New Zealand - Post-event press conference
9 May 2010
Drivers / co-drivers: Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT), Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (Citroen Junior Team) and Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroen Total WRT).
Team principal: Malcolm Wilson (BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT).
Jari-Matti, after what has been a thrilling Rally New Zealand it is you that takes victory after what has been the third closest event in WRC history; it's been an awesome weekend!
It's been a very interesting weekend. For me it's been, I would say, a little bit of a strange rally, because I have not won a single stage in this rally but in the end I'm the winner. So it seems that the consistency matters. So I was a little bit lucky that these guys beside me made mistakes. But anyway you need to finish the last stage and our time comes, so in a way a great weekend.
How did you feel going into that final stage – because it was such a battle for the finish between so many drivers, how did you balance wanting to push and wanting to hold the points that you already had?
When I started this morning I though okay the main thing is to keep the third place. But things obviously changed and going in to the last stage I just thought that if I drive fast it's good, as I have been driving so far – if I don't start doing a massive push, because I know what happens then when Mr Latvala starts to push too hard! It's happened so many times, but it worked this time and I am very happy about it.
Obviously Sebastien Ogier had his problems on the final stage in the final section, so I guess you had no idea what was going on until you crossed the finish line?
I got some splits and we were five seconds ahead of him and then suddenly we were two seconds ahead of him and I noticed he was going very quick. At that moment I tried to push a bit harder, but then I made a mistake, went too much wide and hit a bank and nearly went off the road. Then I started to realise it's maybe lost, then the third last corner there was a bumper on the road and then I realised something has happened. I came to the finish and I didn't know exactly how the times were. I walked to the board, I had the time that Miikka had taken with his stopwatch and I looked at the times of these guys and I was surprised our time looked quite good. When Miikka got the time on the time card we really knew that we had won the rally.
A win in 2008, a win in 2009, a win in 2010 – how does this rank against the others?
It would be nice to win more rallies during the year than just one that I have done so far. This is the best victory - because we did 400 kilometres of competition and at the end it was only two seconds. Obviously for me I wasn't maybe the fastest, like I said, but at least now I have the consistency and that is why I was very happy about it.
Miikka, Jari-Matti says he thinks this is the best victory – do you think that as well?
At the moment it really feels an incredible thing to win this rally. Let's say that the first rally win was also nice, but for sure it was very, very nice to win it, but still if we think another way it was so close, I mean 2.4 seconds we were ahead of Sebastien (Ogier) and Julien. So it's such a small time it could have been the other way round as well – so this time we were the lucky ones.
Does this mask what happened in 2008 now – does this make you forget about Rally New Zealand 2008?
Actually in the morning we spoke with our team co-ordinator, and I said to him many things in Whaanga Coast could happen. But then someone said to me that unfortunately Ford was never the winner of those. But this time we made it back.
Sebastien, I think everyone in this room and around the world feels for you right now. It all disappeared from you on the final stage. You were on the brink of your first WRC victory – it's been an incredible performance from you this weekend. What happened on stage 21?
It just happened, one last mistake before the end – for sure it was a big shame to make this mistake at this moment of the race, but it's the race – it's never finished until the finish line. So I'm still very happy with my weekend, I think I did a good job with Julien this weekend. And first I want to thank all the team because it wasn't planned for us to come here at the start of the season. But finally Citroen find the budget to come here and it's a good result for everybody and for me it was a pleasure to drive here this weekend. For sure it was a big disappointment to lose my first victory like this, but it doesn't really matter if I continue in this way I will have a victory soon, so it's a good result.
It didn't look like your first time competing here in New Zealand, it looked like you had years of experience on those stages, why do you think you adapted so well?
I don't know, it is difficult to explain that. From the second stage I find a good rhythm and I was very confident with my car and have a good feeling. I think with Julien we make a good job during the recce because we have very good pace notes. Until yesterday night I had no moments and pushed quite hard, but today I pushed quite hard and made two mistakes. But today I think I pushed like never, it was a big attack from the first stage this morning until the end. Unfortunately I had no split time from Jari-Matti in the last one, so I pushed a little bit too much at the end and I lost the victory.
The confidence you must have got from this result... surely a win is on the cards at some stage this year?
Yes, that is most important for me. I am closer and closer to the best driver this weekend. I was faster just after Seb (Loeb). Seb was the best, but for me it was good news to be closer and closer to him and I was faster than everybody else except for him. So it was good news for me, but it's still a long way to go to be fast and clean so we have to continue to learn rally after rally. But I think I'm confident for the rest of the season.
Julien, congratulations on second position, what was it like pressure-wise in the car this weekend.
