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Greece - Post-event press conference

19 June 2011

Drivers / co-drivers: Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (Citroen Total WRT). Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroen Total WRT) and Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT).

Team principal: Olivier Quesnel (Citroen Total WRT).



Press conference.


Q:
Sebastien, congratulations on taking the fifth win of your career! It was during this afternoon where you managed to pull out a lead over team-mate Sebastien Loeb. It's been a tough fight though!

Sebastien Ogier:
It's a victory and we had three extra points on the Power Stage. The start was not easy. On Friday I had difficulty to find the rhythm and I was sick as well – I did not drink enough. On the second loop, it was starting to be better and we pushed hard to come back to the lead. We have done some strategy, but it is part of the regulations, but this helped me.

Q:
A lot has been said about the strategy, how do you feel about that?

SO:
That's how it is. The regulation is like this, it is close between everybody and we have to use everything. It's not very good for the sport, but it's like that. It's normal; everybody in my situation would do the same. Next year, with the new regulations, will be better.

Q:
You maybe didn't take as much time as we expected with your road position this morning, but this afternoon was a different story. Were you taking more risks this afternoon?

SO:
The main difference was my driving. This morning I pushed, but not to the maximum, not like Seb [Loeb]. And maybe the cleaning was less. This afternoon, we had to really push hard to catch him. I think he was more disadvantaged with the position – the cleaning was worse this afternoon. We also pushed hard on the Power Stage for the extra points. It's nice to come back from the disappointment in Argentina, I can't forget it though; we could have been in a better position.

Q:
This result puts you just five points short of second position in the Championship, it's a real boost to your challenge for the title.

SO:
It's looking, not good, but not so bad. It's better than before we started. We are 22 behind Seb. Yes, we are closer to Mikko [Hirvonen], but Mikko is not the target. We will continue to put the pressure on them.

Q:
With the tactics being played on both evenings was it stressful dealing with the final spilt and target times?

Julien Ingrassia:
It's never easy to react in the last moments. We got the times to do, not before the stage, everything can happen in the stage. Even if we get tactics, it gave us a good rally. Everything was still possible this morning, everything played on the two last stages. Petter Solberg was one minute ahead on day one and everybody says: “Okay it's done for him.” But then it wasn't. I think we had four rallies in one. I don't know what you think, but it was exciting inside the car. I hope for you.

Q:
We have seen you make mistakes on the final day of the rally twice this year when under pressure. Was that in the back of you mind? Were there any moments out there today?

JI:
No, no. You leave that behind you. You try to do your best. It reminds you that everything is not finished until the last check-in and to be careful until the end, but that's normal – we don't speak about it for sure.

Q:
Seb, congratulations on second position and gaining your 100th WRC podium, you have had a tough battle this weekend. How are you feeling at the end of it?

Sebastien Loeb:
It was a really tough battle. I prefer to win, but this is not always possible. It was a difficult weekend for me. We cleaned the road for two days: on the first and third days and for sure this was a disadvantage. I tried really hard, but finally it was not possible.

Q:
You were first on the road today, leading the rally by 2.2 seconds. You lost hardly any time on the first loop when sweeping, but lost the bulk of the time on the second run. Was it much rougher second time through?

SL:
It's not a question to be much rougher. The first loop had a lot of gravel, so for sure I clean the line, and everybody [after me] slides less and less. The second pass you have a clean line, nearly a clean line but with a little bit of dust from the last cars not using the same line [as us]. Then you have to make a new line and one car is enough to do this. This afternoon I was on the limit – that's life. I am happy here; at the start I said this is the Acropolis and I want be here at the finish. The tyres were good and the car was good and we have good points.

Q:
Finland is coming up now. What's the plan for that event?

SL:
I really don't know. I didn't think to it. We will see how we can approach this rally. I will have to push, though. The gap [in the Championship] is important and every point we can score is very important. We have to do what we can there.

Q:
You were vexed by the tactics played by your team-mate during the weekend. We have seen tactics being played many times, why was this time particularly frustrating?

