Britain - Post-event press conference
25 October 2009
Driver / co-driver: Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroën Total WRT), Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen (BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT) and Dani Sordo and Marc Marti (Citroën Total WRT).
Team principal: Olivier Quesnel (Citroën Total WRT).
Sébastien, congratulations on your sixth FIA World Rally Championship title and your 54th rally win. It's been an incredible weekend hasn't it?
For sure I am really, really happy with this title. For sure it was the most difficult for me to get. This season we had some high and some low points - we started with five victories and everybody was thinking we would win the Championship and then we had a period where it was much more difficult. We had some troubles and made some mistakes and Mikko won a lot of rallies and took a lot of points. Finally we arrived here at the last rally and Mikko chased us. I was really happy after Catalunya when Dani (Sordo) helped me a lot to come back on form. I was really happy to have this chance again to fight for the title. It was really difficult rally. The conditions were extreme and Mikko was fast. We knew we would have to try really hard to take some risks and make no mistakes, and that's what we have done. It was a great rally and Mikko was pushing all the time. He has done a great rally. Finally, even today when I started with a 30 second lead I knew everybody thought that I was going to win, but in the car it is not the same story and you have to manage that, and keep in mind that you have to push because Mikko will try anything and I did a little mistake in the second stage and lost a bit of confidence in some silly places and then I was too slow and too cautious and lost a lot of time. From there we had to start very hard, but then Mikko had his problem and it was over. But it was a really exciting weekend with a lot of pressure and stress. To win this title in this situation is an incredible feeling.
Has this been the toughest title fight of your career?
Yes, for sure. It is the first time I have arrived at a rally knowing that I have to win to get the title so it's a lot of pressure and a different situation. When you have won the title three rallies before the end it's no big pressure, because you know, OK, if I finish third I will still be Champion and that's OK, but when you arrive like that on the last rally and you know that everything will be decided here it makes it a bit special.
Let's talk about those stages yesterday Seb. You were spectacular on stages eight and nine. What was it about them?
I was really angry after Mikko beat me on the first stage, that's the first thing. So I understood at this point that if I didn't react now, then he would beat me again and so I started flat out and it was a good rhythm and I realised how good the grip was which gave me the confidence. I have always been better on the second loop and because there is more grip and I can brake late like on tarmac. Our car was very good in that situation. It's much more difficult for me when it is really slippery. For sure when I saw in the splits that I was taking a lot of time out of Mikko I knew I would have to continue until the end, not to slow down and to take as many seconds as I can. I tried to do everything and really it was an incredible job.
Seb there is a break now of three months until the start of the new season. What will you do?
Have some holiday, that's the first thing, and just have some good times and start the testing for next year like every time in the winter.
Daniel, congratulations and as Seb said, it is a special win. It has been a great atmosphere at the rally this weekend but a lot of pressure on your shoulders. What has it felt like knowing you needed to be in front?
Yes for sure, when I arrived I knew what we had to do: we had to push and fight for three days and take maximum risks. It's very unfriendly on the car too because you are pushing it so hard. It was not easy conditions with the rain and mud but, OK, I'm happy!
Mikko, what a day. You gave it everything but it wasn't enough. How are you feeling at the end?
For sure I am disappointed. We got all the way here and at the start of the rally it was all fair and we had the same chance as Sébastien but we just couldn't do it in the end. It's been a great season anyway; very consistent all the way through and I haven't made any mistakes, except those few stages yesterday I think that's where I lost it. Maybe in the end I wasn't having the same rhythm and attack through the rally. The first splits I had yesterday I just couldn't believe how much time I was losing and you start to think that maybe there is something wrong with the car. I couldn't believe I was losing so much with my driving. I thought there was something but the boys checked the car and it was fine. It must be that those few stages just weren't for me, and that's where I lost the fight.
It has been a great season for you, but after Argentina you thought that was it. You thought the Driver's title was over. It was an incredible turnaround.
Yeah, it was. I never thought it would go right to the end and OK, at the start of the season I thought we were experienced enough to fight for it, but it didn't start well. Sébastien was winning all the rallies and then after Argentina I gave up. But then things went wrong for him and he made small mistakes and had problems so it gave us a chance to come back for the fight. So that was good and for sure it was a really exciting end for the season. But once again he was just a bit faster and took his sixth title.
The fight-back began on the second stage today but on the penultimate stage what happened with that bonnet because on the first few splits you were up on Sébastien – what happened?
We were just a bit unlucky with that, but I don't know even with that if I could have caught him. Just after the jump the bonnet pin came off and it's so fast here that when the pin comes loose the air comes right underneath the bonnet and lifts it up a bit. Eventually on one really fast downhill straight the bonnet hinges broke, even though it was still attached by the other pin it blocked my view completely. I couldn't see anything so I had to stop and take it off so I could continue. That was definitely the final thing but like I said, we were still far behind and I'm not sure I could have done it anyway.
It has been an incredible year, the battle has been intense. Seb obviously won the first five events this year – you can't let him do that again next year if you want to get away with the Championship!
Well he won five rallies this year, yes, but I was still leading before the last rally! But for sure it wasn't the best start for me. We weren't far away on those five rallies but I knew all the time we had to have perfect rallies if we were going to beat him but there was always something which I wasn't happy about and in the end we won four rallies in a row. It needs to be different next year if I am to fight like this year.
Jarmo, it's hard to be positive when you haven't quite got there, but it has been a good year for you and you were the only ones really to put pressure on Sébastien and Daniel.
Yes that's what I told Mikko. I am disappointed at the moment but for the whole season it has been the best season so far that we have ever had. We were on the pace everywhere else except on tarmac all year even though they won more rallies. Mikko was the only one all season who made no mistakes. We were always on a good pace and even though we didn't win we have to think positive and come back stronger next year.
Third in the rally and third in the Championship Dani; a great rally and a great year for you.
It has been a very nice weekend although very bad conditions. It's been a difficult rally and I try to go faster and faster but the level of Sébastien and Mikko was really high and it was hard to catch them, but the battle with Petter (Solberg) was nice over three days.
A tough rally to kick off the season next year, Sweden, with snow. How much are you looking forward to that?
Slippery. Now I like it more!
Your improvement on gravel has been impressive; can we see you compete for the Championship title next year?
We try to go faster and faster for sure. Yes the first rally will be in the snow in Sweden and I will prepare very well for that and after that I will continue to try and push in other rallies and try and win one or two. Maybe after my first win more will follow.
Marc, congratulations on what is your seventh podium this year. Looking back at your season, what has been the highlight for you?
I think it has been the increased confidence (for Dani). It's very important for a young driver when things happen very fast to be confident with the car and himself. Confidence gives you the ability to win.
Olivier, the Manufacturer and now the Drivers' Championship after what has been an incredible battle – great for Citroën but also great for the sport.
Well yes, because for Citroën we have won both Championships. This time it was really hard because after Greece we had some problems with the team and so we had to come back and in Spain get first and second, and Seb and Dani did it. We knew that Mikko would be going really fast but Seb needed to win the rally, which he did. He was amazing on the eighth and ninth stage. How he did it I don't know, but it was really amazing. So we are very pleased and I am very proud of the whole team. For Citroën it is really a great day.
Question from the floor.
Q: Gareth Rhys Owen (BBC Wales).
The announcement came this morning that the rally will come back to Wales next year. What is your reaction Sébastien?
If I win again then I am very happy! For me it has always been a good rally here, with good stages. I am always happy to come here. For me it is perfect.