive. I’m looking forward to getting going tomorrow now.
 
Q:
What do you think will be the toughest thing about this event?
EE:
It’s knowing what the car will do. This is a very specialist event and defining those jumps and the crests and knowing exactly what tightens and what doesn’t is so important. It’s all about precision and being 100 per cent on the right line. It’s all of that and, of course, you need the commitment.
 
Q:
Feeling confident?
EE:
For sure the car is very new and it’s my first time here in what I would class as a fast car, but generally I’m happy and reasonably confident.
 
Q:
Esapekka, you already have one win under your belt this year and here in Finland you will no doubt be favourite for the win. How are you feeling about the weekend ahead?
EL:
We had a win in Portugal, but now we have the R5 cars [to compete with] and shakedown shows they are really fast – it will be a big struggle. Maybe we struggled in shakedown because I drove different tyres in Asia (Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, where Lappi drives for Team MRF). The grip level is higher here and I did not have so much confidence. I will do my best, but I don’t know if we can reach the podium?
 
Q:
How important is it to be competing at home?
EL:
I think this is the best thing. This is the only race I am looking for the whole year, it’s amazing to be here. 
 
Q:
What do you expect from the weather? What will it be like if it rains?
EL:
For sure it’s a different event if it’s wet, it will be more slippery. But it’s the same for everybody. I don’t care.
 
 
FIA WRC 3 CHAMPIONSHIP
 
Present:
Sébastien Chardonnet
Jussi Vainionpää
 
Q:
Sébastien, you lead the WRC 3 Championship and are also joint leader of the Citroën Top Driver series. It’s been a good start to the year…
SC:
It’s not so bad. We had two good races since the start of the season. It’s very difficult here, but the target is the same. I want to lead in both the races on Saturday night, but this means no mistakes and this is the point for the moment.
 
Q:
Did you test before the event?
SC:
It’s a bit difficult because we didn’t touch the car since Sardinia and the first run at shakedown we are looking for everything to be working on the car. Tomorrow it’s a short day, so we will have time to be comfortable before the second day.
 
Q:
Who is your biggest rival?
SC:
It’s going to be a big fight with all drivers. Maybe there are new drivers in our Championship, they will be fast – maybe he [Jussi Vainionpää] will be fast. We will have to see. I want no mistakes and to focus on my own driving.
 
Q:
Have you learned a lot since you were here last year?
SC:
For sure, last year we learned a lot of things. It was my third race on gravel when I came here last time and I had everything to learn. This year we have some notes and it’s a good thing to be here. We want more experience from this race.
 
Q:
Jussi, you are competing in WRC 3 and join the Citroën Top Driver series for the first time this weekend. You are the only Finnish competitor in the scheme - what is your objective here?
JV:
This is my first time here in Jyvaskyla and in the WRC – it will be a big race to win it. I have a lot to learn here. I have to challenge the fast drivers, we will try to race and be at the finish and make good stage times.
 
Q:
How much preparation have you done?
JV:
Not much! I drove the car for a few kilometres and then the shakedown. I don’t have much knowledge for the car, this is a big race. I have to be smart.
 
Q:
How was the recce?
JV:
The recce did go well, I guess. There were a few special stages which were a bit tricky, but that’s Jyvaskyla. Ouninpohja is a fantastic stage!
 
Q:
Will we see you on any more WRC rounds in a Citroën?
JV:
I don’t know. I take one step to the next and see where it leads. I am here in this race this year and maybe next year we do a couple more races in WRC.
 
 
FIA JUNIOR WRC CHAMPIONSHIP
 
Present:
Niko Nieminen
Sander Pärn
 
Q:
How special is it to be driving at home, Niko?
NN:
I like driving in Finland, like always. It’s my third time here, we will see, I will do my best.
 
Q:
How was your pre-event test?
NN:
I did not get [the] good feeling. I have the same set-up as my own car, but the feeling is not the same.
 
Q:
I understand you have a new co-driver for this event, how difficult will that be and how is the relationship developing?
NN:
Yes. It’s the first time we are here together and I hope it will go okay.
 
Q:
Tell us about the stages here in Finland…
NN:
Finland stages are fantastic and very fast, very much jumps!
 
Q:
Can you win here?
NN:
Flat out or off…
 
Q:
Sander, you are currently third in the Junior WRC Championship. This is also your first season, what have you thought of your performance so far?
SP:
Actually I am not satisfied with Portugal – it was a disaster for me to retire on day one. Greece was much better and third in the season is good. In Estonia I found some good speed.
 
Q:
Can you win here?
SP:
I think there is a chance, but it won’t be easy. There are so many other good competitors and there are tough stages. I would like to be on the podium, so why not the win? The roads are like Estonia.
 
Q:
Are you happy with the car?
SP:
Yesterday, we had a test and I am quite satisfied with today’s speed, it is better than Portugal and Greece. When I won’t make any mistakes then everything is possible.
 
Q:
We have seen you compete on lots of events at home and at Rally Estonia – how similar are the stages in Estonia to here?
SP:
The roads in Estonia are a little bit similar, but the surface is much harder here.
 
Q:
What are your hopes here?
SP:
It’s my third time, so it’s a bit easier and some stages are quite familiar here. But the other guys are all very fast – everybody can be fast here.