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Jordan - Pre-event press conference
14 April 2011
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen Total WRT), Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT), Petter Solberg (Petter Solberg WRT) and Khalid Al Qassimi (Team Abu Dhabi).
There has been a massive collective effort by the whole WRC community to ensure Jordan Rally gets underway. You must be pleased the action is about to start.
For sure. The only change for us was to do the recce with a 4x4 car. We had an automatic gearbox and you cannot get the feeling like usual in a recce car. It means more concentration. For the rest we are here.
You will start second on the road here. First on the road will sweep but do you think there is enough loose gravel that you will also be at a disadvantage?
Like a lot of gravel rallies it is not an advantage. We are not first, we are second but still it is cleaning more and more after the cars. Now the first day will be long. It seems this year with the car and the new tyres, it is not such a big disadvantage.
We have lost 70 competitive kilometres, does that change your strategy for the weekend?
No. In my situation a strategy is difficult to do because I am second and am only behind Mikko (Hirvonen). Maybe it will not change anything. I know I have to push from the start and try and go as fast as possible.
With the delays has it been an uncertain week for you guys?
It has been strange in that we didn't really know what was going to happen. We will see. As a driver I didn't want to bother too much. I just wanted to concentrate on the notes and see what happened. The biggest difference for us has been that all the drivers have been using 4x4 cars for the recce. When you do that you need to concentrate more on saving tyres and not just concentrating on making the notes. I was glad when I got to the shakedown and I was behind the steering wheel and in action.
How was the shakedown?
I did three runs at shakedown. It was quite quick. Michelin have done a really good work with the tyres. We will have very strong tyres for the rally.
You took second position away from this event last year – can you take a win this time around?
I would like to win for sure. It has been a long time. But you need to get every single detail right to take a win. Last year I was leading until the mid-point but then Sébastien Loeb was so much quicker in the Jordan River stage and I could not respond to that. If I am in top three I am happy with that.
You were the victim of a series of punctures in Portugal that dashed your hopes of securing a top spot. Michelin introduces a new gravel tyre here, what can we hope to see from that?
It's quite tough to have a chance to do anything and there is a difference in the tyres. We have to do the best we can. I had heard more about the tyre now and we should be ready to start the fight. The new tyre seems to be very good. I had a good fun rally in Portugal. I had to go flat out. I enjoyed it.
This will be your fourth event now in the Citroen DS3 – how are you finding it?
The car has been looking very good. I am very pleased with it. I enjoy it a lot. We haven't seen the proper results yet. That is the part of the game that matters. There is a long way to go. Just let's start and we will see.
Khalid, Jordan is currently the only Middle Eastern event on the Championship calendar. How important is it for you that the WRC is represented in the region?
Khalid Al Qassimi:
It's quite special. All the character of the stages here does not represent the character of the other stages in the Middle East. Previous years, when I started the regional championship between 2002 and 2005, there were a lot of desert stages here. Then we had a lot of sandy stages. Over here it is quite narrow and you need to be confident and balance the risk. Jordan has its own character and so have other countries in the region.
We will see the new Michelin tyre this weekend. What are your first thoughts?
The first drive was on the shakedown and it did not feel much different to the one we used in Portugal. On bad corners with very big rocks I thought we would damage the tyres, but it seems the tyres can take more punishment compared to last time in Portugal.
What have you been doing during the time waiting around?
Nothing special, just relaxing. Everyone has been working hard to get it all on the right track. This is part of the fun of rallying.
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