WRC - Ralle de France Alsace - Press conference 1

WRC - RALLYE DE FRANCE ALSACE - Pre-event Press Conference

Pre-event Press Conference - Thursday 4 October  
Present: Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total World Rally Team - Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford World Rally Team - Romain Dumas - Yvan Muller

Q: Sébastien, last week the team announced that you would only take part in a partial season next year, was it a difficult decision to make?
SL: Not really, you have to think of everything you’ve done and what you want to do. I think I have prepared a bit better the end of my rally career this year. We have been negotiating my future with Citroën for quite a long time and I believe it was time to make a decision.   
Q: We know you will start in Monte Carlo, but how many other events will you compete on next year? What is the ideal figure?
SL: I don’t know how many events I will do next year. I will start in Monte Carlo and finish maybe here in France, I don’t have a precise number. The ideal would be … two! Or between four and five… or three!
Q: Both Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ Championships could be won here in France, it could be a big weekend for Citroën?
SL: Yes it’s the same situation that we had two years ago. It’s the best memory I have. The target is important and the issue of the rally could be great. There are fans everywhere and it will be a good weekend, hopefully better than last year. 
Q: We have some new stages here in France this year; what are your thoughts?
SL: Those new stages are really fast, I like this kind of wide, fast roads with no bumps, I really enjoy that. 
Q: Jari-Matti, tell us about your preparations for this event - I believe you spent some time in a single seater at Le Mans?
J-ML: We tried a single seater from the Auto Sport Academy driving a Formula Renault, as did Sébastien Ogier and Mikko Hirvonen. The idea was to see if we could bring things from the circuit to the rally. The challenging difference is that the surface is often changing, as well as the work we do on braking. Single seater is different. I need more practice. 
Q: You have not finished on the podium here before but you secured your best-ever tarmac result in Germany a few weeks ago. Does that give you confidence for this event?
J-ML: We had more pressure in Germany because I had not done so well there in the past. Here we have new stages and I like that. I have a good feeling. A podium is always the target, but we are in the home of Citroën and Sébastien Loeb. I think it will be a difficult rally.
Q: There is a lot of talk about your options for next year; your name has been linked with many manufacturers - what is the plan?
J-ML: It’s not a secret. My contract with Ford is ending at the end of the year and Ford is committed in rallying until the end of 2013, while Volkswagen has longer commitments. It’s not easy to make a decision. I have worked with Ford for many years and would love to see Ford winning the Championship and I have had very happy years with this team. I don’t have an answer for the moment. Leaving would be hard but I must consider the opportunities. I don’t have any deadline for the moment. Both teams are flexible. I believe I won’t make any decision before Sardinia, maybe after Spain? For sure before Monte Carlo!
Q: Romain, welcome to the WRC! You make your WRC debut here in France. We have seen you compete previously in the French Rally Championship, how long have you had a passion for rallying?
RD: For me to be here is a very big step! I have always driven a Porsche so far and I have done only four rallies in the championship. 
Q: You will compete in a MINI John Cooper Works WRC here in France; did you have time to test it before the event? What do you think of the car?
RD: I have only driven 30 kilometres and that testing was very different from what I know with the Porsche. The MINI has a very good chassis. 
Q: How difficult a process is creating the pace notes for you with your co-driver?
RD: It’s the hardest work for me compared to what I do, I have to change all my system of notes. It’s my first time here, the notes are difficult to adjust and the new roads have a lot of tricks, it’s very challenging.
Q: What is the hope here in France? What will be your strategy?
RD: My goal is to stay on the road but we all are competitors, I hope to stay on the road and get better and better. On the shakedown I gained so much time lap after lap. We have to be quick straight away with a new car. I really hope to see the finish line. I could do more rallies, we’ll see.
Q: Yvan, you are back at Rallye de France for the third time, this time in a MINI John Cooper Works WRC. How have you prepared for this event?
YM: I am very happy with the MINI, it’s easy to drive but sometimes it’s hard to go faster. With a four-wheel-drive the technique is very different and to get confidence is not easy. Step by step I will push.
Q: After three attempts here what are the lessons learned previously that you bring to France this time?
YM: I need to work more on the notes, but for that you need to race more. It’s important to go through all the stages. I would love to do more rallies but it takes some time. The French Rally has no clashes with my calendar, so that’s okay. 
Q: Dave Wilcock from Prodrive has said that you should be aiming for a top 10 finish, what do you think?
YM: I think it gives me a lot of pressure! The top 10? I would have to be lucky as those guys in front have a lot of experience. I have done eight rallies in 10 years, which is less than what they do in a year. I would be happy to finish in the top 20. 
Q: Sébastien Loeb has mentioned a possible switch to WTCC in the future; do you have any advice for our World Champion?
YM: Yes, let’s sign a contract! More seriously, I am very happy to welcome Sébastien in the WTCC it’s very good news. We first need to have confirmation of the program; there is still some time yet.
Present: Craig Breen - Hayden Paddon

