WRC - S. Ogier: "It's not every day you win Sardinia being first on the road". | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - S. Ogier: "It's not every day you win Sardinia being first on the road".

06.06.21

2021 Rally Italia Sardegna - Transcript of the post-event press conference organised by the FIA

2021 WRC - Rally Italia Sardegna - Sébastien Ogier (DPPI Photo)

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Sébastien Ogier (FR)
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Elfyn Evans (GBR)
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Thierry Neuville (BEL)

Q:
Toyota have finally won Rally Italia Sardegna. Congratulations Sébastien, how was it?
SO:
It’s been an amazing weekend. I didn’t expect to come here and fight for the top position. To come away with 27 points, it’s really a good feeling. We made some work during the test between rallies; in Portugal, it was not as fast as I wanted, so I’m glad to come back with a car that I like much more and has more potential. It’s not every day you win Sardinia from being first on the road – we can enjoy this one.

Q:
This was a stand-out performance for you given the deficit running first on the road…
SO:
I reached by target – you know, with the dry conditions, I really expected to suffer a lot. In this time all you can do is to target to focus on the guy just behind you and if you are already faster than them, then this is an achievement and a bit more – it’s a bonus. I was doing this with Elfyn and Thierry on day one. OK, Ott was on a different speed, but that’s normal with his road position.

Q:
Friday was good, but things changed on Saturday. Tell us about that.
SO:
Day two was strong for us, but it was not the same risk. Day one, I had to take the risk to compensate for the start position. Day two was strong and when Ott hit trouble, we could find ourselves in the lead, it was a different race. I started to try to stay clever to secure the win. The last push was in the Power Stage and the only issue we had in the weekend came when we tried to cross the watersplash. Actually, I was quite scared in the moment – we had a  bad misfire and lost five or six seconds. I need to check, but maybe that cost us the Power Stage win. But 27 points feels really good from here.
 
Q:
What was the biggest challenge?
SO:
Sardinia always looks like beautiful roads – they are – but on the second pass, they can be very rough for the car. I had to be clever. Still, we are running tyres which are not very strong for this rough conditions and I have to keep that in mind. We managed with very little soft tyres in the package and these tyres are good in this surface. You never win any rally in the WRC easily.

Q:
Elfyn, talk us through that watersplash when you stopped?
EE:
When the engine had no response, it took on lot of water, it just seemed to take forever to clear. In the back of my mind, I thought it would eventually go, then I started to doubt that – it just was not coming. Then I got some momentum, it cleared and it could go either way. I had been standing still and in that moment, it’s hard to know how long. It could be 20 seconds or 40 seconds, it’s so difficult to judge. There was a bit of a panic on to get to the end of the stage as quickly as possible.

Q:
But things calmed down after that?
EE:
It was all ok after that. But it’s hard to know in that situation where you are.

Q:
You struggled a bit on the first day, but then things improved…
EE:
On Friday I got a really bad start, the opposite from how the car felt from Portugal. I was less happy at the start here. It was my hunger to keep improving the car; in Portugal I felt there were areas we could improve. The road we had in testing, we found some small improvements, but I couldn’t feel a connection with the road. It was difficult, we had to do something. But that wasn’t the only reason. There was a knock-on with the confidence. You need confidence to go quickly here. But then it was different and as soon as I could feel more comfortable things got better and better.

Q:
You made a strong start this morning.
EE:
We had to cover off the position from Thierry. Thierry could have been on a big push and sometimes, you can make a big gap if you’re willing to take a bit of a risk with a new stage. With hindsight, it’s easy to say maybe we should have saved the tyres for the Power Stage, but we had to cover the position to make sure that gap wasn’t reduced dramatically.

Q:
Thierry, a mixed weekend?
TN:
Yeah, I could take the comments from Elfyn and say it was the same for me. I could not get a good feeling and I struggled to find a little bit more speed and keep with Séb and Ott who were just behind me on the road. I was focused on getting the car faster and more to my style and in the second pass, there was good speed, but the first pass I struggled a lot. Unfortunately, Elfyn was also able to pick up speed. I was powerless and realised I had to go steady end and go for the Power Stage.

Q:
And you walked away with what you needed?
TN:
I had two punctures on the first day and that meant we had two soft tyres gone from the eight we are allowed. I had ended up with only used softs [for today]. We wanted to have a good position on the Power Stage and this was our only satisfaction from this weekend.

Q:
What can the team do for the car for the next round, the Safari?
TN:
I don’t know. Obviously in Portugal, the car worked well. We had several tests and hopefully we’ll get the right settings straight away. Safari will be a new and interesting adventure for all of us. It will be a really challenging event. I’m looking forward to those challenges.

Q:
Jari-Matti Latvala, what a successful weekend!
J-ML:
A really successful weekend. We came here thinking we could get one podium and that would be really good. Historically, Hyundai has been very strong and Toyota has never been winning here as Toyota Gazoo Racing. The last victory for Toyota at Rally Italy was 1994. Our drivers did excellent performance and the car worked really well, until the watersplash caused almost a heart attack for me when I saw Elfyn was stopped and not firing up. Luckily, it did fire and then Seb suffered the same issue. We need to work to be better on the watersplash.

