Finland - Post-event press conference
30 July 2011
Drivers / co-drivers: Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroen Total WRT), Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT) and Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (Citroen Total WRT).
Team principal: Olivier Quesnel (Citroen Total WRT).
Sebastien, congratulations on win number 66 of your career and your second win in Finland. You battled at the front this weekend; do you feel this is one of your best victories?
For sure, I don't know if it's the best, but it's not far from it. It's an amazing feeling, Finland is always special. It's what I always say, it's the most difficult to win in the season. This year we had a great fight with Seb (Ogier) and Jari-Matti (Latvala) - every stage was very, very fast. Every evening they came behind, but maybe it was a good thing I had to be first on the road. Sometimes it was no problem, sometimes it dried up and there was more gravel. I didn't know if I would win until two or three stages from the end - always we had some hope, but it was big pressure and difficult. Finally, we won and it's a great feeling.
How tough was it today?
Yesterday evening, when I saw the strategy and saw the drivers get in behind me, I was not confident for today. They did not forecast rain and I thought it would be impossible if it was dry. But then it was humid and the condition was good to be first on the road, there was no disadvantage and I tried really hard to take a gap because I was sure it would be tough in the afternoon, with the ruts and the historical rally. I gave everything I could.
You said before the event that winning wasn't the priority here – when did you decide it was?
Yes, for sure I came here with the goal to score good points. I really didn't care if it was the victory. For sure, I wanted to win, but it was important not to lose too many points here. It's not the rally where I feel the best. I didn't take amazing risks, I felt very well in the car. The car was perfect, the balance was really good and I felt better in this car than the C4 last year or the year before. I was able to drive on the limit without the big moments all the time. It went well and like we said, in Finland you need everything to be perfect. I was 100 per cent confident in the notes.
Daniel, what was your perspective on the event – you were first on the road on all three days.
It's not just here we are first on the road, but it's every rally now. When you arrive here it's flat-out and 110 per cent from the first metre to the end. This morning he (Loeb) drove very well. You have to say that he's like wine, he keeps getting better!
The rally ventured south this year to Lahti, what did you think of the revised route?
The speed limit is too slow! If you go fast on the road section, make it 120kph, we can save five hours on the day!
Jari-Matti, it was victory for you last year here but this time you have to settle for the runners-up spot. You didn't seem as comfortable on the stages as last year, how are you feeling at the end of it?
I came to the rally, I wanted to win as the last victory for myself has been a long time. Spring has been frustrating with three bad results, I wanted a good result, but I wasn't relaxed enough – I put too much pressure on my shoulders. Then, when I pushed harder, I was oversteering a lot with the car. I tried different things with the dampers, but finally I saw there was too much pre-load in the rear differential. I changed that and got rid of the understeer and got the confidence. It was an up and down weekend.
You wanted to win, how much of a disappointment is it that you haven't?
It's a bitter disappointment. But, like I said at the finish, the champion is the champion – he (Loeb) is a seven-time World Champion. When you lose to him you are not losing to a bad driver. He has had to be on the limit and we had a good fight with Loeb and Ogier, that's why I can be satisfied.
Germany is next up, how has testing been going on tarmac and do you feel ready for the challenge?
I have had a very good feeling with the car on tarmac, like in Argentina on the asphalt sections. But I have the feeling that I'm sure our Fiesta is better on tarmac than the Focus. The question is, how good the Citroën is and we don't see until Germany. Of course these drivers are good on tarmac. I'm looking forward to it.
What did you think of the new route?
I enjoyed it. This was the best ever remote service in Lahti. It was a great day and great feeling. For me a great rally, a little bit more services would be nice to see.
And, given that you'd found your confidence, a few more stages tonight might have been nice…
We should go into Myhinpaa in the darkness!
Miikka, did you notice a difference to last year's pace; is there any reason why you think your pace wasn't as fast this year?
Yesterday, when the stages were new for everybody, we thought we might be slightly more competitive because of our starting position. It was a little bit better than the guys ahead. We have not done those stages, but we have been on them and certain parts we knew. We thought we might have a chance, but finally we won just a few seconds – not much. Yesterday morning we thought it would be a bit easier, we thought we could make some gap.
Third on the road made a difference this morning?
It was sort of a shock when we first got the splits and we are losing, losing, losing more and more. In the history of this rally in Finland there was no tactics. Last year I don't remember any and we won. The problem this year was that we started to look too much to last year's conditions and now we know last year conditions were extreme and such conditions you don't normally have. In Finland, the temperature goes down in the night and brings moisture to the surface – that's why it's better to be first on the road in the morning.
Sebastien, your fight for the win came to an end after the first stage this afternoon when you picked up a puncture – how and when did that happen?
For sure it's difficult for me to get satisfaction tonight. It's third, but I was in the fight for the victory many times. Maybe we didn't take the right tactics yesterday night, but I still had a good chance this afternoon, when it was more dry. But finally, we got this puncture and we got no more chance. I would prefer to lose with a small gap, but to lose behind him (Loeb) is no shame – this morning he was flying, but I am disappointed to finish the rally like that.
Did you hit anything to get the puncture?
It was on a right hairpin, very tight. The other road was destroyed, so many cars passed. There was a big ditch, I was on the line, but maybe I passed where it was bad and I got this puncture.
Is this more disappointing than Mexico?
It's different in Mexico, it was my fault there. But it's difficult to accept when it's not your fault. It's a part of rally. The Championship starts to become difficult for us, but as long as we have a chance with the points and it's mathematically possible, we will try. We will not give up. There are three tarmac events coming and we are sure our team-mate will be hard to follow, but we will try to do our best. We try to follow him the best we can.
How does it feel to be third?
It's disappointing. Finland is not like the other rallies. This is a mentally strong rally, so we can be quite happy to be at the end and to improve our experience on this rally. But I don't feel good.
It must help to know that you were right on the pace?
Yes. We knew we were here to fight for the victory, we expected the flying Finns to be there and Daniel and Seb to be there. Yeah, like every year it's a little gap and it's played on nothing… that's it.
Again, it could have been a Citroen one-two, but when drivers put pressure on themselves one is bound to make a mistake. Should team orders have come into play?
What you can see is what happened in both Championships: Manufacturers' and Drivers' – we have a big advance in both, so actually it works well. Seb finished first and Seb Ogier finished third, so we can be pleased.
Do you feel you have pretty much sealed the Manufacturers' title?
I think we are in a good position, but you never know. Looking in the media, the Ford seems to be very fast on tarmac. We see in Germany, but we think the DS3 should be good. We see in Germany.
Question from the floor.
Q: Marco Giordo, Autosprint, Italy.
Sébastien (Loeb), which was the most difficult moment in the rally?
I will say the most difficult moment was in the afternoon today. I have done a good morning and then I saw the conditions were really not good. I knew then that I can lose again everything which I have done in the morning. At this point we were getting close to the victory and then we thought we might lose it again. I think that was the main difficulty.