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Spain – Pre-event press conference

1 October 2009

Drivers: Mikko Hirvonen (BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team), Petter Solberg (Petter Solberg MSN), Sebastien Loeb (Citroen Total World Rally Team) and Dani Sordo (Citroen Total World Rally Team)


Q:
Mikko, you come to Spain in the lead of the Championship by five points. Citroën has dominated this event for the past five years – what is the realistic hope for you and Ford this weekend?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I'm glad I'm in a position to fight until the end. With two rallies to go, it's nothing. Anything can happen. I'll try for second and we'll see. I haven't been strong enough previously and Friday here has been a difficult day for me [in the past].

Q:
How much preparation has gone into this weekend in terms of tarmac training?

MH:
It's been the same as in previous years. We did our normal test and some training with a guy in the UK. It was just for one day, it gives me the chance to get my head into tarmac, just getting my thoughts again to driving on tarmac – we'll see on Friday if it's been beneficial.

Q:
Team Principal Malcolm Wilson calls you the 'Ice Man' because you are cool under pressure – do you agree and do you feel the pressure mounting?

MH:
It's really… I don't know. That's the first time I have heard of that. I'm from Finland, it's pretty cold with snow and ice… I don't feel the pressure. Anything can happen. It's been really good all year. I don't know how I do it, but the position doesn't bother me at all.

Q:
On Ford's press release there's a quote saying you feel you have proved things to yourself this year. What did you mean?

MH:
I have had a lot of experiences through this year. I have showed to myself that I can be fast enough. That's it.

Q:
Petter, was it tough to miss out on competing in Australia?

Petter Solberg:
Definitely. It's not good fun to stay at home and see the guys enjoying great roads. But that's part of the game. We have to look forward and look towards next year. I was working while I was at home, I was planning these two rallies [Catalunya and GB] and it takes a lot of work.

Q:
This will be the first time you get to drive the C4 competitively – what is your aim position-wise?

PS:
The car is great. I have tested it for two days. Many years ago, I sat in a car like that. It takes time to get the rhythm. I haven't driven a tarmac rally since Corsica last year – it's coming. I hope to improve my speed through the weekend and then we will see what happens on Sunday.

Q:
You will be nominated for Manufacturer points with the Citroën Junior Team at Rally GB – do you believe you have the car now to go out and win that event?

PS:
Well, I tried the car on gravel also and I came in after 15km; I could go flat-out and it was really good fun. Compared to the Xsara, it's a big difference. I hope to fight at the top.

Q:
I'm sure Mikko will be watching…

PS:
I'm sure it'll be really good fun. I'll be there, definitely.

Q:
Where do you think you can get to on this rally?

PS:
I don't know. It's hard. You need to find the grip. That's why I did so many runs at shakedown, I should have done more testing and more karting, but I didn't have the time. I hope to fight in the top three or four, maybe. I need time to warm up and we will see.

Q:
Sébastien, you were fastest on the stages in Australia but a technical infringement incurred a penalty and lost you valuable points. You now trail the lead by five points; what are your thoughts on the Championship now?

Sebastien Loeb:
For sure, I feel disappointed about what happened. It's like that, I have to accept it. For sure, this was not [good] for me, it's a regulation and we have to follow it. Before this rally, I didn't want to be in the situation I am now. We have done the one-two with Dani [Sordo] for three years here and so it's possible to do it. If this is the case, everything is possible on the last rally. All we can do is fight for the victory and that's what we will do.

Q:
Even if you win the next two events it will still depend on what Mikko achieves, in effect it's out of your hands. Is that frustrating?

SL:
Yes, but it's something I can't change. I try to forget about that and do my rally. For the rest, we can't do anything else.

Q:
It is the ten year anniversary of your WRC debut, which was here in Catalunya in 1999. You have won this event for the past four years – is it a favourite and what is the secret of success here?

SL:
This is one of my favourites. It is special compared with other tarmac rallies, because it's more like circuit racing. You need good lines. It's very difficult and it's what I like. You have the surface changing; it's a specific rally and I like driving here.

Q:
What's the secret? Maybe you don't want to share this with Mikko?

MH:
Please share it…

SL:
The problem is that I don't know. I feel well on this kind of surface, but…

Q:
Dani, this could be a big weekend for the Citroën team if you and Sébastien achieve a one-two - the Manufacturers Championship will be sealed and for the Drivers' Championship Sébastien needs you to finish second. Are you feeling a lot of pressure to perform?

Dani Sordo:
A little more pressure, but more because this is Spain and I have a lot of support. We need to drive well for the spectators and the team. I want to help Sébastien [Loeb].

Q:
You have always seemed incredibly confident on tarmac and especially here in Spain, is your confidence high for this weekend?

DS:
I feel confident. The car after the test was very good. We will see. The testing is not the same as the rally, we'll see tomorrow.

Q:
You made your WRC debut in 2003 at Rally Catalunya; are you pleased with the way your career has progressed over the past six years?

DS:
It's progressed a lot. I have come a long way. I will work more and try more and we try to go faster on every surface.


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