Q:
But a frustrating weekend for Kalle?
J-ML:
Once again, I say a big thanks to Elfyn and Seb and also Taka, who did a very good drive. With Kalle, it’s been difficult – he’s had three bad rallies in a row – I had five in a row, so I told him it’s not a problem. The speed is there, he was performing well before the problems and the speed was there on the Power Stage. He’s a young guy. Now we will investigate how we can make the car stronger.

Questions from the floor:

Tom Howard, Autosport UK (GBR)

Q:
Are you concerned about the car being fragile after Ott’s problem?
TN:
No. If you look back at Saturday and see the size of the stone he hit, I don’t think any of those cars could resist that. It’s true maybe we struggle a bit more than Toyota in small damages in Sardinia, maybe this is something to work, but the team has a focus more on the new car and we know what we have to solve to be strong with the new car.

Bo Christer Bofeldt, Worldrally.se (SWE)

Q:
You had the best results for Toyota in the past, now you are the team boss and Toyota claims the first victory in Sardinia. How is your feeling?
 
J-ML:
It’s an amazing feeling to win with Toyota Gazoo Racing. This is an event where, like Seb said, the roads are beautiful – I know this as a driver. But it’s very rough and demanding and the temperature is hot for the drivers as well. It’s a really fantastic feeling.

Maxime Malet, L’Equipe (FRA)

Q :
Among your 52 wins in WRC, where does this one rank, especially regarding your expectations before rally start?
SO:
It’s true, I mentioned before the start: I’m not sure what I am doing this weekend, I prefer to be home. In the end, it looks like it was a good idea to be here. It’s hard to rank victories, but first on the road and winning Sardinia, it doesn’t happen every day. That’s a sign we need to rank this one pretty high. It’s special, even though, to be honest, I prefer the intense fight. With these rules, it’s the same story: the top drivers cannot all fight together when there are too many differences. It’s a shame for the sport, but this is nothing new. We have to deal with it and we can be very proud of how we did this.

Q:
How important were the first two stages on Friday to reinforce the belief that a podium, and maybe more, was something possible to achieve here?
SO:
I believe these stages helped me. When you know the stage, everybody works with the video, but if we go to the new stage, you have to trust the notes and take a little bit of a risk – this allowed me to push very hard from the start of the rally. I built a strong start and after that, I struggled a little bit on some more of the known stages [on Day one].

FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Hyundai Motorsport N – Jari Huttunen (FIN), Hyundai NG i20

Q:
Jari, Mads pushed you hard – that was an exciting finish. What was your plan?
JH: It was a really good event for me this year and last year. I was driving quite slowly, or not slowly, but without any problems. Still, we have some stages with some problems, that’s why we couldn’t release our pace all the time.

Q :
You seemed to have a good tyre strategy?
JH :
Actually not. Maybe the Power Stage worked well, but I expected more cleaning in there – but it wasn’t so much. In the first three stages [this morning], we lost quite much and I didn’t push so much in there.

Q :
Win and maximum points is great for the championship?
JH :
Yeah it is. Yesterday, I was thinking “just take the points and second place”, but like this, it’s much better.

Q :
What means more: fifth overall or the WRC2 win?
JH :
I think in the overall position I can’t do anything – it’s bad luck [for the other WRC drivers].

Questions from the floor

Reiner Kuhn, Motorsport Aktuell (GER)

Q:
Jari, what kind of problems did you have all the way and did you find a way to sort it out?
JH:
We had a broken rear anti-roll bar – we broke about six times. We lost a lot of time and today, some electric problems with the engine. Yesterday we had some mistake in the service both times for the tyres, we had to make some adjustments in the road sections. We felt some pressure.

FIA WRC3 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Yohan Rossel (FRA)

Q:
Yohan, what a fantastic battle…
YR:
It was an amazing day. We have such an amazing rally for the championship – it’s not so easy, he’s very fast ! But this is fantastic for me and for the team.

Q:
It’s been a big challenge…
YR:
It’s a really big challenge on this event, but this is the same for all drivers. This rally is a very strong rally and when I see the stages, wow it’s just amazing and I hope to finish the rally and not make any mistakes. Winning the rally is a very good feeling. For the moment, I don’t know for the future, but I hope to come back here.

Q :
Two wins and podiums on all FIA WRC3 events is a good start…
YR :
Yeah, yeah the car and the team do four events and then they say we will see, but now we will see after ! Tomorrow. I will sleep well and then we’ll see.

Q:
How much on the limit were you?
YR:
I was on my limit when I know the stage. I push very hard because I know the stage and I run on [the stage] last year. The new stages are not easy in my recce car – it’s not so good and it’s not easy. But the feeling is good. I don’t have any mistakes.