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Sweden - Post-event press conference

13 February 2011

Drivers / co-drivers: Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT), Mads Ostberg and Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Stobart Ford WRT) and Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT).

Team principal: Malcolm Wilson (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT)



Press conference.


Q:
Mikko the first win of the season and win 13 overall for you makes you Ford's most successful driver, eclipsing Marcus Grönholm's 12 wins. Congratulations, how are you feeling?

Mikko Hirvonen:
Relieved! It's been a while since we managed to win a rally and last season was quite difficult. And even more now because we are starting the season with a completely new car. It feels really good to finally win a rally again.

Q:
Tell me about the event itself, especially today when Mads was putting a lot of pressure on you.

MH:
He was. He drove really well through the whole weekend. Like every day it has been a bit of a struggle with the road position and you never really know if you should be first car, second car, third car or whatever. Okay, we ended up being the first car for today and the only chance I had was just to go flat-out in the morning. Luckily I managed to take some time out of Mads because he wasn't far behind. I knew the afternoon would be very difficult as it was and we just managed to do it. But I have to say I was really nervous before the start of the last stage. I had enough time not to have to go absolutely flat-out, but only a small mistake and it could have all gone away. It was a big relief in the end that everything went okay.

Q:
The first competitive weekend for the Fiesta RS WRC looks to have been a great success, did it match your expectations?

MH:
It did yes. Not a single problem the whole weekend. It was a bit cold inside the car but otherwise not one problem at all. I didn't change the set-up at all and it just proved we did a really good job in the tests. Okay Sweden is a little bit of a special rally but the feeling we have here means we are going in the right direction so it's really good.

Q:
Jarmo, it has been a whole year since your last win. Did you ever think there would be one again after the problems you had last year?

Jarmo Lehtinen:
Yes all the time. I knew it was there but it was kind of a snowball what happened last year. Things started to go wrong and you lose your self confidence and you start to do mistakes pushing too much. It's difficult to change the direction through the season but it's a bit easier now to start with a new car. If we had the Focus still it would have been maybe a little bit more difficult, but with the new Fiesta it's like a clean table to start with.

Q:
Mikko said he was nervous before the last stage. Did you feel his nerves at all?

JL:
I didn't have time to feel his nerves because I was so nervous! When we left the midday service I knew the afternoon would be really tough for us, really, really hard. I don't remember when I've felt so nervous for a long, long time.

Q:
Mads, a fantastic result – your first WRC podium! You led all of day one and yesterday until Mikko took over – it was a close finish today! How are you feeling right now?

Mads Ostberg:
Well I'm just so happy to be here. It's been a very strange weekend for me. We came here to hope for a good result but it turned out to be the best weekend ever just fighting on the top the whole way through the rally. It's difficult to explain but the feeling is just really amazing.

Q:
You led the rally all day Friday. What did it feel like to be Mads Ostberg, the rally leader?

MO:
Well I didn't really understand it to be honest. I was just here to do my best. We had a very good starting position and we took advantage of that so obviously I was very happy. I knew it would be difficult on Saturday going out first on the road on the longest day of the rally. Okay it was not snowing but the second pass was really difficult so it was a good feeling on Friday and it was quite bad on Saturday.

Q:
You seemed quite frustrated yesterday, how did you manage to balance that without pushing too hard?

MO:
I don't know to be honest. We discussed it quite a lot inside the car but we just decided to follow what we came here for, and that was just to drive steady and try to follow the lines as much as possible and not push too much. Saturday was probably the best day we did. It was really, really difficult and I was getting a bit angry sometimes in the stages. I tried to push but I had the split times from the cars behind me and I was losing so much time. I was frustrated but I couldn't do anything. We kept it going and I didn't do any mistakes. I was happy to be on the road.

Q:
What was the atmosphere like in the car, especially yesterday when you were losing time?

Jonas Andersson:
It was kind of clam in a way. I've seen him [Mads] a bit more upset than that. We talked about it after the special stages but he did a really good job. We tried to follow the line. We knew we would lose time but we tried to make it as little as possible.

Q:
You've won many times in the Junior World Rally Championship. How does this result compare?

JA:
This will beat that all the time!

Q:
How does it feel to be the only Swede on the podium on your home event?

JA:
Of course, I'm really happy to be here. We had a really good weekend like you said. Like Mikko, we haven't changed anything with the set-up on the car. It's been brilliant all weekend and we've just enjoyed driving.

Q:
Jari-Matti, you take away third position overall – you have had some moments along the way but you made it to the podium!

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Honestly I have to say I need to be happy because I am here. I have never had so many big moments during the rally. We twice had a massive spin and I've been three-four times on the snow banks and I don't know how I managed to get it back on the road. But when you push the full throttle and you turn the wheels and point it to the road it [the car] comes back when you don't lose your faith basically. It's been too much up and down on this rally. Mornings were very difficult. The afternoons were great but I'm pleased with my position.

Q:
You lost time on the opening stage this morning, what happened?

