Rally Finland press conference
With Ogier, Loeb, Hirvonen, Raikkonen, Ketomaa & Flodin
Q: Sébastien, it has recently been announced that you will remain at Citroën for the next three seasons. It was well documented that there was an offer from Ford also – what made you decide to stay with Citroën?
SO: It was a comfortable position for me; it proves that from the start of the season I progress a lot. It was a comfortable position, but a difficult decision for me to take. The offer from Ford was interesting. Ford is a good team and a good car for the future. But Citroën is also very good. I started with them and it’s thanks to them that I am in the rally and the WRC today – and I remember that. Citroën is the best team in rally and it’s the team where I have the maximum chance to win in the future.
Q: You will represent the main Citroën Total World Rally Team here in Finland, are you feeling any extra pressure and what is the objective?
SO: Yes, it’s more pressure. Now I have to score manufacturer points, it’s important to be at the end of the rally. I have the same approach, I will try to do my best and we will see.
Q: What will be your approach here?
SO: Like usually, I will start the rally with a good rhythm. It’s important to be with the best guy at the start of the rally. The gap is usually very close here, but like we say before it’s very important to finish the rally and score points for the manufacturer. There are two long days [of competition] this year, it will be difficult this year for sure.
Q: Sébastien it has also been announced prior to this event that you will continue to compete in next year’s Championship – was it an easy decision to carry on?
SL: Yes, because finally I am not prepared to retire now. It was not possible to do it like that. We have to prepare for what we do after. For sure, I was thinking a little bit [about retirement] around [Rally] New Zealand, but now it’s sure.
Q: Ogier is confirmed as competing with Citroën for the next three seasons, you were quoted by various press as saying it would be a good move for Ogier if he went to Ford – what do you think now that he has decided to stay?
SL: I feel okay. The question was what I think about the story: for sure in the last rally we saw the fight between Seb and me and to have both in the team and all this, it would be easier for him to be in Ford. Now he is in my team, he is my team-mate and we try to work well together.
Q: You stated at the final press conference in Bulgaria that when you took victory here in 2008 you did so with many risks and you weren’t prepared to do that this time. Do you still feel the same now that you are here?
SL: Not really. What I know is that it’s more important to go on Saturday with some points. On the other side, I’m sure there will be lots of drivers fighting, so I will have to push. I don’t know. For the moment, I will try and push and drive like I feel, then we see how it goes.
Q: We will see a new manufacturer enter into the 2011 season, as Mini has announced their participation this week. What do you think of the news?
SL: Sure, it’s good news. Today there are only two manufacturers and we need some more. This is one confirmed and that’s really good. I hope they will be working well to be at the level, it should be okay. It will be very interesting.
Q: Mikko, last year you took victory here in what was a great season for you and the team. This year hasn’t quite gone to plan though. What has changed and can the team get back on track?
MH: I am sure I have to blame myself a little bit as well. The year started well in Sweden, but I made mistakes myself in New Zealand, Turkey and Jordan; maybe I was trying too hard to win everything. It didn’t work out and part of this was my own fault. I struggled in Mexico and in Bulgaria. But we have been working really hard and the team has done a great job to get back.
Q: Mathematically both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships are still alive – realistically what is your evaluation?
MH: Well, the drivers’ title I don’t really feel anything about that any more. If we are really lucky, something can happen. I am more concentrating on my speed rally by rally. In the manufacturers’, we are still definitely aiming for that and me and Jari-Matti [Latvala] are both trying to win that back for Ford. Sure, it’s going to be a lot of work, but we’re still fighting for that.
Q: Ford has talked about ‘strengthening the ranks’ to compete with Citroën; how does this make you feel, and what can be done?
MH: Well, the best thing that could happen is more teams in rallying, with more places to think about it. With Mini coming in at mid-point next year, maybe it’s going in that direction and it would be exactly what happens.
Q: Mikko, what a week for you – you’re 30 on Saturday, does that mean more pressure?
MH: It’s my last chance to do it when I’m still young! One year more. They say you are only 30 once in life, hopefully I can record it with victory in Finland.
Q: Is there more pressure on you for this rally given that it is your home event?
MH: It’s not really pressure; I am just more excited to defend the win from last year. I am confident we should be able to fight for it and I will do all I can to defend it. I’m sure other people will try to take it away, but we will do all we can to keep it in Finland.
Q: Kimi, your pace on the tarmac of Bulgaria was impressive; accident aside were you pleased with your pace there?
KR: It should be a little more easy on tarmac, but then we end up upside down in the ditch. At least we can come back and we got a lot of kilometres. Speed-wise, it was pretty okay, apart from the accident.
