Rally Argentina - Finish press conference

With Loeb, Hirvonen, Ogier & Quesnel

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By Olivier Ferret

30 May 2011 - 09:13
Rally Argentina - Finish press (...)

Present:
1st - Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroën Total World Rally Team
2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total World Rally Team
3rd - Julien Ingrassia, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Citroën Total World Rally Team

Q:
Sébastien, after picking up a one minute penalty on Friday you have come through to seal victory number 65 in your career. Did you imagine that could happen after Friday?

SL:
For sure you always can imagine what you want, but after our penalty when we saw the rhythm of all the drivers because we were all fighting the same at the stages I believed that it would not be possible to try to get a victory. So my target was to try to catch the ones in front; it was Mikko at this time and I tried to push as hard as possible from Friday midday to now and I’m really happy to have done this because we won by only two seconds so all the effort we have done yesterday, pushing on the limit all the time, has been paid today. It’s a great victory.

Q:
How was the opening stage today? How much were you pushing through there?

SL:
I started the day pushing but not exactly like yesterday, and the first split I was 1.6 seconds behind Mikko so I said okay, I have to wake up and push hard. Then we had some fog and very difficult conditions. I tried my best but we were always in the same split as Mikko and only at the end of the stage could we make a little difference. It was 48 kilometres which were difficult. It had every condition, hard at the start, wet in the middle, fog for maybe some kilometres, it was a really long, long stage.

Q:
When did you think – “I could win this”?

SL:
When I knew what his (Ogier’s) real problem was, because when I saw his time, for me it was normal, I believed that he was just slowing down a little bit. But then the journalist told me that he had some troubles and that he slowed. Then we knew he had power steering problems and you know 20 seconds without power steering can be possible. Finally, it didn’t change anything for me because my fight was with Mikko, so my only way was to push and to see and we did it.

Q:
In terms of your Championship challenge this is hugely important!

SL:
For sure, for me it is better to win than to be behind because we were on the way to being behind our two biggest rivals for the Championship on this event. So finally we scored more points than them, we took a little bit more of an advantage on Mikko, he is still not far, 13 points, Seb (Ogier) is 30 and we are happy for these results.

Q:
Daniel, after the penalty on Friday did you think it would be possible to win here?

DE:
I don’t want to comment more on this mistake because everybody knows it is a confusing situation. Friday is Friday but now we had a victory.

Q:
I’m not asking you about the mistake, I’m asking you how it pushed you on and especially pushed Sébastien on, because we saw some incredible times yesterday from you both.

DE:
You know, when Seb is angry he pushes hard. When you have this situation, you have a one minute penalty, you have to push hard to try to catch the others, and when you start to catch you think maybe you can be fourth or third, not to take a victory. But now it is okay.

Q:
Tell me what you think of the different structure of this event with the inclusion of tarmac on the stages. A good idea?

DE:
No, it is a bad idea because tarmac is too fast, too dangerous. And if you see everybody’s tyres, and you take the limit with the car, then it is complicated because it is very slippery and it is not good on this tarmac.

Q:
Mikko, you picked up some consistent points but are you happy with the results and with your pace here?

MH:
I think in a way I should be happy with second place because my pace was really bad, especially in all the tarmac sections. I don’t know exactly what I did wrong, maybe I was pushing too hard and going too much sideways but anyway I should be happy. I’m quite annoyed Sébastien beat me again by two seconds.

Q:
When you look across the event, were the tarmac sections where it all went wrong?

MH:
We lost a lot of time in those tarmac sections but there was a lot going on in this rally. Ogier rolled today, Jari-Matti (Latvala) had a problem, Petter (Solberg) had a problem so second is really good for me.

Q: How important is it for you now to start winning events? Not only for your Championship hopes but for your own self-esteem.

MH:
We have to wait and see but we are still in the Championship fight, that’s good, we are not far behind. It can’t go on like this all the way through, otherwise Sébastien will win the title again, so I have to try and take victories and beat Sébastien in some rallies, that’s the only way to take the title. We still have a chance, we are still there.

Q:
Jarmo, how would you sum up the weekend? Looking across the weekend how would you evaluate your performance?

JL:
This is the biggest present for me since Christmas! Like Mikko said, our performance was not even close to what it should have been. We really lost much time on tarmac and then Seb was so quick on gravel yesterday that even with a one minute penalty, he passed us like wind. We really don’t know what went wrong but this second position is a really good moment for us.

Q:
Was there a sense of frustration in the car this weekend?

JL:
It’s always like that when you are doing your best and you just don’t get the times, it’s kind of a snowball effect. And you start to over-drive and push and the times seem to get worse. You need to have the relaxed flow when driving and then you get the results. And that was not the case this weekend.

Q:
Sébastien, you led the rally going into the final day but only a few kilometres before the finish you rolled, how did it happen?

SO:
Like you said, great comfortable lead, it seemed to be easy to get the victory but finally we lost it; we have wrong notes near the end of the long stage, I have a cut on my notes and finally on this corner we rolled quite slowly and that broke my power steering so it was very hard for us to finish the rally and it was impossible to keep the lead.

Q:
In terms of your pace do you think you were pushing too hard going in that section? Were you feeling any pressure on that stage?

SO:
Not really. We had a good result on that stage, we lost a few seconds but it was just what the plan was. We had already passed the difficult section of the stage with a lot of fog, this place was very difficult for us but our pace was easy. I had something wrong in my notes and when I arrive on the corner I hesitated a bit and I didn’t make the right decision, especially with the gap I had, it was a bit stupid.

