2013 Rally Sweden - Pre Event Press Conference

Thursday Press Conference organised by the FIA for the 2013 Rally Sweden
Pre-event Press Conference
Thursday 7 February
Evgeny Novikov, Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Motorsport
Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Martin Prokop, Jipocar Czech National Team
Q: Evgeny, it was an impressive performance before heading to the Col de Turini stage in Monte-Carlo a few weeks ago. Accident aside, how did you find your first event for the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team and were you happy with your performance?
EN: It was very good until the moment we retired. It was a difficult rally. What can I say? It was one of the most or maybe even the most disappointing retirement in my career.
Q: Has the accident knocked your confidence or not?
EN: No. Not at all. It could be much better and we could feel better here, but I am not thinking about this. I am concentrating on this rally. I forgot Monte-Carlo, now we keep going.
Q: How many kilometres have you done in testing? What were the conditions for the test? Are you happy with the set-up achieved for Sweden?
EN: We did one and half days of testing with 400 kilometres. We did 250 one day and 150 on a different road the next day. I have been finding out the set-up and now I am feeling confident to see how it will be tomorrow.
Q: Driving in the factory team, is there more pressure on you this year?
EN: In our position more people are waiting for good results and we have to make them. But this pressure doesn’t influence on me. If you think about this, it will be more difficult, so I don’t think. I concentrate on each stage and trying to do the best that I can.
Q: You’ve talked about being a changed man, no more maximum attack – is this still the case?
EN: Of course. We are here to fight. I have to attack and drive maximum, as quickly as we can. It’s still the same, but now I hope I am a bit more consistent – I have more experience now.
Q: Jari-Matti, it was your debut for the Volkswagen team in Monte-Carlo, a new team and a new car to get to grips with in treacherous conditions. What is your assessment of your performance there?
J-ML: I was the same as Evgeny, I was very disappointed with the retirement and we went off in the same place – but maybe I went off in quite a harder way. The target was points and it was going according to plan. But the conditions were so difficult and I just didn’t have enough experience to understand where are the limits of the car. It came as a big surprise when I lost control and went off the road. Here it’s completely different, here is more consistent conditions. My testing went well. I have a good feeling with the car, it’s a completely different start to Monte-Carlo.
Q: Accidents happen but you tend to take them to heart - have you put the Monte-Carlo issue behind you now?
J-ML: I have forgotten it, but of course it was a bad start for the season and I wanted a good start. I couldn’t get it. Life goes on. There are some new rallies coming and I can’t change what happened. You have to analyse it, learn from it and I have done that. Now I concentrate on new things. Go for it.
Q: Can you win?
J-ML: The confidence is there, the question is will this be our speed in the rally. In qualifying you can see a good performance, but I want to be careful. The shakedown stage was getting quicker all of the time. This rally will not always be about the fastest from start, you have to save studs and you have to see what’s happening at the finish. I don’t know how it will be; a podium would be a fantastic start. Winning would be very special, but I’m not taking that as a target.
MH: Oh yes you are!
J-ML: Only in my secret mind…
Q: Was the reliability from the Volkswagen better than you expected in Monte-Carlo?
J-ML: The reliability was 100 per cent. We had no problem at all.
MH: I’m not sure about that. The Ford must be better – you and Evgeny crashed in the same place, but he lost only one wheel but the Volkswagen lost two!
J-ML: Fair point! Maybe we have some work to do, we will consider that in the next meeting… Look at Ogier, it was a really good rally for him. I had confidence in the third day, it was going really well, I had a couple of good stage times. The reliability was better than I expected.
Q: You have had great success here in the past with two wins under your belt. Last year you took second position in your first time in the DS3 - do you feel you know the car enough now to push a little harder for the win?
MH: I am afraid now I am going to lose all the wheels – I should have been quiet! I feel good. I have one more year at Citroën under my belt, we are ready for the rally.
Q: You didn’t seem to get into your stride at the last round in Monte-Carlo - did you discover why that was?
MH: I don’t know. Maybe the crash before the rally didn’t help to be confident in those conditions, but in the end I was lucky and slow enough to finish the rally. It will be a totally different story here. At least I hope so…
Q: With Loeb retiring are you feeling extra pressure to perform for the team?
MH: I am too old to take any pressure. We’re going to be fine.
Q: How did the test for this event go; similar conditions to what we have now?
MH: I had maybe a little more snow on the test than here. In Norway there’s a lot of snow. The level of the ice was quite the same. Everything went well in the test. 
Q: You need good confidence for this event, though…
MH: Confidence is always the thing. You are always aiming for the win and maybe sometimes I am a bit more calculated, but this is a different story here – you have to be on the pace from stage one. 
Q: Martin, you finished seventh in Monte-Carlo just a few weeks ago, a good start in difficult conditions!
MP: Monte-Carlo was something special for us, with my team and DMack we were ready for different conditions. We had a good test for dry or wet tar, but we were not ready for the snow and the snow came for the shakedown. It was a really difficult event and the most important thing was to stay on the road. We had a lot of big moments. Maybe ours was the most damaged car – apart from Jari-Matti and Evgeny’s – and we were very happy to be at the finish. We were happy with 10th place, but when we jumped to seventh, this was amazing!