Q: You never had the chance to compete in F1 at home but now you do in rally – what’s it like to come home and compete?
KR: Of course it’s nice to come and see the fans. And, of course, the organisation of this rally is very good and so is the driving. It’s no different from any other rallies, but things outside of the rally are definitely easier: we don’t have to travel so far. It’s great to be here, this is a great rally and the weather seems to be good at the moment
Q: You competed here last year but in an S2000 car – have you started from scratch with the notes for this time around in a WRC car?
KR: I know the roads a little bit, but most of them are okay and that helps a little. The roads are fast and it will be faster than S2000, we will try and drive our own rally. We have used the basic [notes] from last year and changed them, it was bit easier. I have driven most of the roads [before] and that definitely helps to know the road a little – hopefully that will make this event a little bit easier.
Q: Kimi, two Citroën drivers have confirmed for next season, is there any news from you?
KR: No, not yet. We have some decisions to make and I haven’t done that yet.
Q: Jari, you come to your home event after sealing two back to back victories in the S2000 World Rally Championship – I’m sure you would like a hat-trick but there is a strong field of drivers out there...
JK: For the last comment, it will be tough for sure. There is a lot of competition here: [Patrik] Sandell, [P-G] Andersson, [Juho] Hanninen, [Matti] Rantanen, you know from the first kilometre, you have to push. You have to try and I will push.
Q: It’s been a busy time for you with the birth of your child in the break between rallies?
JK: Yes, that’s right. Luckily, it was during a time when there was a break in the rallies. It has given me some time at home. It’s a great experience to come home to a family, luckily we had some time to spend at home.
Q: This is a two-day format this year, what do you think?
JK: It’s going to be easy for spectating, easy to go and see stages. The cars are coming twice, which makes it easier. We have more stages and more closing time, this will be more a sprint event than Rally Finland. The gap between the drivers will be extremely short, I will not be surprised if there is a close fight in each class on Saturday night.
Q: It’s a big year for the rally celebrating its 60th anniversary – I can imagine it’s very special for you to be competing in front of so many of your home crowd?
JK: It’s a great thing and always there is something extra – butterflies in the stomach. But I need to forget that, but on Rally Finland the stages are so nice. It’s the best thing. When you are a small kid watching the guys on the road, it’s one of the dreams I have come through.
Q: And what about the weather – this is the hottest day in Finland for 80 years…
JK: I think it will be cooler in the weekend. The weather is like this, we have to enjoy it now because we also have the winter.
Q: What about your chances in the Championship?
JK: There are still many rallies to go. I have to do my best on the rallies to see where we are. But, for now, it’s each stage as fast as we can.
Q: Patrik, Championship leader Armindo Araujo will not be here this weekend so this is the perfect opportunity for you to take the lead of PWRC...
PS: I think I have to try and go as fast as I can. It will be a close fight, especially with the local guys Juho Salo and [Jari] Ketomaki, but I have a chance, I have only done three rallies. I will try to do it.
Q: What do you think of your title hopes?
PS: I don’t know. I am thinking about the next rally in Germany – and that it could be a hard one for me, I didn’t do a lot of driving on asphalt and I don’t have so much experience. I tested in Russia and drove some in China, but I am not used to driving on tarmac, it can be tricky. Driving in Japan is a good one for me, if we can clinch this rally and hold him [Araujo] in Germany, it can be good.
Q: You mention the two Finnish wildcards, Juha Salo and Jukka Ketomaki, they will be tough to be beat here. Will your approach be to try for victory or just get as many points as you can without too much risk?
PS: I have to go up on the podium, but if I can win, it will be good. But it will be very hard and maybe I should be more clever. Maybe I should drive at my own speed and do nothing stupid. We will see what’s going on. This is my favourite rally and I have done it since 2005, so I have good confidence.
Q: You tested at the start of the week, how did that go?
PS: In the end, we were struggling a little bit. This is a new car for me, it’s a rental, we are out of cars [in the team]. In Germany we don’t know which car [we use]. This car wasn’t really ready, we were just driving a bit. It went well in the afternoon. I went off the road a little bit and damaged the rear of the car, but it wasn’t really a drama.
Q: What do you think of the new format?
PS: I don’t really know if it’s good. It’s a difference, but the kilometre is the same. We will see what it’s like.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:
Q: Question for Kimi: what do you think of team orders in F1?
KR: I’m not in Formula 1, so I don’t care what’s happening there.
Q: Kimi, what are your thoughts of the stage where you crashed last year?
KR: I hope I don’t go off in the same place! It’s a challenging stage, the longest stage of the rally. It’s different in areas, the rhythm changes a lot. We have very good notes and we try to do our best like in every stage in Finland.
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