WRC - RALLYE DE FRANCE ALSACE - Post-event Press Conference
Rallye de France Alsace - Conference 2
2012 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP - RALLYE DE FRANCE ALSACE Post event FIA Press Conference - Sunday 7 October
1st - Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroën Total World Rally Team
2nd - Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford World Rally Team
2nd - Miikka Anttila, Ford World Rally Team
3rd - Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën Total World Rally Team
3rd - Jarmo Lehtinen, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Q: Sébastien, huge congratulations on claiming your ninth Drivers’ title* and World Rally win number 75. Citroën claims the Manufacturers title also, and all on home soil. How do you feel?
SL: It couldn’t get any better! I have still the memory from two years ago when we won here then – it was the best memory. And now again. On the last few rallies I thought maybe it was possible to do it here, but to do it is something else. When we started the rally a lot of people were saying we would win again… but it’s not easy – we had to fight. The conditions were really difficult this morning. It wasn’t easy to keep the car on the road, especially in our position when we didn’t have to push too hard. When it’s finished, it’s an incredible moment. In Haguenau, my hometown, it was really a relief and the feeling was incredible!
Q: The amount of spectators this year has been incredible, were you surprised by how many supporters were here?
SL: It feels incredible. The sensation when we drive the road sections was unbelievable. There was one stage which we were using for the first time yesterday, it was people everywhere. We didn’t believe a few years ago when we came here for the first time that it would be like this; we knew it would be some people but not like this. The atmosphere is magic.
Q: And this is the final year of true competition after you announced you will retire…
SL: At the moment, I don’t think so much to this. At the moment, I think to what we live, we will see next year. I try to enjoy what happens, this is the last one [World Championship] in rally. It’s not an easy decision to stop driving like that; a few years I think about it and I know one day that we have to decide. So we decide this year not to continue. For a few rallies, yes, but not the whole season. I needed something else, another challenge. We spoke to Citroën and finally we decided we want to go together in WTCC and this helps me.
Q: There has been some speculation that you might do a selected programme and fight for a 10th title?
SL: You think it’s possible with five rallies?
Q: But it’s you, Seb…!
SL: The plan is not this. The plan is for Monte Carlo – this is an important rally for me and the team. But when you see the atmosphere when it’s like this, it’s hard to say we do four [WRC rounds] and not this one, maybe we do this one – to finish my career here would be great.
Q: Daniel, you have achieved so much together; how do you feel after title number nine?
DE: It’s a very fantastic feeling. For me it’s important for a lot of reasons, for me it’s my last year with Sébastien. But I’m very happy that we do Monte Carlo next year, it’s important for me too! Seventy-five wins is unbelievable, but now why not 76 or 77 before the end of the year? Now it’s possible to drive without pressure, just for pleasure, which is perfect.
Q: Did you ever imagine this was possible?
DE: No, it’s impossible. It’s just magic and a very big dream. Fifteen years I have been with Sébastien, when he stops I stop, and maybe it’s now.
Q: Jari-Matti, second position overall for you which equals your best result on Tarmac. Your pace here has been impressive, do you feel you have improved again on this surface?
J-ML: In Germany we were almost two minutes behind and now we are 15 seconds behind – I think there is a step forward. I felt more comfortable than Germany. I like driving on Tarmac as much as it is clean and like the race circuit. My biggest weakness is the dirty stages, that’s the area I need to improve and this is the step difference.
Q: Yesterday you began just 13.1 seconds behind Sébastien, but you had some drama in the morning which dropped you further behind, what happened?
J-ML: I knew the long stage was important to fight for the win. I needed to go well on that stage. I was a bit too confident that it will be quite dry. I went to the forest from the open area, it was damp and slippery and it took me by surprise. I had notes that it was slippery in some parts, but I didn’t have that exact place. I locked the brakes and turned to the corner, but too much speed. We went to the bank on the side and stalled. I hit the start button and went, but there was so much mud it was vibrating badly. It took time to get the confidence back. That is why he [Loeb] is winning; he doesn’t make mistakes like I do.
Q: How much pressure were you feeling from Mikko [Hirvonen]?
J-ML: At the end of the second to last stage – a new one on this rally – it’s like a race circuit on the uphill section. I saw that it was a strong stage for me in the morning. On the second time I knew Mikko was getting closer, but I tried to do a bit more gap to him. The biggest stress was at the end of the stage, when we had a split time which said: “Hirvonen four seconds ahead”. Midway through the stage I thought: “I am driving as well as I can and I can do nothing, no more…” Luckily for me, it was the other way around and I was ahead.
Q: Miikka, there are two rounds remaining this season. Is there a win still to come from you and Jari-Matti?
MA: Yes, probably two… For some reason, Sardinia has been one of the favourites of Jari-Matti and we have won that rally once. I think we have a small chance for victory over there. In Spain, the Tarmac will suit us better than any other Tarmac of this year. This is our best chance, especially because we have one day on gravel. The chance, the realistic chance, is Spain and we said this from the start of the year. Now we are only 15 seconds behind Daniel [Elena] and Seb [Loeb], in Spain it’s realistic.
Q: Mikko, you’ve been part of the success for Citroën this year. How does that feel?
MA: It’s been really nice. For the whole year we have shown how strong we have been as a team. The team has been amazing. For me, personally, I worked hard from Germany on how to improve on Tarmac and we definitely made steps forward on this rally. I believe we can be strong in the future.
Q: How do you feel the weekend went performance-wise? Do you feel it was a stronger Tarmac performance than Germany?
MH: When you are fast you are always happier – the difference is not big, it’s small things. There are areas we need to improve on, but we’re working on that.
Q: Could we see a win from you before the end of the season?
MH: For sure, that’s something I want to do as well. Everybody is saying the same thing, but I really think there will be a big fight on these events.
Q: Jarmo, you have helped Citroën win the Manufacturers’ title – that must be very satisfying?
JL: It’s a relief – the job is done for this year. It was part of the plan to help the team get the Manufacturers’ title and settle ourselves in with the team. I feel proud to have been part of this.
Q: Yves, Citroën seals the Manufacturers and Drivers’ titles on French soil and two rounds before the end of the season. That must be a satisfying feeling?
YM: For sure it’s a great result for Citroën, two rounds before the end to have the two titles. It’s proof that we did a great job and everybody is working together.
Q: How important is this result for the Citroën brand?
YM: It’s very important for the brand. Citroën is using racing to make the image and to win you get the good image. We will also be here in 2013 because we are winning.
Q: Is this result tinged with sadness because of Sébastien’s decision?
YM: No, because we start a new story in the future. Sébastien will stay at Citroën and we are not sad.
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