J-ML:
I don't have an answer why it was like that. Okay maybe it was something that when the road was fresh and you don't have complete lines yet, maybe I was trying to go different lines than the others, and I wanted to push even harder and I thought I had like a feeling in many places that in this corner in the Focus I could go flat-out and if it did start to spin it would go straight. But with the Fiesta it doesn't work like that necessarily and that was a problem for me. I was thinking about how I would go in the Focus but this is a different car and maybe that was difficult for me because I had to drive in a different way with this car.

Q:
You picked up an extra point on the Power Stage – were you pushing for a win on that for more points?

J-ML:
Before the stage I saw the Citroën guys had brand new tyres on the front, but I had good tyres and I thought I want to do well but not take a big risk. I knew the last two stages had gone well and I wanted to keep going the same. Before the last left-hand corner over a bridge there was a long right-hand corner which should be flat at, but I didn't dare take it flat because there was too much to lose. Maybe I could have improved a little bit but it was good like this.

Q:
Jari-Matti said you were lucky to be here but how was the rally from your perspective?

Miikka Anttila:
It was a really, really colourful weekend. On Friday we were many times into the snow bank but I think Jari-Matti was very trusting in keeping the faith that the car would come back. Our starting position was not so good on Friday but if you want to make a good result on this rally you have to have the confidence and the commitment in those conditions. I have to say Mads was doing very good work yesterday. It was the longest day and he was the first car on the road but he found the commitment and the confidence.

Q:
Malcolm, the perfect start to the season, the perfect start for the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, you must be delighted!

Malcolm Wilson:
I have to day it is a dream because it's been a very, very difficult sort of last six months. We've never been in this situation before when we've had so much time to test and develop a car. Normally we've built a car, done a few days testing and gone straight to the rally. Of course that was a lot more pressure on the team and everybody involved in the programme. There was a lot of speculation about who would be the quickest and nobody really knew until we came to this event. Shakedown was a big relief, to think we were at least competitive. It was the first notch on the belt shall we say, and of course the performance on day one with Mads and the rest of the guys. Then it was a great job by them again today. To get the first three positions for the Fiesta is a dream but it's a great credit to all of Ford for giving us a great Fiesta, to all the people back at M-Sport and all these guys.

Q:
Mikko and Jarmo have said they were both quite nervous but what were the nerves like back at camp?

MW:
Honestly once we got into the rally we started to feel reasonable confidence. We knew we had the pace and we knew these guys could do the job. Today was nothing like what it has been for the last six months.

Q:
What have you thought of Mads' performance this weekend?

MW:
These are the two experts; Mikko and Jari and they've already commented on how well he's driven but it's been a big step for Mads. He's been really consistent and coped with a lot of pressure yesterday and then of course put a bit of pressure on Mikko today. I don't really thank him for that, but I have to say he's done a fantastic drive and he deserves to be where he is.

Q:
It's a great result Malcolm but now we move to Mexico where the results haven't been as good in the past. How will you prepare, and do you think you can get over what happened last year?

MW:
We hope so. We know where we struggled last year and of course it's a completely different car, completely different technical regulations. The biggest thing that affected us there in the past was altitude but let's say we are making some plans so hopefully we won't be in that situation again. You can't draw a lot from this rally but certainly on the high-speed stuff the car seems to be very, very good. We will go back and debrief. There are more improvements to be made and it's very quickly back to the drawing board to keep improving during the season.

Q:
Jari-Matti how much are you looking forward to the next round in Mexico?

J-ML:
I'm looking forward to Mexico and being back on a gravel surface. We had a difficult rally in Mexico last year because of the altitude, but generally we have a completely different philosophy with this car. We have six gears and the engine is working more with the revs, when it was working with the torque last year. I have a good feeling we will have a good car over there and I really want to go there and do well.

Q:
Mads, is this just a one-off or are we going to see Mads being a force to be reckoned with?

MO:
I definitely hope it won't be my last podium finish and hopefully not the last time I set some pressure on Mikko either. It's been good this weekend and I really enjoyed the Fiesta. It's possible to do some good results during the whole of the season but we are doing some rallies this year that we haven't done before. But we feel quite confident in ourselves, in the car and in our team so I hope we can fight for good positions on the next events as well. It's Mexico next and I can't hope for the same thing we have done here, but we go to Mexico to learn about the rally and more about the car on gravel and we will see on the next events after that when we come to more familiar ground when I hope it will be possible to do some good results again.

Q:
Mikko, first win of the year but we were in this position last year. Are you going to change your approach to this season and do anything differently than you did last year?

MH:
I don't know. I'm not really thinking what is going to be happening in Mexico. For some reason I always seem to be first on the road there and I know how difficult it is going to be. But like Jari-Matti said we still have a lot of testing to do and I'm really looking forward to going over there with the Fiesta. You never know how it's going to be but I hope we can get a good result. There are no thoughts or pressure, we're just going to try and do a good result again.



Question from the floor:


Q: Martin Holmes, Martin Holmes Rallying, UK.
Mikko, two rallies in a Fiesta and two wins. Can you tell us how the World Rally Car Fiesta compares to the Super 2000 Fiesta?

MH:
One has a turbo engine…! For me the biggest difference is the engine. There's a little bit more torque than in the S2000 car and more power as well. That's the biggest difference. The gearbox is a bit different but not that much. Things happen a little bit faster but otherwise the handling is the same.


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