WRC - 2018 Rally Sweden - Press Conference | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
This page contains archived information and may not display perfectly

WRC - 2018 Rally Sweden - Press Conference

15.02.18

Transcript of the pre-event Press Conference organised by the FIA for the 2018 Rally Sweden

Present: 
Mads Østberg, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 
Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT
Teemu Suninen, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 
Thierry Neuville, Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT

Q:
Welcome back to the WRC Mads! You return with a team you have previous experience with, Citroen. What doesn’t it feel like to be back with them and more importantly how do you find the C3 WRC?
MØ:
So far it’s been really good. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the car, but it’s nice to be back with the team. I see some of the same people, the colour is still the same, they still speak French and I still don’t understand them! The car is new. Some things are challenging, but I enjoyed the few kilometres I have had in the car.

Q:
What are the positives and what are the challenges?
MØ:
There are some really strong elements to the car, especially on the power side – it’s really strong for power. I enjoy that. There are some challenges with the balance which I recognise from my previous days in the team. I have some experience from previous cars which I can carry over to modify the set-up quite drastically.

Q:
Can you push straight away?
MØ:
It didn’t feel like it after the test. I didn’t do a full day [of testing], so I didn’t have a lot of time in the car, it felt okay but not really good. I was surprised to see the speed today, but I’m used to winter and I have some strength there – I will try to use it as much as possible.

Q:
Will you do some more events with the team this year?
MØ:
Yeah I think so, I don’t know for now, but if I do a good rally then I would like to do some more. So, I will do a good rally and then I can do some more.

Q:
How many and which ones?
MØ:
I would like to do 50! I won’t be in Mexico or Argentina, the cars are already booked and there’s no fourth car, but let’s wait and see after that.

Q:
Jari-Matti, it’s 10 years since your first WRC win here in Karlstad – does it feel like 10 years ago?
J-ML:
No. Finishing that event in Karlstad 10 years ago, celebrating at that trotting track it feels like it was yesterday and now suddenly 10 years has passed. When you work with the fixed calendar year after year, the time goes quickly and when you are getting older it goes quicker and quicker.

Q:
Last year this was the scene of your first win with Toyota. Such incredible scenes at the service park, to achieve a victory so soon. Can you recreate that magic this year?
J-ML:
We had a fantastic event here last year. It was a victory that came as a surprise, I didn’t expect it. I came to the 2017 season with thoughts about development, making the car faster, but thinking probably we won’t win any rally. But then we did it here and we were leading the championship going to Mexico. We got some technical problems in the middle of the season, but they were all sorted out. Now we have some snow and good ice conditions. I was trying to get the feeling at shakedown, but I was in a sleeping mode – I think it’s coming for tomorrow.

Q:
Are these the best conditions you’ve seen?
J-ML:
In 2010 and 2011 it was good, in 2010 it was close to minus 20 on the final day. Now we have a lot of snow, but it’s mild for everybody. I hope it’s not getting too much more warm, this could affect the ice layout on Saturday and we don’t want gravel coming out to make it hard for the tyres. In 10 years, I’ll be excited to see how it is in 2028!

Q:
You recently did an event with Juho Hanninen as your new co-driver, tell us about that…
J-ML:
Now he is not driving, Juho has started a new career as a co-driver – he’s very good. He still does testing for us and still has many days testing this year. I wouldn’t see many drivers swapping over – he is a good co-driver and passionate about that. But you know he’s still a driver and he’s able to offer some nice comments – last weekend he said to me: ”Good line in that junction…” That’s nice. After three stages we had a nice lead, but then we broke the wheel bearing and we actually lost the front-left wheel. I said to Juho after the stage: ”We have got to finish!” We jacked up the car and I went and found the wheel and got it fitted again, but we couldn’t fix the wheel bearing.

Q:
Back in a WRC car Teemu, after the season start in an R5 car. Does it feel good to be back in the ‘beast’?
TS:
It’s really nice to be back in these really fast cars, but the competition is really tough and I need to do a good job here.

Q:
Last year in Poland and Finland you impressed with your performances in a WRC car. Can we see the same here?
TS:
Hopefully yes. In shakedown I was taking it carefully on the first run and I was a bit behind, maybe I need to push more but the set-up is nice. The competition is tough and I need to be flat-out all the time to get the good stage times.

Q:
How’s your experience with the snow?
TS:
To be honest I haven’t done so much. I have done Sweden two times and two times at a Finnish Championship event, but on the normal road we have some snow – we see it more than some of the other drivers from the south of Europe.

Q:
Thierry, fabulous winter conditions welcome us this year. Last year you impressed with your pace. You were quickest at shakedown today - you bring that same confidence as last year?
TN:
I am quite convinced we can go at the same pace, but the others will be at a similar pace. The two first events last year were very good for speed, but since then we didn’t see such big gaps – it was closer after that. It was more intense and I think it will be the same this week, it will be five or six rivals fighting at the front. I hope I am one of them.

Q:
Tonight you return to the Karlstad super special where the dream ended last year. Have you been thinking about the return or has it not bothered you?
TN:
I think that since one a year ago, I have won many super special stages so I am not scared about that, but I will try to keep three more centimetres from the barrier to avoid it.

Q:
What do you think of the conditions?
TN:
We have great conditions. There were many discussions in the past few years about the snow in Sweden and it was not nice for the driving or for the spectators. They moved north and they were a bit lucky with the weather and now we have proper winter. This is the first time since 2012 we can say the conditions are perfect.


