» BACK TO CRASH.NET

Crash.Net WRC News

Australia - Pre-event press conference

8 September 2011

Q:
Seb, you lead the Championship as we head into a brand new event here in Australia. What do you think of the stages?

Sebastien Loeb:
Sure it's always more difficult when it's a new rally. You must be more concentrated in the recce with the notes. The stages are quite wide and fast. Some have narrow bits but are generally quite fast. The second leg is looking very similar to New Zealand, the first and third similar to Australia in previous years.

Q:
How much loose gravel is out there?

Sebastien Loeb:
The first day is not the worst. There are some loose parts but some [stages] are generally quite clean. It depends on the weather as well, as we have heard about rain. It's important to find the right rhythm. In my position, being first on the road, it is not always easy but we will see.

Q:
You have a 25 point lead over team-mate Sebastien Ogier; do you need to win here in terms of the Championship?

Sebastien Loeb:
It's not crucial to win but it's important to push and fight and score manufacturer points.

Q:
There's a chance that Citroën can win the Manufacturers' Championship this weekend - I believe it's a one-two result that's required?

Sebastien Loeb:
I know it's possible. It's like every rally; you go into every rally wanting to score good points. We have three long days to go so we will concentrate on the rally.

Q:
After team orders were deployed on Rallye Deutschland, will we see a straight fight between the Citroen drivers this weekend?

Sebastien Loeb:
I think we will start to fight with Ford first and we should be more worried about their drivers. I think that maybe we will not be in the easiest position at the end of the weekend.

Q:
There was a lot of attention on the team during the last event, with regards to the battle internally between you and Sebastien [Ogier]. What is the atmosphere like within the team?

Sebastien Loeb:
It hasn't really changed. We work together and we are doing our best. We work in all aspects together and nothing's changed.

Q:
Sebastien, what are your initial thoughts about the rally? Do you feel these stages will suit you?

Sebastien Ogier:
Yes I hope so. I'm really happy to be here. It's always good for me to drive in the Southern Hemisphere. It was good for me last year in New Zealand. It was good two years ago in Australia; it was the first time we really fought with the top drivers. Hopefully this year will be nice. It's always good for me to start a new rally. It gives me the same level of experience as the other drivers. Hopefully it will be the same here.

Q:
After taking maximum points in Germany how confident do you feel about your Championship title battle?

Sebastien Ogier:
Sure, I don't have the advantage for the moment. I'm behind compared to the leader. Still four rallies to go and anything can happen in motor sport. I'll continue to do my best and we will see what happens.

Q:
How much are you prepared to risk to win the title this year? Will we see a flat-out approach from you at every event now?

Sebastien Ogier:
No more than usual. We're trying to do our best all the time. It's really close between everybody. When the fight is close like this it's difficult to do more than that. We have the same goal to score maximum points for the team and for ourselves and we'll try to do that this weekend.

Q:
Are you still committed to the Citroën Total World Rally Team for the future or are you considering a switch to another manufacturer?

Sebastien Ogier:
For the meantime, I'm happy to drive with Citroën. I have a very good car. With that car I've already won four rallies this season. I think it's a good opportunity for me to show what I can do. For the moment it's still like this and I'm happy with the situation.

Q:
What about next year?

Sebastien Ogier:
It's difficult but for the minute we're taking rally after rally. Things can change for sure for everybody, but for the moment I'm happy with this car and firstly, I want to finish well this season.

Q:
Malcolm, it's been eight events since a Ford was on the top step of the podium. It seems to have been tough year for the team. Where did the plan go wrong?

Malcolm Wilson:
I wish I could sit here and say. You can imagine how bad it feels for everyone in the team. It's even more frustrating because this year we have been more competitive than ever before, especially on Tarmac. It's very difficult when you're this competitive and are losing by the smallest margins in history. It's not the best position to be in at the moment but we're confident that we've got the pace and the guys can do the job and we have to really try to win all of the remaining events. In terms of what has gone wrong, if you look at the small margins, it's difficult to say something has gone wrong. When you lose a rally by thirty seconds or more, you can pin-point a problem, but when you lose by two seconds over three days, it's difficult to determine the problem. It's a sad thing but it goes to show how competitive this sport is, but it's a shame to be on the receiving end of bad luck.

Q:
How would you assess both Jari-Matti and Mikko's performances this year?

Malcolm Wilson:
The performance has been there but there have been the odd problems and we can't escape it, the odd technical things, or driver errors. We've now seen to win at this level everything has to be one hundred per cent.

Q:
We are still awaiting a decision on whether Ford will continue within the WRC. Can you give us any insight into when that decision will be made and whether it will be favourable?

Malcolm Wilson:
I've been in the job a long time. Ford is the longest established manufacturer in the WRC. There is no question that there is the desire to stay and continue in the WRC. We're in negotiations at the moment and let's hope we have a favourable announcement to make in the future.

Q:
If Ford were to continue next year would the driver line-up remain the same?

Malcolm Wilson:
My priority is to keep Ford in the WRC.

Q:
Are there talks with any other drivers within the current WRC ranks?

Malcolm Wilson:
As I said, my priority is to keep Ford in the WRC but of course we want to strengthen our driver line-up, hence our relationship with the likes of Tänak. To be honest, you can't discount anything but our main priority is to keep Ford in the WRC.

Q:
How much pressure is on the team for a good result?

Malcolm Wilson:
Certainly a good result would definitely help. We want to win. It's what Ford wants as well but that won't be the final decision about WRC. We need to get Ford back on the top step of the podium.

Q:
Evgeny, the rally hasn't even started and there has been drama at shakedown. An off road incident for you – what happened?

Evgeny Novikov:
On the second pass I cut the corner too much and the steering arm was broken but the car is not bad so no, it's not a big problem for me.

Q:
How much damage has been done to the car?

Evgeny Novikov:
The car will be okay for the rally.

Q:
Let's talk about the season so far because we have seen a different approach from you – you seem to be a lot calmer and not attacking the stages quite so much. What has changed and why?

Evgeny Novikov:
It's difficult to say but priorities have changed this year. In 2009 I tried to always drive maximum not caring what would happen. This year I'm trying to get more experience. I need experience for the future so my priorities have changed.

Q:
Do you find that frustrating as a driver or do you feel it's doing you good this year?

Evgeny Novikov:
It's not so bad this year. The speed is not so bad but we've had some problems during the rallies but I hope everything will be okay for the future.

Q:
What will be the approach here?

Evgeny Novikov:
I'll start the rally and see how it goes and then I'll make plans for the rest of the rally. For the moment I don't know.

Q:
Have you competed on roads that are comparable to here?

Evgeny Novikov:
Some of them are quite similar to New Zealand, sometimes similar to Japan. They're very good and I like them.

Q:
What is the plan for next year, will we see you return as part of the WRC?

Evgeny Novikov:
I don't know plans for the next year. I need to finish this year. There are still three events to go for me so I don't know yet.


» BACK TO CRASH.NET