WRC 2012 - Wales Rally GB: Conference 1

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Pre-event Press Conference - Thursday 13 September








Pre-event Press Conference - Thursday 13 September

Matthew Wilson, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
Petter Solberg, Ford World Rally Team
Mads Ostberg, Adapta World Rally Team 
Yves Matton, Citroën Total World Rally Team


Q: Matthew, fantastic to see you back. How are you feeling about being back in Cardiff, back in the WRC?
MW: I’m excited, it’s been a long time and it’s been frustrating at times but we’re back, we’re here, and we’ll just have to give it our best shot and I think all I have to do is try and enjoy driving it. I’m generally just enjoying the driving, it’s good fun and the times will be there.
Q: You say frustrating times, you’ve been at events when the drivers have been competing, that must be really difficult for you?
MW: It wasn’t so bad when I was in Portugal at the time still with injuries and I knew I couldn’t drive, but once I was back to full fitness and ready to go, being at the event and not being able to drive was difficult.
Q: It’s new sponsorship from your homeland in Cumbria which has enabled you to come back, and we’ve seen on the back of the car ‘Proud to be Cumbrian’, tell us about that.
MW: I think it’s a really good achievement to have what we’ve done, both me and Scott are from Cumbria, the car is built in Cumbria and all the backing for this rally is from Cumbria, so we’re proud that we’ve managed to pull it together and be at the event and are here to do it properly.
Q: In terms of getting back into the car and getting a feel for the car again, were you a little rusty when you started testing or were you okay?
MW: You could say that! We did two days, a day up in Cumbria where we had full dry, nice conditions that you always expect in Cumbria, and then we did down here on Monday and it was basically like Rally GB in November, so I think we’ve got a good feeling for both conditions. The first hour or so of testing on Tuesday gave me a chance to get the feeling again, just to get used to the speed again. But once I got back it was fine and hopefully with Monday as well, and Sweet Lamb which I did know very well, we’ve made proper pace notes again and it all seemed to work out well.
Q: So what’s going to be the strategy from you this weekend? 
MW: I think there’s no real pressure. At the moment this is our only event for the rest of the year and I think we have to just go and enjoy it and do the best that we can. Just enjoy the driving and enjoy these fantastic stages. We’ll see what the result is at the end but I’m not looking for a position or have a certain goal, I just want to enjoy the driving and go from there. 
Q: Matthew, is this one event only, a guest starring role? We will see you on other rallies in the WRC this year?
MW: At the minute this is the only planned event. We are obviously working very hard towards next year, trying to get something sorted for that. Also one event I would really like to try and do at the end of it is Spain, but again, it comes down to budget and getting the money together. That’s one thing that is a little more realistic but we are working quite hard for next year to try and get something together to get back to race maybe a handful of rallies next year.
Q: Petter, you and Wales, we talked about this before, the history, it’s always a special event for you, are you feeling that special feeling this weekend? Could it result in the win for you?
PS: Yes it’s brought good memories for many years and I feel very confident. I’ve only been in the car for a few months and I did a very good test last week and the feeling is that Sebastien has trouble here! So I think the small detail now, me and Jari-Matti [Latvala] together, we can win again. 
Q: Did you find something when you were testing, or did you change something that’s making you feel so good?
PS: The car has been working very well the whole year but, compared to Loeb who has been sitting in his car for twelve years, it’s not the same feeling I have after a few months, and it seems he always manages to find something which we didn’t. But now it seems like we are much more together. 
Q: Let’s talk about the event now, because it is September, autumn time in Wales, maybe a little bit dryer than we see in December. What did you think of the condition of the stages on the recce?
PS: I thought this would be much harder because we did the rally before where there has been a lot of rain and the stages have been quite soft, especially Myherin, but it’s fantastic roads here, really nice, but I think the tyre situation is hard because it can be quite special but we will see, Loeb is choosing first!
Q: But you’ll be choosing second, what is the plan for road position from you?
PS: I think it should be quite simple, but you never know as we have seen some strange things over the years! You should never say never. 
Q: You talked about wanting to get the win, we know the team are desperate for you or Jari-Matti to be on the top step of the podium. What’s the feeling over at Ford? Is their pressure on your shoulders to go out there and try to achieve the win or is it quite calm?
PS: There is always pressure, you have to have that pressure. If you don’t have that feeling to win there is no point in the drive. I think everyone is feeling the pressure, the whole team. We have to improve. Hopefully now for this rally we have done it, I’m not saying we are desperate but we really really want it.