SL:
It was, yesterday evening. I knew it would be some tactics and I knew it would be no issue for me. Finally, there were no split times in the last stage [from Ogier]. With no splits, the team give him [Ogier] the target time. So I asked: “Why do you give him the benefit and not me?” They knew he wouldn't get his five seconds – he wanted 20 to stay ahead. At that moment, I was frustrated. I didn't want to clean the road just in front of him. When you see the team playing tactics nearly against me... ...It's what we agreed before [though]. If I had been in that position, it would have been the same for me. We know it's the rule. For me, it's no team orders; each driver plays his tactics when he wants. If you lead the Championship you cannot do it, but if you are behind you have the cards and it is okay. He has done it right.

Q:
Daniel, how difficult was this rally?

Daniel Elena:
For me it is very difficult. But I am very happy to finish this race, we had a big crash in 2009 and when we pass this corner he [Loeb] say: “Yes we have passed this place!” It's a very difficult race. It's very hot on the car and the body, so I am happy to be here.

Q:
What was the night stage like, Daniel?

DE:
It was very funny. The problem is with the dust. When it's Rally GB and 'RAC' it's okay – it's completely wet, no dust and you can push. But even after three-minute gaps you still have dust here. Okay, the concept is good, but not in Greece, when the dust can affect everybody.

Q:
Mikko, third position – brilliant times today which put you almost within touching distance of the win. Where were these times on Friday and Saturday?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I don't know. I really tried today and took a lot of risks. We made changes to the car to get more grip and traction, maybe that helped. In the end we were close, but this position was not what we wanted, but it's points.

Q:
You mentioned that you had made a few changes to the car. What were they?

MH:
We made the car softer. It's not as easy to drive, but okay we have to do some testing and see if this is the way to go.

Q:
Ogier is just five points behind you now, how important is it that you start winning rallies?

MH:
For sure we have to work hard. Everything is possible, but it's frustrating that three rallies we have been close but we haven't been able to win. That has to change.

Q:
How do you change that? Finland's next but then there are tarmac rallies coming up…

MH:
We have to do a lot of testing. Finland is just one of the other rallies, every rally is important, we can't lose any more.

Q:
You had a big moment on SS10 yesterday, tell me about that.

MH:
It wasn't that big, I think it looked worse than it was. We were off the road a little bit and heading towards a tree, but I had seen a small road to the left that we could have taken. I was trying to please you guys. I hope you enjoyed it!

Q:
How hard were you going today?

MH:
We went over every rock, but it didn't pay off in the end.

Q:
Jarmo, you are consistently scoring points, when do the wins have to come?

Jarmo Lehtinen:
About two rallies ago! It's frustrating to lose rallies by two seconds, 10 seconds or whatever. Over three days, it's nothing. You push hard and the car and the driving is not bad, but every day you lose a little edge from the top. You get frustrated and angry and today he [Hirvonen] showed that being angry is good.

Q:
It's Finland next. Is that a lot more pressure?

JL:
In Finland, it's not pressure just the excitement of the moment. You don't have to concentrate any more, you just get the feeling from your home event. I am really waiting for that one.

Q:
Olivier, it's a Citroen 1-2 here in Greece. Loeb extends his lead and Ogier moves closer to second in the Championship. In the Manufacturers' Championship you now have a 55 point lead – with the events remaining do you think the Manufacturers' Championship is almost sealed?

Olivier Quesnel:
No. I don't think so. It's not too bad. It should be okay, but we have to wait. This is the 22nd one-two of Citroen, the first in Greece and I'm very pleased for the brand. It was a difficult rally, but it was very good - we could only be pleased.

Q:
We may have seen a battle on the stages but is there also a battle internally within the team?

OQ:
Yeah, but the drivers are equal number one so they know they can push. What we did for Sebastien Ogier, we would have done exactly the same for Sebastien Loeb. They know the car is the same. We want this to be transparent for everybody, the media and the fans.


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