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Japan - Post-event press conference

12 September 2010


Drivers / co-drivers: Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (Citroen Total WRT), Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson (PSWRT) and Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT)

Team manager: Sven Smeets (Citroen Total WRT)


Press conference.


Q:
Sebastien, congratulations on your second win of the 2010 season and on your first time competing in Japan. How do you feel?

Sebastien Ogier:
Very good. It's a perfect weekend for me. To take my second victory and first with the official team, it's a good feeling. It was difficult, especially today. When you have a fight against Petter, it's never easy.

Q:
How many risks did you take in that fight with Petter?

SO:
This morning we had to take big risks. It's stupid to go out and not score any points for the Championship, but as I said, when you want to beat Petter and Mikko [Hirvonen] - although he had a problem - you have to push very hard. I did it on the first one and then we took a little bit more seconds and then it was a little bit more comfortable.

Q:
Given that this was your first time here, were you surprised at your speed?

SO:
Maybe I am, but I am happy to be surprised. When I came I said it was not the kind of roads I prefer and I expected a difficult weekend. But we learn quite quickly and we started the rally with safely. On the second day we looked at the split times and today, now we had a good road position, so we pushed very hard. At the end it's a very good weekend.

Q:
Two wins this season, second in the Championship, it's been an incredible season for you hasn't it?

SO:
Until now it's almost perfect, almost better than I expected at the start of the season. It's good to have progressed, but we have to work on all surfaces, tarmac maybe. I hope we can be closer to Seb [Loeb] on tarmac, he's grand on tarmac. This is especially important on a new rally [France].

Q:
Julien, congratulations – how does the second win compare to the first?

Julien Ingrassia:
Win number one is special, we can't compare, but it's good to win here and take some points. This is the second victory and, as Seb said, we didn't aim for it. We wanted the podium, but the race was very enjoyable for us. Yes, the second victory.

Q:
What was it like to see so many people on the roads?

JI:
You see some amazing fans on the road. It's very different from the European lifestyle, it's new and the people were very proud to have Citroen flags around. We liked it quite a lot because it's so different.

Q:
Petter, an incredible fight this weekend, a battle which, for the majority, you led. Problems before the start and on the final day hampered your cause; when did you discover problems with the car?

Petter Solberg:
The fighting with illness was maybe the hardest part. It was very tough the day before shakedown and then at shakedown. I thought I would struggle to drive, but the Citroen doctor helped me and got some stuff for me which helped. It helped, but it was very, very difficult on the first day. After lunch yesterday, I could focus more, but Friday, after the long stages, I was absolutely finished. It was a good battle. I had really good fun and it's been quite difficult to drive on the stages. I've been first on the road, but I had no problem with that – I enjoyed it. I was thinking to lose a bit of time, but I was full of confidence to beat him [Ogier], but on the second stage after six or seven kilometres, I touched something and a joint on the TCA fell off. The wheel got completely free and loose. After that, I tried really hard to keep my position. I was sure the car would break down as there was nothing holding it. We are lucky to be here. I am a little bit disappointed not to fight to the finish and do it properly. Next time.

Q:
Were there concerns at any point that you may not make it to the finish?

PS:
It was so bad. Ask Chris. It was quite exciting, even on the road section. That's part of the game. I had some luck also. I appreciate second and got a little bit more points than Latvala, so we can have a fight for third [in the Championship].

Q:
There was no mid-day service today. If there had been, would that have made a difference?

PS:
That's what the rally is missing. We have to come back to service and take care of the fans. It's terrible, you should have the chance to do something to the car, it's a little bit too long to be away from service and the fans should have more of a show.

Q:
Next we head to France and a rally in Sebastien Loeb's backyard, then Spain where Loeb and Sordo have dominated. We saw your pace on asphalt in Germany, can you compete for wins there also?

PS:
The only thing I can say is that I'm feeling very confident and positive with every surface. I can be competitive on every surface. We've seen that on the last rallies. I'm very happy with everything. I hope Loeb doesn't know the rally so well. Then we can be there.

Q:
Chris, what was Petter alluding to with all the excitement in the car?

Chris Patterson:
It was just all a bit exciting. Well, we say exciting, but it was more of an anxious thing, we were anxious it would stop. We were so hungry for the win and then so hungry to get to the finish. We kept stopping and checking to make sure it would make it back, then stopping and doing a bit more work and a bit more work. We got to the super special and checked it all again, then we were worried we would drop more time. Jari-Matti was only 13 or 14 seconds behind. After the first one, we checked again and then it was okay when we got back to service – there was a big sigh of relief.