Q: We have seen a little bit of that Petter spark come back. You said you are feeling confident, should the guys out there be worried?
PS: I feel great and you know it’s all the small details all the time to just find that click between me and the car. It seems like I have just found that click and that feeling is incredible.
Q: Yves, Sebastian Loeb will be choosing what the team believes will be the best position on the road for tomorrow. What are you thinking? Can you reveal the plans?
YM: For sure, we have a clear opinion on what we will do tonight but the day is long. We can change our opinion before tonight and like Petter said, we’ve got some abnormal conditions and we’re not telling more.
Q: Let’s talk about the event for Citroën; it could be a very special event as you could clinch the Manufacturers title here in Wales. What does the team need to do to be able to take the Manufacturers’ Championship?
YM: We need to take a minimum of six points and then we can be Champions three rallies before the end. I hope it can be like that as that means that all the team are doing a really good job this year.
Q: Does that put a little extra pressure on the team this weekend? Knowing that could be the outcome? Or is it just the same? You go into the event feeling the same?
YM: I would say maybe less because we have three rallies to go and we are fighting for the title now. Then we can also try to do a one and two this weekend.
Q: Talk to me about the season in general. We’ve seen Mikko Hirvonen come into the Citroen team this year. What has he bought to the team and what have you thought of his performance?
YM: Since the first rally he’s doing very well and doing step by step to be on the level he’s is on now, especially on the gravel. On tarmac he has to learn a little bit more of the car. It’s the same learning time that he needed at the beginning of the season on gravel as he was riding for a long time in another car and you need to learn the car as Petter said, to learn all the details of the car. I think now on gravel it’s okay and he still has to work a little bit on tarmac.
Q: Yves, we’ve talked about Mikko Hirvonen. I don’t think we have to talk too much about Sebastien Loeb’s performance; year on year it’s the same, it’s incredible, but what about Sebastien Loeb’s future with Citroen? When will we hear news on that?
YM: The thing is that he will be with Citroen in the future, but we are not telling details today. First of all we are not completely finished, it’s not easy, it’s a long time, it’s not only 2013 but also what he will do with Citroen in the future. We are working on this. When we are ready we will tell.
Q: Would you like to keep him within the rally team though? If he is staying with Citroen?
YM: Yes I think in my position I can only be glad to have Sebastien Loeb in the team.
Q: When will we know, when will you reveal the details of what is happening with him in his future?
YM: Not this weekend, that’s for sure. So you know. I hope before the end of the month.
Q: You were on the podium here last year and I’m sure you will be trying to get the same result if not better here Mads. What’s the plan for you?
MO: We are in it to fight for a top position, it’s a rally, like Petter, I also like lots. For Norwegian drivers and also Swedish it’s quite similar roads to what we are used to. It’s a rally I enjoy lots and we always come here to fight for a good position so I know, for sure, that many drivers will fight for their positions, but we want to try to push as hard as we can right from the beginning of the rally and try to challenge the factory drivers.
Q: You tested at the start of the week, near Sweet Lamb. What was it like, what were the conditions like?
MO: Yeah it was quite wet and muddy, so like normal really. I thought it would be a bit different going a bit earlier but so far it’s been really similar to November. Maybe it will change for the weekend but I think if it’s rainy or sunny I enjoy this rally anyway.
Q: One of the drivers has told me he saw dust on the stage. Surely that’s not the same as December?
MO: No, that’s actually true. We had some dust on the recce, on the last stage we recce’d on Tuesday. We actually had to stop and wait because the dust had to settle, so that was a really good feeling in Wales.
Q: From the testing are you feeling confident? Do you think you have found the right set up from the conditions that we have. I know you said it was wet conditions but we have dry conditions by the looks of things for tomorrow.
MO: We know we have a good car for the rain and we know from previous events that the car works very well in dry conditions as well. Okay, we haven’t been able to test in dry conditions here in Wales but I feel quite confident that if it is dry here we can do some small changes to the car to feel good. It’s just really to drive as quick as possible in any conditions.
Q: From what you can see from the recce, how abrasive are the stages in the dry parts; will there be tyre wear issues?
MO: I think it can be an issue. I think we have to choose the tyres well and I think it will be damp in the mornings so maybe you want to go on the soft, but then will they last or not? It’s a bit of a challenge, even if we go on the hard tyres in some of the stages they can wear out as well so we need to think a little bit about that and be careful in places.
Q: In terms of strategy for the weekend, what is the plan?
MO: It’s just to go as quick as possible. We will push from the first stage and push really hard this weekend.