Q: This will be your second year in a WRC car. After last year’s ‘learning experience’ what are you hoping for in 2013?
MP: Let’s see, we have quite lot of experience with the new car, but this is a different level of racing from the Junior category or even the SWRC. It’s a different level, all the guys are on the same level. Now everything is new for me and the level and speed of the factory guys is very high. We are getting closer, but we have to fight with a small team. We are doing our best, things are still improving.
Q: Who do you compare yourself with this year?
MP: I try to see all the drivers. Last year I compared with Mads Ostberg, who was the best private driver, it was good to see his speed and compare, to see how much we lose per kilometre. But now he is the factory driver and we have to see how is the level of the drivers and which drivers are on the events I did last year. I have no real target.
Q: What stages stand out as being the most difficult? Do you enjoy rallying on snow? What will be the toughest challenge for you this weekend?
MP: I started here many times. But still, when I come here for the first time in a year, I find a piece of white material and I can’t understand how slippery it is! The Scandinavian drivers do understand whether the dirty snow is more slippery, or the white, or where is the black ice? On every race, I am trying to find the limit. In previous years I was the fastest non-Scandinavian in the category – it will be hard this year.
Q: A question for all of you: where will you start on the road?
MH:  You first… [Latvala] 
J-ML:  Mikko will start position 16. For me, anything after 10.
MH:  I agree.
EN:  For me after eighth place, but we don’t have so many options.
MP:  Somewhere in the middle, 10th place.
Eyvind Brynildsen, DMack-Autotek
Anders Grondal 
Q: Eyvind, we will see you compete in WRC 2 this year with DMack-Autotek. How did the deal come about and how many events will you compete on?
EB: I was quite surprised. I was supposed to do a season with Adapta, maybe a couple of rallies and Sweden, but then in the New Year, DMACK and Ken Skidmore asked if I could do the season in WRC 2. I brought my sponsors together and together with DMack we are doing seven rallies. It’s going to be a fantastic year.
Q: It’s good be back?
EB: Of course, last year was not easy. It started in April, when my father began to have some problems. I decided to do the human thing in front of sport, so I went to look after the business, but now I’m back and I am happy. I would rather smile than be sad all the time. I have found a good sponsor with a good tyre and now I feel really calm before the start of the rally. 
Q: The last time we saw you in the WRC was in Sweden last year. You competed at Rally Finnskog at the weekend - has that given you confidence coming here?
EB: I have a new co-driver, Cato [Menkerud] said he would stop rallying, Anders Fredriksson is in for here and then another one for the rest of the season. You need the confidence here, it was really fast at shakedown – but we did a very good time.
Q: Who will be your co-driver for the rest of the season?
EB: I have two options, Emil Axelsson or Maria Andersson.
Q: What is the aim for this event and the season ahead for you?
EB: You never start a rally and believe you will be second. I will take it easy tonight. There’s always some stupid mistakes on the super special; we have seen Petter and Henning [Solberg] both do this in the past. We will find our own pace and then just enjoy. There will be 15-20cm of fresh snow, but in stages like Frederiksberg, there will be some gravel and so there will have to be a tyre strategy. We will have to be clever. DMack has developed a new tyre, which went really well in Latvia.
Q: How much testing did you have before the start?
EB: About 50 kilometres, so not much. But I did have the chance to test the Regional Rally Car and the World Rally Car: there is a lack of power in fifth gear [in the RRC], so I will have to drive it like a Group N car. This is my seventh time here in Sweden, I am so very glad to be back.
Q: Anders, entered here for WRC 2 in your Subaru Impreza - what is your hope for this event?
AG: It’s difficult in a Group N car, a lot of the others are in RRCs and they will be quite a lot quicker. We know the snow very well, though, so we have the advantage. We are going to be going for the top three results if we can. 
Q: You have already completed two rounds of the Norwegian Championship - does that mean you are fully prepared for this?
AG: We have done two Norwegian Championship rounds and won both, and another rally and won that as well. This has been the perfect start.
Q: What did you think of the stages from the recce?
AG: The atmosphere is really good. There is a lot of snow on the trees and a lot on the road. I hope there’s a lot of ice under the snow, it was difficult to see in the recce. I think mostly there is the ice, so we have very good conditions.
Q: You had some drama at shakedown, though?
AG: Firstly, we went out with a new turbo fitted. The turbo had been changed before the event and there was a little mistake on the mounting, so we had no turbo pressure. Then we had a little off, I mis-heard a pace note and so we did another run. There’s still a little adjustment, but the guys fix that now.
Q: So, you have the right set-up?
AG: Oh, yeah definitely. The engineer did a very nice job. The car is perfect for the fight with Eyvind tonight at the super special.
Q: Did you do some testing before this event?
AG: I did some testing before the start of the Norwegian Championship rounds, then we were busy with the rallies – so we used those as a test and then shakedown today.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge of Rally Sweden?
AG: It’s a very fast event and one where you have to make sure you don’t get stuck in the snow banks.
Q: You have a fellow Norwegian at you side - how much rivalry is between you two?
AG:  Eyvind’s in a RRC, so it’s no point for me to follow him, something would have to happen to him [for me to beat him].