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Australia - Post-event press conference

11 September 2011

Drivers / co-drivers: Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT), Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT) and Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson (PSWRT).

Team principal: Malcolm Wilson (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT).


Press conference.

Q:
Mikko, congratulations on the result here in Australia. It's the team's first one-two since Sardinia 2009. Good points for the team and for you in the Drivers' Championship!

Mikko Hirvonen:
Well that's the way it is. We did talk about this at the start of the year that we [Latvala] could be equal as long as we fought for Championship points. Unfortunately Jari-Matti has had a difficult season so that really helped me this week that he slowed down and let me take the lead. So big thanks to him.

Q:
You've come away from this event with the possibility now still on for the Drivers' title, and also the Manufacturers' Championship. How do you feel about that?

Mikko Hirvonen:
Yes they are both still there. But it was more important just to have a good result here especially since it's been a tough season; we won in Sweden and it's been very close after that and we didn't know if we could pull it off so it was very important especially after what happened on Friday that we could still control things, and now getting a one- two is very good for everybody. Hopefully it helps us all in the future.

Q:
Let's talk about Friday because it seemed like an incredibly tough day and of course you saw both your Championship rivals Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier go off the road. What did you think when all that was happening?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I had enough things on my mind to keep myself on the road. It just shows how difficult the conditions were and the stages as well were very fast, very muddy and slippery and you know it's just the way it is. Some places you didn't have any grip when you were braking so it was impossible to tell what kind of grip you have in each corner, so very tricky. Luckily we made it alive. No accidents and we could carry on for Saturday so very good.

Q:
Obviously the team had made a decision and were hoping you guys would come through in a one-two, when did you feel the pressure was off you in terms of competing out there this weekend?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It's been such a long time since I've won a rally that it was never really over until the last stage, so I was nervous the whole time that something would happen or that I had made a mistake or that I would make a mistake or something goes wrong, so I wanted to really just wait all the way to the end and then know for sure that it was all over and we could do it.

Q:
How are you feeling about heading to the Tarmac of France?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I'm sure everybody knows that it is going to be up against those two Citroëns that are there, and Petter as well. We were happy with our pace in Germany and now we have a test plan so we hope we can improve our car so we are definitely not giving up at this point. We have to keep on pushing now that we've got the boost from his rally; hopefully we will go even faster in France and we are really able to fight over there.

Q:
Jarmo, the fight for both Championships is now back on. Citroën could have won the Manufacturers' title here this weekend. How do you now capitalise on the fact that everything is game on again? Does that fact change your approach to the rest of the events?

Jarmo Lehtinen:
I hope this week gives that extra push to the whole team. We've been struggling a bit throughout the season and I hope that we really get the next step and I know we have a lot of work to do for Tarmac. We need to be realistic but like I said, I hope and I believe this was the extra push we need for the oncoming events.

Q:
What did you think of the event here? Would you like to return?

Jarmo Lehtinen:
Definitely I'd like to come back. It's a very enjoyable rally. Friday, conditions made this a little bit different. It wasn't enjoyable all of the time but 90 per cent of the stages were really, really nice and enjoyable all of the time. It was great fun to be there.

Q:
Jari-Matti, it's second overall when it could have been a win. You were a team player today and slowed to help Mikko but how are you feeling at the end of it?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
I lost my chance in the Drivers' Championship in the spring time when I had three bad rallies in a row and I said this already in Greece that it's now all over from my side and I need to support Mikko if he has a chance for that and now was the time so I feel okay. It's never a nice feeling to slow down and drop behind. Of course, nobody enjoys that but you need to see the bigger picture and the main thing was I had a good feeling, the speed was there. They've given me a good feeling from this rally and at least I'm really happy for the team that I can see the whole new speed coming for the next three rallies.

Q:
How important is this result in terms of motivating everybody within the team?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
It's a big thing. I think there's been a little bit of frustration within the team because there have been a lot of things happening and we haven't won a gravel rally until now, so of course it will boost a lot.

Q:
Let's talk about the event itself. You had some moments out there – what was the biggest scare of the weekend?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
I think I have been very unlucky in some rallies this year, but now I had a lot of luck with me. I had a scary moment two kilometres into the first stage on Friday morning and I spun and went backwards into the forest. Even today I went wide on one of the corners and there was a big tree and I could just hear a little touch. But there was no damage on the car so it must have been a magic touch. The scariest moment was on that first stage, the same place where Ogier went off the road on the first passage that was fully muddy on that corner. When you came to the top of the crest, you couldn't see, then suddenly we hit at least a two metre diameter big wood but somehow it caught back so that was a scary moment.

Q:
It's back to Tarmac next, how are you feeling about that?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Last year, I had some good stage times in France. I like France more than Germany. Germany has never really been good for me. I have always had trouble over there which I have to improve for the future. I feel quite comfortable to go to France. It was a very difficult rally last year but I'm looking forward to it. I know the Tarmac is grippy over there and we have a good testing plan coming up. So we need to make sure we get all the benefits from testing so that we are strong in the rally.

