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Mexico - Pre-event press conference
3 March 2011
Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team), Sebastien Ogier, (Citroen Total World Rally Team), Ken Block (Monster World Rally Team) and Dennis Kuipers (Ferm Power Tools World Rally Team).
Mikko, you arrive in Mexico leading the Drivers' Championship after taking victory in Sweden. Can you challenge for a win here despite being first on the road?
I don't really know. I always seem to end up being in that position here. I have 25 points so far and this is good. I am in a difficult position and I know it is going to be slippery. I have to try and cope with it. It is not out of the question to win, but it is going to be difficult. We are starting a new season again with a new car and we need to know how it is.
Do you feel that the dust issue will help you at all?
Yes, there should not be any dust for me in the morning but you never know on Saturday or Sunday. I might have the dust problem then.
You tested in Portugal before this event. How did that go in terms of the car and also the tyres, being that it is the first time we see the Michelin Latitude gravel tyre in competition?
It was okay. I hit a big rock on the shakedown today and all was okay.
Sebastien, Rally Mexico was your first event in the World Championship back in 2008 when you competed as part of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship. Does this event hold good memories for you?
Like you said, three years ago was my first time in the WRC and it was like a dream. I finished eighth overall and first Junior. Last year I was on the podium. It is nice to be here again and I hope to get another result because this is one of my favourite rallies. I like the stages. The lack of power is the same for everyone. It means I need to drive cleaner than normal.
You took fourth position away from Sweden and were the top-placed Citroen driver. Do you think we will see a stronger performance from the Citroen DS3s here?
Yes of course! I don't know. It was not the perfect start for our team in Sweden. For me, I scored 15 points in Sweden and I have a good start position for this rally. My time on the shakedown this morning was a good one. My feeling is very good. We have worked hard to prepare for the gravel stages. Like Mikko said, it is the first time for the new cars on gravel.
What are your thoughts on the introduction of the short stage after the ceremonial start?
It's not bad. Guanajuato is the best ceremonial start of the season. The atmosphere is fantastic and I think it will be the same this year. With the street stage in the city the atmosphere will be even warmer. Even if it is not a real rally stage at one kilometre, it is still important to make no mistakes and not touch anything.
Ken, let's take a look back at Rally Sweden where you finished 14th overall. You seemed frustrated at the event but you did walk away with manufacturer points and the coveted Colin's Crest award for the biggest jump – it wasn't all bad?!
I have to say it was the most frustrating event I have come to in two or three years. I knew the rally would be difficult but I did not know the handicap I had. I enjoyed it. I got the percentage of loss on each stage down to a semi-acceptable level. I hope to go back next year and do better. My times last year were okay in Mexico. I was doing okay until I met a bank a little too hard... I have made the adjustments I needed to make and will do a lot better this year hopefully.
Rally Mexico marked your first WRC event back in 2007, how far do you feel you have come since then in terms of performance?
Well for me the biggest thing I have been working on is the notes. It is the first event to which I am returning to a set of notes and I have been enjoying it a lot. The notes have changed a lot in the past year and poor Alex (Gelsomino) spent two nights fixing the notes. I am happy with how far I have come. Last year I was really nervous. I am happy to be here. It is a great event.
What are your thoughts on tonight's street stage in Guanajuato?
Well, I will not be pushing on tonight's stage. The organisers have done a great job. I hope the stage will be successful and there will be a longer stage next year. It is the best ceremonial start of the Championship.
Dennis, we see you this year as part of the FERM Power Tools World Rally Team in a Fiesta RS WRC contesting 11 events. You have a great opportunity – what's your plan for the year?
Indeed, this is a nice opportunity for the team to get a good name in the market place. For me, it is important to get experience in the WRC. Every rally is a new challenge for us. Last year I did nine rallies with the Super 2000. This is a different car with new rallies and this morning marked the first kilometres for me in a WRC car on gravel. It is going to be a big challenge.
This is the first time we see you compete in Mexico – what have you thought of the stages so far from the recce?
The second and third days are really difficult stages. Again it is new for us. I hope my notes are correct.
How much have you noticed the effect on the engine from the altitude?
Sweden was amazing, but here is totally different and you really feel the difference. On the shakedown it was okay. I would like to go for the best result and also get as much experience as possible.
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