Q:
How soon did you realise you had a power steering problem?

SO:
Immediately because when I re-started the stage I realised I no longer had power steering so I tried to fix it after the stage, I knew it was impossible to fix it but just try to finish the rally first and fortunately we finish, it cost us some points. I’m not happy with the result for sure but for the team it’s still a good weekend.

Q:
You have had some disappointments but at least this time around you have got some good points on the board.

SO:
Yes but I’m disappointed today, I should have a victory and now I just finished third and I lost more points compared to Mikko and for the Championship it is not a good operation. But it’s okay, still it will be a difficult day for me as usual after a mistake, but I’m sure when I arrive in Greece I will be more motivated to win the rally.

Q:
Julien, from the damage sustained did you think it might be all over?

JI:
It was quick, just one place before the end of the stage so we just drove until the end, when we saw it was not so much damage, except for the power steering we knew it will be difficult to stay in front, we knew we will miss a few seconds.

Q:
How difficult was it then going through the next three stages and just losing time, did you think that you would not be on the podium at all?

JI:
Yes, we knew that if we didn’t make any more mistakes we will be on the podium but we had to think about the team in these conditions and the purpose was to bring the car into service. We expected to maybe be closer to Mikko and Jarmo but finally it was too hard to drive the car in these conditions, and Sébastien’s arms were burning so we had to finish.

Q:
Is a mixed emotion in the team, it could have been a Citroen one-two…

OQ:
Yes, but this was a great day for Citroën because we finished one and third and for the Championship, drivers and manufacturers, we are leading. It’s good because tarmac rallies are coming so I’m very happy. I’m disappointed; as Julien said, they did a mistake, this is the game. I’m very happy for Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena and for Citroën; it’s really a great result.

Q:
The tarmac rallies are all coming and the team is really in a strong position right now…

OQ:
I hope so, but we never know; but it seems it should be okay.

Q:
Sébastien Ogier said he is going to feel a little bit down over the next couple of days, but hopefully the motivation will come back to win in Greece. Greece is a tough event; do you think the guys can have success there?

OQ:
Yes, everything could happen, they are very strong as you can see, so I hope both of them could win and again for Citroën this is a good result. I’m very happy.

FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

1st - Hayden Paddon
1st - John Kennard

Q:
Hayden, your second win of the PWRC season on your first time at Rally Argentina, you now take the Championship lead, how are you feeling?

HP:
It’s been a very good weekend but, you know, we had a plan right from the start of the rally to do something, we just concentrate on keeping the car in one piece. It hasn’t been the fastest that we go but we stuck to our plan and the competition didn’t have problems, so it all worked out perfectly.

Q:
You took the win with a huge lead in hand, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing. You suffered a ‘lack of power’ which seemed to hound you Friday and Saturday, did the team get to the bottom of it?

HP:
Yes, pretty much from stages one and two, and there was one we didn’t have problems with, you hit the road and try to find the missing part of the puzzle. The team did a fantastic job; the car has been very strong. The car was perfect today for the first stage of the rally. It may have made a difference perhaps, perhaps if we had more power in the rally we could have been faster, but I don’t think we really needed the speed.

Q:
Well, you didn’t need the speed with that huge lead. Talk to me about the stages a little bit of an analysis of Hayden Paddon this weekend.

HP:
They were some of the hardest stages that we have done in a long time, like a very long day and the stages were incredibly rough. I recalled I put my strength on the bumps, because of the rocks and the big rocks, you are just hoping... you know, whether you’re going slow or fast, that didn’t really matter, you were going to break the car. It was really a lottery, so it made each of us seek the most.

Q:
Did you enjoy the mix of surfaces?

HP:
Oh, yes. Particularly after the rough stages when you get to the tarmac, it’s really quieter and it’s smooth, it’s good.

Q:
John, with Hayden’s lack of experience at this event did you think you would be walking away with the win this weekend?

HP:
No, it was more than we hoped for.

Q:
Do you lose focus when you have such a big lead? What is it like?

JK:
It’s very easy to lose focus but with the car the way it was you could actually still push quite hard and regain your focus.

Q:
So what are your thoughts of Hayden’s driving in the Argentinian stages?

JK:
It was really, really good. Portugal was fast and there he was driving with his heart and here he just drove the whole thing with his head. When he could be fast in the stages he tried as much as he could and the rest of the time he drove with his head.

Q:
Hayden, is this better than you expected when you started the season; did you think that by the time you left Argentina you will be leading this Championship?

HP:
It’s definitely more than what we expected, anyway, our goal is to win the Championship this year. Portugal was the first time I’m driving a Subaru. Spain, I love the tarmac. And GB we have done a few times. Strong rounds are to come but it’s a long, long way to go, we just have to take it round by round and not to worry too much about the points.

Q:
How are you finding the car? You seem to be adapting to the Subaru very well.

HP:
Oh, the Subaru is great. The balance of the car is very nice and we are still learning a lot of things, we are doing some local rounds and we have been learning lots of things that don’t work in the car, but there’s still a lot more to learn so we just have to keep on working on things.

Q:
Is it a little too much to think about the title; is it too far away? It must be such a confident boost to have such results though.

JK:
Yes, even after Portugal it has become Championship and management and it’s really unusual in the season to start thinking about that. When usually you do what you can on an event, but for us it is already Championship management. And it probably was even after Sweden.

WRC

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