Q:
Another WRC podium, it may not be the top step but second position is a great result nonetheless.

CP:
We're disappointed not to win, but not disappointed with second place. To finish this rally is a big job, but we've been competitive from the start. We put a lot of effort in beforehand, this time it hasn't paid off but we'll never give up. In France we'll be there again and we won't give up again.

Q:
Jari-Matti, it's been a battle right to the end in Japan, it looked like a podium place was maybe out of reach after yesterday's driveshaft problem but you came through today to claim third.

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Honestly, after that problem came I got a little bit frustrated and did a mistake in the super special stage: I spun. I knew I should have calmed down and accepted the situation. I was trying too much and making things worse. After that, we dropped 10 more seconds with the spin. I thought I would be too far from the podium. I didn't think it was possible.

Q:
It was on the second running of Naekawa 2 [SS23] where you came through to take third position, was there a lot of risk to take that time?

J-ML:
Sometimes when all the things click, then it goes and you can take the risk. I had that feeling in the long stage. Then today I stalled the engine first time through and second time it went really well. I couldn't match the speed of Petter and Ogier in the short stages. I didn't even think about them. I knew I had no chance for that. I was happy to push in the long stage and overtake [Dani] Sordo. I was a little bit lucky when Mikko had a problem.

Q:
It's been a tough rally, though.

J-ML:
It's really quick in the forests. You get big ruts and on one of the stages you have the bank and you go up the bank at 45 degrees like on a motocross bike. It was incredible. For the privateers, it's a very demanding rally. For the World Rally Cars, it's hard. I like the character, it's nice, but the forest was a little too soft in some places – that's too hard for the cars.

Q:
France is next up; you said after Germany your confidence on tarmac had increased, how are you feeling about France?

J-ML:
Yes. I want to improve on asphalt, it's been difficult for me. Now Germany gives me more confidence, but I need to be realistic – I can't expect too much. The top five would be very good. Petter is quite close and he wants to catch me. I was thinking about catching Ogier, but now he's gone and won the rally and now it's not looking so good – so I maybe have to concentrate on beating Petter.

Q:
That battle will go to the end of the season…

Miikka Anttila:
Yes, of course. The tarmac rallies will be a challenge for us to beat Petter. GB is one of the favourite rallies of Jari-Matti and he can go well there - although Petter might have the same feeling that he could go well there too.

Q:
Would you like to see Japan back?

MA:
Yes for sure I would like to have the rally here. In the future, if I think of all rallies, the culture, it's not so special a place as this place is. It's such a big change from Europe. Also, if possible, I would like to see these people who are watching on the streets watching the cars in the stages. They should go to the forests that would be even nicer.

Q:
Sven, a Citroen victory with Sébastien Ogier in Japan on only his first time at this event. Has his performance surprised you this weekend or did you expect to see him fighting at the top end?

Sven Smeets:
Yes I think so. We talked before the rally, we were not thinking – especially on the first day – to have him up the front fighting, but he did it straight away and then we talked about going to the end to fight. He has been very impressive.

Q:
Sebastien Loeb finished in fifth position and it was highly unusual not to see him fighting at the top end this weekend, why was that?

SS:
We all know that this is not Sebastien [Loeb]'s favourite rally, like some other drivers. On Friday we lost too much time to fight for the lead. On Saturday he matched the pace of the others and made some time back, but then we said: 'Okay, let's secure some points' and this gives him the chance to do the job in France.

Q:
With the two Sébastiens at the pace they're at, it could be quite a year next year…

SS:
It could be. But this year proved we have these three guys here, plus Dani [Sordo] who did and incredible job, then take Mikko and Seb [Loeb] and we have six drivers as worthy as each other to fight for victory – it could be a nice Championship from the start.

PS:
I want to say for the Japanese journalists: it's important to promote this rally to get the manufacturers back in from Japan. We can see all the spectators, but we have to, at least, try hard to get more people in the sport – it's two manufacturers now, but we need some more.

J-ML:
I want to continue with that. I heard if this event comes back, it could go back to Obihiro, I hope it stays here – I think it's better to stay here.


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