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New Zealand - Pre-event press conference

6 May 2010

Press conference

Q:
Rally New Zealand returns to the city of Auckland, which means we can now utilise the roads to the north as well as the south. What do you think of the new route?


For sure, for us, they are like new stages, a few are the same but you know the rest are like new and the stages are really nice. The stages will be really different to drive.

Q:
This event has always delivered exciting rally action with the most memorable battle between you and Marcus Grönholm resulting in the smallest-ever winning margin. Why do you think this event consistently delivers exciting action?

SL:
It is difficult to say. It is difficult to make a big (time) difference on these roads – all the drivers like these roads and so everybody is going very fast. I will be happy if I can finish close in this rally from the lead, because it is gravel the first day and so maybe difficult.

Q:
At the start of the week you and the rest of the team took to the waters in Auckland harbour in an America's Cup boat where you performed all sorts of tasks and competed against Ford. What was the experience like?

SL:
It was good for Ford, but I hope Citroen will win the rally! It was my first experience on a sailing boat and it was interesting to see how everything was working and all the work you have to do on the boat to make it fast, so it was an interesting day.

Q:
Petter, you lie second in the Championship after four events. For a privateer team with a very small amount of people making it all happen, you are giving the manufacturer crews a real run for their money!

PS:
Well I can only do whatever I can. It's been working very well with some good fights. It's been good to go fast and match the stage times with the other guys. The car is working very well and all the things are going almost like planned really. Sébastien has a big points' lead and whether we can do something with that, we will see.

Q:
You tested at the start of the week, something the manufacturers are not allowed to do outside of Europe – how did it go and do you feel it gives you an advantage?

PS:
No. First of all I was talking to Sébastien (Loeb) about it. I don't have any other options, you know. If I had the chance I would rather test in Europe. It costs more to do the test, and to use the car you use for the rally is not a good idea. So, it's rather like a shakedown of the car because it was brand-new rebuilt and just to check and recheck everything. But I am sure all the other teams have done a proper job before the rally, you know, testing on a similar type of roads in Europe. You know I take my only choice but I am happy.

Q:
You will start from second on the road; from what you have seen from the recce with regard to the level of gravel do you think you will still be at a disadvantage?

PS:
This is a little bit different type of rally with the gravel. This is more sticky gravel. Maybe the top four or five cars; it is a disadvantage on all the cars but of course much more on Sébastien (Loeb). But driving will be very slippery…. But the second loop it will be difficult for Loeb and better for us. I think it will be the same guys who will be up there fighting again anyway. It's not nice to be first on the road, that's for sure.

Q:
Jari-Matti, you have said that the car feels like it is 'dancing on the road' here in New Zealand; can you explain what you mean by that?

J-ML:
Obviously here, you have big camber on the road so many times you have places where you go left and then over the road to the right. You go over the camber basically. The car might go a little bit in the air from the left to the right. It's a bit of a feeling like dancing but because it's turning all the time. It's a little bit like Rally Finland on the surface but it's turning all the time. Finland is much, much faster and flat roads. Here it's just like it's turning all the time and that's why I say the car is moving all the time, a bit like dancing.

Q:
This year has seen you deliver a more consistent performance than in 2009; are you happy with the way the season is going so far?

J-ML:
It's been good but we got the little minus in Turkey. But least we got some points from there for the team and even a couple of points for myself. But generally, yes, it's been a good start of the season. We need to just concentrate to carry on and try to get those things that happened in Turkey out of the way. I need to just keep concentrating on my own driving and see how the times will be against these guys. Obviously Marcus Grönholm would say that I want to concentrate on my own driving...

Q:
What will be the approach from you this weekend? You have a good road position on the opening day…

J-ML:
I need to just keep continuing with my own driving and see how the times will be against these guys. And see if we get the benefit (from the road position). But, well, I don't want to start pushing too hard. I just want to keep concentrating on my own driving and see how the times come.

Q:
This event marks the 25th World Championship start for you and Julien (Ingrassia). New Zealand was a late addition to your rallying programme and you have never competed here before. What are your thoughts so far?

SO:
I'm very happy to be here; it was not my plan to come here with Citroen, so it's like a bonus for me. It is a rally I wanted to do in the future so it is important for me to learn the rally here and as the other drivers say there are some fantastic roads. So I think it is going to be a privilege to drive here this weekend.

Q:
You have had a strong start to the season with many impressive performances, how do you evaluate your season so far?

SO:
For the moment I am happy with the start to the season and I think we did a good job with no mistakes at all and some good results. I think my score in the Championship could be better actually, but, okay, it doesn't really matter for me so much – the most important thing is to get the experience to finish with maximum points on the rally. Now I am closer and closer to my rivals.

Q:
Strategically, you have helped Citroën, sometimes spoiling your own chances of getting on the podium. How frustrating is that to lose out after working so hard during an event?

SO:
For sure. At that moment it was a very big deal, as for certain I was very close to fighting for my first victory or maybe fighting for a podium. It was very special to us at that moment, but after a few days I understand that it was important for me to respect Citroen as a team and it is quite normal to help the team, so maybe it is part of learning.

Q:
Sébastien, talking about the 2011 Championship calendar, what do you think of the inclusion of the rallies next year?

SL:
To be honest I didn't check – and I don't know what rallies we do next year so I can't tell you.

J-ML:
Well, it looks good. Good rallies. I was maybe hoping for a second winter rally as well. It would be good to have two winter rallies.


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