Neste Oil Rally Finland - Post event Press Conference
NESTE OIL RALLY FINLAND
Post event Press Conference - Saturday 4 August
1st - Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroën Total World Rally Team
2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën Total World Rally Team
2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen, Citroën Total World Rally Team
3rd - Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford World Rally Team
3rd - Miikka Anttila, Ford World Rally Team
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Q: Sébastien, congratulations on win number 73 and your third victory at Rally Finland! SL: I feel really happy for sure. To win Finland is always something special. It’s a special rally and the roads are incredible. The jumps are big and the speed very high. For sure it’s a great moment to win and to be here having two Finnish drivers on each side is great. Since the start of the rally, the feeling was perfect with the car. From shakedown, qualifying, the first stage: everything went very well and I felt very confident in the car. That’s the base if you want to push hard. You are high speed between the trees and you have to be sure from what you are doing. Everything was perfect.
Q: When did you decide you would go for the win? SL: Qualifying was run in the evening and the first stage was also in the evening and I am not a fan of the morning! Immediately I had a good rhythm. Mikko was faster in the morning, we had seven seconds in the morning and we won by six at the end. But this little gap I could make, I was able to keep it until the end.
Q: How pleased are you to win in Finland for a third time, it’s some achievement? SL: It’s what I said: it’s nice. The third time now, for me this victory, I really had the feeling that it was under control, not that we could win, but the feeling with the car was really perfect. The first year I won I had to take risks, there were some big moments sometimes. Last year, still I had to make some more time than I am able to. This year was a good feeling, it was perfect.
Q: How much pressure did you feel today? SL: For sure when I started the day I was sure of nothing. I knew the day was going well and the feeling was good and I had to try again. The rhythm was there and pushing, I felt well in the car. I was able to do the times with no mistakes or moments. It’s what I said: it was the perfect weekend.
Q: Will we see you here next year? SL: Yes! Maybe in the rally car or maybe to watch the rally…
Q: When will we know? SL: I don’t know. But not now.
Q: We go to Germany next. Can anybody challenge you? SL: Maybe. You never know. For sure I have had a lot of success in Germany. Last year I didn’t win, but it’s a rally where I feel well. The feeling was always good there. I hope to fight there, but you never know. Sometimes it has been a really intense battle and the weather can make it very difficult. I will try my best over there.
Q: How happy are you to win here? DE: When you start Finland, you have the Finnish driver in front… [plays Eye of the Tiger into mic]
Q: Is that your motivational track? DE: Just before Ouninpohja! No, it was a fantastic weekend and a fantastic race. When you push 110 per cent from the first kilometre to the last kilometre with so much pressure, it’s just unbelievable. I love that.
Q: Ouninpohja twice – how was that? DE: It was good, but the problem was with the tyre. If you wanted to push hard it’s too soft, but it’s the same for everybody. Ouninpohja is the best in the world, it’s indescribable: very funny. But, I prefer Monte Carlo…!
Q: Mikko, you challenged your team-mate on home turf but you didn’t quite make it, disappointed? You let him win! MH: I’m sure everybody will tell me that. I have no excuses. Sébastien was six seconds faster and that’s it. I had no mistakes, there’s nothing I can say.
Q: You didn’t get off to such a strong start on Thursday, why was that? MH: It was a bit of my approach. It’s easy to say now that maybe that was a mistake, but the last two years my rally has been over and I didn’t want to do that. I lost by six seconds and I need to learn for next year.
Q: How many risks did you take? MH: Some. You have to push hard here. Like Sébastien I was really happy with the car. There were a couple of moments on Thursday and one this morning. In Ouninpohja, even though we broke the [stage] record, that stage has never felt so easy. We were pushing, but I felt in the comfort zone all the time. You can push harder, but then there is more risk, and when you do that it can end badly. We didn’t want to go that far.
Q: Mikko, you are a bit of a master of chatting to the other drivers to wind them up. Much of that here? MH: Not enough, obviously! I can’t trick Sébastien like that, he has far too much experience. I can’t talk him into mistakes. It’s been a great weekend, there were a lot of fans out there and it was nice to drive.