We didn't feel like that except for we knew we had some hard work to maintain the gap. I would say we took it easy, we tried to do our best and we are pretty happy with the times we did in the stages where we have to clean. We knew that the rally would be long and the final issue would be on Whaanga Coast – the 21 kilometre stage. So it's a very good experience for us to take the lead like that in such a rally.
Seb, an incredible event, lots of action, lots of drama though. We saw drama from you on Friday, and yesterday at the start of the day you were 1 minute 20 seconds down on the lead and at the end of the day just five seconds off the lead. More dramas today though, what happened?
I don't know, it was a strange rally for me. When you are first on the road, like the first day, there is lots of gravel on the road and it's very slippery. So I had to really push very hard to not lose too much time and one time it was a bit too hard and so we lost a lot. A lot of people thought it was over, we knew that we would have a good road position the second day. We knew that sometimes it happens in some rallies that when we are first on the road we can be faster one day than the other, so okay we tried for sure. I had a great second day – no mistakes and pushing on the limit all the time. Very good feeling with the car – everything was going perfectly and we finished only five seconds from the lead; that was a perfect situation for the last day but on the last day I went off again two times. One time off the road, one time a spin – maybe trying a bit too hard?
It must be disappointing for you, because everyone was saying you really deserved to win the rally after the performance you put in yesterday – to now finish in third, how do you feel?
I was very fast for sure – maybe the fastest of the rally, but Jari-Matti is now an example of consistency. So I made a mistake in the morning; that was the big mistake of the day. A bit too fast – a bit surprised with a lot of grip changing, gravel, no-gravel, gravel and I just lost the car in a narrow right-hander, hit a tree and was stuck there for 30 seconds. Then in the two last stages I went flat-out – taking a lot of risks, just trying. Then I had a spin. Finally I am happy to finish third. I didn't lose so many points in the Championship – it's no so bad. After a rally like this one – it's not so bad!
Daniel, what was it like in the car with Sebastien yesterday, when those stage times were so amazing –everybody was astonished by the times that were being set.
For me it's more impressive when Sebastien was driving first on the road (Friday). Yesterday was more easy for us because the road cleaning with Ogier. Okay he was pushing very hard – but for me it's more impressive on the first day. But it's impossible to take more time off Sebastien than just lose two seconds, one second and that is more impressive, because of big slides and pushing very hard. Yesterday it was normal driving – okay flat-out. Yesterday it was a perfect day for us, but today – no.
Malcolm, it's a win for Jari-Matti, but Ford also becomes the most successful manufacturer in rallying history with this win, going ahead of Lancia.
It's been a fantastic weekend, especially for Jari-Matti – as he says, no fastest times, which was out of character, as we know with Jari-Matti. But he's had a great start this season, so to get this victory... the timing is crucial. It's really important to us. As you could imagine, that, coupled with breaking the record number of World Championship victories - now 75, it's a really special moment. Of course with first, second and third in the Super 2000 WRC as well, with the Fiesta.
Mikko Hirvonen has taken fourth position away and good points, but we haven't seen the usual pace from Mikko – he hasn't been fighting up the top end. He had fastest stage times today – what has been wrong with Mikko this weekend?
I don't know, he's never been 100 per cent happy with his set-up for this event. When he was in a good position to challenge yesterday he got caught out, obviously got wide and spun so lost quite a bit of time, so probably lost a bit of confidence there with that. But knowing Mikko like I do there is no question he will come back, for sure.
Just talking about Jari-Matti a bit more; last year we saw inconsistency and crashes. This year it has been about consistency and now a win on the board. What on earth did you say to him at the start of the year?
It was before the end of last year! And then we followed it up with a chat at the start of this year as well...
His performance here has been something special?
I think the good thing is he is now appreciating the benefits of putting the consistency in it. There has been no better case for him to look – he can see you can actually win a world rally without setting a fastest time. So I know there is going to be many more victories in the future, that is for sure.
Jari-Matti, finally, you have a win under your belt in 2010. You still have to be consistent for the team, but obviously you are going to want to get more wins under that belt. Are we going to see the Jari-Matti of old creep back in?
If you think about when we started this season, as the second driver, our strategy, as Malcolm made it, it's been working very well. So I think there is no point in changing that and we keep going as we have agreed. Maybe Mikko isn't having the best weekend, he didn't find the best confidence and he will be back for sure. If there is maybe another possibility like this, in the next coming rallies – where we are in a close fight and there is a possibility of victory - then of course I would like to win again, for sure. But like Malcolm said, the consistency is very important and without it you can't win the rally. Winning the next rally won't maybe happen like this, being consistent, you also need to also have the speed – so we have work to do. We need to work – this car has been so quick during the weekend but you need to have your speed level and the consistency that on the level that if you are not far away from these guys then you need to find a little bit more extra on top of that and then you can win again.