Q:
Miikka, how are you feeling about the return to Tarmac when we go to France and Spain?

Miikka Anttila:
We saw at the start of Rally Germany that we are competitive as we were leading the rally after the first stage, so we are not far away. Also the other stage times show the same way, so we are having some Tarmac testing coming so I think that we will be stronger on the Tarmac as we have been as a team earlier.

Q:
Is there a sense of relief in the team now that both of you have managed to seal a one- two here in Australia?

Miikka Anttila:
Yes. It's a good boost for the whole team and I have to say I'm proud to be in such a team that we can make such decisions and both drivers and both crews are supporting each other so it's a big thing. Also another thing for me is that in this rally, for me on Friday, we had very slippery conditions and now we can see that it's only Scandinavian crews that have the best control! Earlier it was said that the middle European drivers were the Tarmac specialists, but Friday shows that in slippery conditions, the Scandinavians have the best control in handling those conditions.

Q:
Petter, back on the podium in third position overall and you take one Power Stage point. Are you feeling happy with the way the rally has gone this weekend?

Petter Solberg:
Of course I'm very happy about that. Everyone out here had a very difficult Friday. It was very tough and the thing is I'm very happy about my speed. I've been on good pace for the whole weekend so for me that was the main thing. The engine changed before this rally so everything was back on track and the thing is, we can't continue the way we did for the past two rallies or there would be no point to drive and no point to continue with the rallies, but now, everything was good. The car worked good so very enjoyable between the stages this weekend. Lots of stories and it's been really good fun.

Q:
You didn't seem really happy with the car until yesterday afternoon, what changed?

Petter Solberg:
I didn't do so much but some other things changed in the car and the car ran faster so it was good. The pace was faster. The magic touch sometimes makes the difference.

Q:
In terms of the season ahead will we see you compete at all the remaining WRC rounds?

Petter Solberg:
If it was the same performance as the two last rallies then I would stop. When you have a lot of sponsors, you need performance. I can't say that I've sold in to be fifth in every rally. We'll drive in France and then take it from there. If it's a good performance there then we'll continue. I have to perform. I want more than sitting here at third but I'm very happy, very pleased with the week and that I'm back on the podium.

Q:
And what of next year?

Petter Solberg:
No nothing happening yet. We'll wait and see. Discussions are in place but we'll have to wait and see.

Q:
These boys have full advantage of manufacturer testing. What kind of test will you have before the event?

Petter Solberg:
I don't think there will be any testing for me before the rally so I try to use what I had in Germany with some small changes because of the different surface and combinations. That's about it and I'll take it from there.

Q:
Chris, some drama's along the way this weekend. How tough was it on day one after making notes in dry conditions to be faced a totally different perspective, were there constant changes?

Chris Patterson:
On Friday, no there weren't too many changes to the notes, it was just a case of surviving on the stages and the notes all seemed to work okay, but today the stages were so fast and technical and I think everybody made quite a few adjustments. The first pass through is obviously very difficult when you come to a new rally and you get two passes in a fairly slow recce car. And, with the stages being so fast today, it was quite difficult but on Friday the conditions were just so bad so we were just surviving and getting through the stages.

Q:
In terms of motivation, how does this transform the guys back at base?

Chris Patterson:
We all know Petter, and he is permanently motivated. We've never lost our motivation and we try to motivate the team as much as we can. Obviously this weekend has been fantastic and everyone's spirits have risen. Motivation has never been lost and we're really motivated for France now to try and get another podium finish and if not, a bit higher.

Q:
Malcolm, you said it was important to win here and the team have secured a one-two; is there a sense of relief in the Ford camp?

Malcolm Wilson:
I think we've touched the summit. We've lost quite a few rallies by such a small margin and to be honest, you don't start to doubt yourself but you keep thinking, when are things going to change, when are you going to get onto the top step. But that's what has been really important - when the whole team sticks together. Everybody's played such a big part to get this result and there's no question it's just the boost we needed, I think at a crucial time with the three events left in Championship. It's fantastic now to put Mikko back in the hunt again and a great job by both these guys in very difficult conditions. You can imagine the huge amount of pressure on the team because all we could do from half way through Friday is basically throw this rally away, so really it's fair play to these two guys that they've managed to keep ahead of the Norwegian and keep the Finns on top.

Q:
Citroën could have claimed the Manufacturer's title here in Australia had they sealed a one-two, but now the team have been offered a chance to continue to fight in both Manufacturers' and Drivers' Championships. Can you capitalise on this now?

Malcolm Wilson:
I think we would need a few more results like what we have had here. I have a feeling that that's not going to happen but we've seen what can happen here. Anything's possible if we keep on fighting. We know we can make some improvements and hopefully we will in time for France. Hopefully we can go to France really in a good position.

Q:
You mentioned improvements, what kind of improvements?

Malcolm Wilson:
Just detail things that we learnt from Germany. As we said we've got a test plan and quite a few things we want to try.


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