Q: Did you think you could catch him on Ouninpohja? MH: I was hoping to. The first five kilometres I have used as a test road, but it was so slippery. I was going into the ditches, of course not into the ditches, but close. I had to take caution all of the time and I couldn’t attack like I wanted to. From then on, I didn’t really think I could take him by driving.
Q: And now to Tarmac in Germany. How do you feel about that? MH: Good, I’m really excited about my first Tarmac event with Citroën, okay we did Monte Carlo, but I’m excited to go back to Germany. I had a good feeling on the test, we have to wait and see. I am in a very positive mind to go and get a good place.
Q: You have had two bogey years at this event; does this result in some way make up for that? JL: I hate to be second. We wanted to start the rally clear and then push. It was too much to give him seven seconds; there was no way to get this back.
Q: What was the general feeling on the event? JL: It was a fantastic fight, one of the best weekends of my career. The car was so perfect over the weekend. The weather turned out nice and there were no big mistakes, just a couple of things on Thursday. Ouninpohja on the second pass felt really nice. Ouninpohja, for me, is not a stage which you can really enjoy all of the time. But this time I enjoyed it for every tenth of every second.
Q: And you have the record for Ouninpohja… MH: It’s nice to take it away from Petter [Solberg]!
Q: Jari-Matti, you take away a podium place, third position, yet we can all understand your disappointment at not being able to fight for the win - what went wrong this weekend? J-ML: I am frustrated, but I don’t want to explain it every time: why we didn’t win. I need to accept this year we were not on the speed. We have work to do. Citroën seem to do an improvement on the suspension. I need to improve, we need to improve, that’s all I’ll say.
Q: Is it the car or the driver? J-ML: For sure, at the start I wasn’t at my best. I was fighting with the set up. Finally, I got the set-up right, but all I could reach is the same level as Citroën – I was never able to be quicker. I pushed really hard, but we had no problems and that was really good. But something was missing. Something was really missing and I don’t have the answer; the difference is very small, but it’s annoying when you can’t respond to their speed.
Q: When did you realise you couldn’t fight? J-ML: Already on Friday afternoon. The only thing I thought was we might be stronger on the ruts, as usual. But we couldn’t do this and I pretty much realised then. You have to keep fighting – the trophies are given at the finish. Even when you are in a good position, I have rolled just before the finish and had no points – you have to keep fighting.
Q: Were there any mistakes? J-ML: Not really. In Ouninpohja there were a couple of very big jumps, one where I landed in the ditch and another was far too long, but nothing else, that’s all I did. That’s something positive, if I can find something, it’s that there were no mistakes. I haven’t had that for a long time – that’s good.
Q: The Championship heads to its first Tarmac event in Germany next time around - how prepared are you for Tarmac? J-ML: Let’s go now. I can drive it already! At least I can get to drive the rear-wheel drive car now, already next weekend. It seems I am stronger in this car, it’s a shame – in the European Historic Championship – there is not the chance for the professional driver! Now they [Citroën] are very strong, but we have done a lot of work [on asphalt] and I believe we can be competitive over there. Everything needs to be perfect over there with the tyre choices and everything though.
Q: How do you sum up this weekend? MA: For sure, I have to say the speed of the top cars was really high. We kept pushing, but there was no chance. The target was first to match the guys and then try to beat them, but it wasn’t possible. On every stage there was one second or two seconds. When you are losing time like this it’s the wrong way. The driving was perfect, no mistakes, no incidents; the times were just not there.
Q: Can you turn it around on Rally GB? MA: Yeah, for sure. We will work and I know the other team has been working. One thing I have to say, normally Sébastien Loeb is very straight, but I think after his career after rallying he should be a politician. This was the first rally he was honest about the car!
Q: Yves, this is the fourth one-two in a row for Citroën - dominant form! Are you unbeatable this year? YM: I hope so! But I don’t think so. We did a great job until now. We saw on the gravel that the work we did in the last months was very good and now we see in Finland, I only hope we continue like that.
Q: You allowed both Mikko and Sébastien to fight, does that mean you are feeling quite confident in terms of the Championship? YM: No. I am never confident. I am only confident if we are champions. This is Rally Finland and the battle is always very close. Sometimes we take risks for the good result. There was a lot of stress this afternoon, but I am here very happy
For Media Information Purposes. No regulatory value.