Q: Craig, after the win in Wales the SWRC is now really close, how are you feeling on the return to tarmac?
CB: It’s good coming from a victory in Wales. It’s my first time back on tarmac since the accident and it’s going to be difficult here this weekend. I feel confident. Tarmac is always a preference, I am confident with this rally. It’s a big challenge for everybody
Q: There is some tough competition here, how critical is it for you to win?
CB: It is critical as we all three are very close and have been fighting everywhere all year round. Everything can happen, and Spain will be as challenging and the end of the season will be super exciting. 
Q: Do you feel more at home on a tarmac surface?
CB: We have tested on tarmac on Monday, we just need to get familiar with the car again as well as with the conditions. 
Q: What would you say the secret to success is on these stages?
CB: Those stages are not very narrow, but flowing and smooth. You need to be clever. 
Q: You won the WRC Academy last season - any advice for the series contenders this year?
CB: Elfyn is in a lot better position than we were last year. He’s done a fantastic job this year.
Q: Hayden, we saw a win in New Zealand and we have seen some great pace from you this season but  there have been many technical issues, especially in Wales - what has being going wrong? 
HP: We have had a lot of mechanical problems since the start of the season. We have also been unlucky sometimes but we should be able to improve.
Q: In terms of the Championship itself, how are you feeling?
HP: It’s very close between us and we need two wins. It’s a pretty simple calculation. 
Present: Elfyn Evans / Brendan Reeves

Q: Elfyn, it has been a successful season for you with three wins under your belt and the possibility of sealing the series here in France. How are you feeling about the season?
EE: It’s been a good season so far. With two rallies remaining it’s still very much open for everybody. We have to concentrate and do a good a job. We are 35 points in front but we must now concentrate on this rally this weekend.
Q: How challenging have you found this season, as with three wins many may think it has been easy for you, has it?
EE: We had a very difficult start: we had a wrong approach in Portugal. Then we worked a lot at home to prepare for Greece with a different approach. The rally in Portugal was tough.  
Q: What preparations have you done ahead of this event?
EE: We started the preparation much earlier this year. We also had advice from Sébastien Ogier which was very good. It was interesting to hear his views, how he prepares, hopefully we can repeat the success. 
Q: Are you feeling any extra pressure here knowing that victory could be yours?
EE: The weather can change very quickly here and that is the first challenge we have to face for the moment. 
Q: Brendan, it is the second year of the WRC Academy for you, what have you brought into this season from your experience last year?
BR: Last year we learnt a lot about the grip and the cuts and the tyres. It was very difficult last year, we have to look for the cuts and take each of them as fast as possible. 
Q: You have had a consistent season so far, have you been pleased with your performance this year?
BR: We have had no wins this year. We need to be quick on every stage, winning some stages and driving to our notes. We will take it stage by stage, even if we have a bad run we can recover on the next stage.
Q: You have remained in Europe since the last event in Germany, what have you been doing in terms of preparation for this rally?
BR: We have had a very good physical preparation. We have worked on the recces and been getting ourselves as physically ready as possible.


For media information purpose - No regulatory value.