FIA WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Johan Kristoffersson (not WRC 2 Championship registered)
Pontus Tidemand, Skoda Motorsport
Jari Huttunen, Hyundai Motorsport

Q:
Johan, welcome to your home WRC event here in Sweden! As 2017 FIA World Rallycross Champion this is a definitely a different prospect for you. What made you decide to compete here again?
JK:
I didn’t do a rally since 2016, so I thought it’s time to come and do another.

Q:
How difficult is it for you to have another person in the car and follow the pace notes?
JK:
It’s very tricky to make the pace notes. I can’t take as much information as the experienced guys, but I want detailed notes to drive as quick as I can. Patrik [Barth, co-driver] helps me, but the roads look fantastic and most of all I will try to enjoy it.

Q:
Have you taken much advice?
JK:
Yes, I have. I am in the Even Management and there are some experienced guys in there, but the champion from last year said this is a tricky event; it’s tricky for the car, tricky conditions on the road, tricky for the tyres – everything is tricky and I am the guy without any experience! I will try to do my best.

Q:
What is the objective for you here? What is achievable?
JK:
I’m doing the rally to be quicker in the joker lap at rallycross, to help me estimate the grip level and things like that. My team-mate Petter [Solberg] is always quick in the joker lap and doing this event is preparation for that.

Q:
Would you be tempted to try another WRC event? 
JK:
That would definitely interest me, but already I have 18 race weekends. For this week, it’s nice to have the life insurance with the snowbanks at the side of the road for when I don’t listen to the pace notes! Let’s see what happens.

Q:
Pontus, a win here last year and ultimately the WRC 2 championship title meant you had a highly successful season! The title defense starts now, are you still as hungry for it?
PT:
Yes for sure. I’m very motivated and ready to take the task again. It’s always hard, but I’m looking forward to the start of the season and I am 120 per cent motivated.

Q:
Are you doing anything different in your preparation this year?
PT:
For sure we analyse a bit about what we can make better and work on this point. I am always working to make progress which is very important in this game.

Q:
Tell us, what needs work on?
PT:
To have a really high level. When you get to WRC the guys are pushing from the first metre, I will try to do this, but also stay on the road.

Q:
Have you had to change you notes from last year due to the different conditions?
PT:
Yeah, for me it’s the same stages but in some places they are quite different – the corners are more sharp in some places. I don’t think you can use too much from last year; if you push flat from last year you will quite soon be in the wall. I think this will be the best rally for a long time, the organisers are doing some really good work.

Q:
Jari, this is the first time we see you in the Hyundai R5 on a WRC event. Are you fully prepared for the week ahead?
JH:
We did about 200 kilometres in the test. It was okay. Of course I don’t have so much experience, but I’m quite happy.

Q:
Tell us what happened during testing, we saw some images of the car not looking quite so happy?!
JH:
It’s not so easy now, some days in the test were not so good – we rolled. But I am quite relaxed and quite happy.

Q:
There’s a lot of competition here, how do you think you will get on?
JH:
For sure it’s very difficult for us, but after the first day tomorrow we will see. We can push a bit more after that, but for now it’s interesting.

Q:
You had some issues at shakedown?
JH:
It was a small problem with the cooling system, so we can only drive one run. But we are ready.


FIA JUNIOR /WRC  3 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
David Holder
Dennis Rådström

Q:
David, this will be your debut in the Junior WRC. Traveling from New Zealand you have had the furthest journey. You have been here for almost two weeks - what have you been doing to prepare?
DH:
Yeah, I’ve been here a week so I’m basically local now, but my co-driver’s had just a couple of days in the country. 

Q:
What experience of snow do you have?
DH:
Zero. I stuck it in the snowbank at shakedown this morning, so I’ve ticked that box already. I had two or three hours on a frozen lake last week, that helped to calm the nerves and work out what goes where. Otherwise my experience is all about the gravel in New Zealand.

Q:
How stuck in a snowbank were you?
DH:
How do you judge that? Is it by counting spectators? We needed 15 to get out, so that seems pretty stuck…

Q:
What’s the objective for you?
DH:
For sure we want to finish the event, but I guess you come here and say: ”Yeah I want to finish…” but I want to be competitive. I want to finish in a style that suits.

Q:
The gravel rallies in JWRC should suit you this year? 
DH:
I hope the gravel suits me, I don’t think the snow or Tarmac will do. It’s about learning on the first two and trying to establish ourselves in the championship.

Q:
How has it been as part of the JWRC group?
DH:
Yeah, really good. They’ve been helping me out to find some accommodation, it’s been really good so far.

Q:
Dennis, you have a home advantage here, that must help?
DR:
Yes, it makes everything much smoother when you have no travel in the preparations.

Q:
Does the snow make a different to the stages?
DR:
It makes things a bit slower, we have to change the notes a bit from before, but otherwise it’s perfect.

Q:
This is the second year in the Junior WRC for you. Last year you said was a massive learning curve. Do you feel you have now learnt enough to challenge for the title?
DR:
Maybe not on Tarmac, we have some testing ahead of us, but we already have one year in this car and we have some good experience. Let’s see.

Q:
Being local, your objective has to be to win?
DR:
Yes, I have to focus and do the best.

Q:
As a local, do you think it will snow tonight?
DR:
Yes, I hope so.