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Portugal - Pre-event press conference

29 March 2012


Drivers: Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen Total World Rally Team), Petter Solberg (Ford World Rally Team), Ott Tanak (M-Sport Ford World Rally Team) and Armindo Araujo (WRC Team MINI Portugal).


Press conference


Q:
Mikko, you selected first on the road, why was that?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I just felt I haven't been leading the Championship, so I thought it would be nice to take the number one spot! It's going to be very difficult to know for sure which is the best place. The organisers have put some water on the road, but maybe it will dry. Maybe it will rain, but will there be enough rain. Maybe there will be dust, but will the dust go away? We thought it might be a little bit safer, but we'll see.

Q:
So, does Citroen not know what the weather will be like?

Mikko Hirvonen:
No.

Q:
Petter, do you believe him?

Petter Solberg:
Well, he came up with a lot of maybes then, didn't he… The organisers have promised us three-minute gaps and water on the stages, we can only go on what they promise. This is a safety thing; we did our choice because of what they told us.

Q:
We will see the return of night stages this evening, how do you feel about that?

Mikko Hirvonen:
The stages are really nice and technical. Some of them have very, very fast sections, but also some corners and crests. The nature of the roads is very nice.

Q:
This will be your fourth event in the Citroen DS3 WRC, do you feel completely at home in the car or is there still more for you to learn?

Mikko Hirvonen:
There are certain points where I had good speed, but I need to work a bit more. When I really push hard, the times get worse, so I need to find the right way. Everything has worked really well, I'm quite happy with what we have done.

Q:
Can you win here?

Mikko Hirvonen:
That's the hope, to fight for the win. But the Ford seems very fast, it's not going to be easy, but we want to. We went well in Mexico and we hope we can do that as well here.

Q:
Petter, you won last weekend's Fafe Rally Sprint. What did you think of the event?

Petter Solberg:
There were 70,000 people or something, and it was very well organised. It was great, we didn't even need the road book for the event. But it was good to see; it was exactly like the early days. We want to be where the people are and obviously it was good to win as well.

Mikko Hirvonen:
We are so young, only Petter remembers!

Q:
So, you won in Fafe, which was a great build-up for the event – how was your pre-event test?

Petter Solberg:
The test was good, it went well and the Rally Sprint helped. We saw in the way that qualifying went, everything is working well for us. As for Jari-Matti [Latvala], I think he left his brain in the service area, he went so well in qualifying…

Q:
After Mexico, this is the first time we've been on a level playing field to see exactly where the cars are against each other this season.

Petter Solberg:
All the rallies this year have been quite different. This is the first rally where we can see the performance of the car. I am not worried at all. We have one aim and that's to beat the guys in red [Citroen]. We have this very strong team. We will start calm and increase the speed through the event.

Q:
We've seen you consistently scoring points this season but you are Ford's number two driver. Do you think it's time for that to change?

Petter Solberg:
Jari-Matti is very fast, but he's been unlucky for two rallies. But when Jari is on it, he's winning. We help each other and support each other, the team thing is the main thing – we will see how it is. We help each other and that's the main thing.

Q:
You've got good experience of this event, what is your approach going to be Ott?

Ott Tanak:
I want to carry on like we finished in Mexico. There is still a long way to go to catch these guys? I don't know. We'll see.

Q:
You've competed in the Fiesta RS WRC four times now, how comfortable do you feel in the car?

Ott Tanak:
It's my first season and it's not been easy, but that's what we expected. It's been like we planned. All the events we had to finish we finished, then in Sweden we pushed and we were doing another job. But, it's been quite okay.

Q:
You will be the first of the Fords on the road tonight. Did you plan to take third place or was that a spur of the moment decision?

Ott Tanak:
I had free choice, not affected by the team. Why I decided this place, there was no right choice. We don't know what it's going to be [like]. For me, this place is a bit more safe. If you have to clean, then okay, you can lose less time than being stuck in the dust. Let's wait and see.

Q:
How do you think you are progressing this year? Who are you comparing yourself with and how are you judging your own development as a driver?

Ott Tanak:
For sure it's difficult to compete with the manufacturer drivers, but we could be the best of the rest.

Q:
This is your home event, how important is it for you Armindo?

Armindo Araujo:
Hello everybody. It's very important. I am here with my sponsors and my fans. My car is the same as the car we made one place inside the top 10, but we are improving. We are pushing and we want more tests and to improve. But we are happy with the brand and we are really pushing to improve the brand.

Q:
Last weekend's Fafe Rally Sprint ran close to your home in Porto, how was it driving in front of your home crowd?

Armindo Araujo:
I also did Rally Portugal in 2001 with him [Solberg]...

Petter Solberg:
Thank you!

Armindo Araujo:
So I know how good it is. In the north, we have a lot, lot of people who love the sport – they are pushing hard to bring the sport to the north and I believe it would be very popular in the north, with no problems. I am sure this will be a fantastic event.

Q:
There are some upgrades for your MINI here, tell us about them…

Armindo Araujo:
Yes, that is not for me, they are only in Prodrive's car. I will do my event and push to finish in my target. I will have them [the upgrades] for the next event.

Q:
And you did a test?

Armindo Araujo:
We did a test last weekend and we found that the dust was staying for four or five minutes. Petter, I am sorry, but I think you took the wrong choice.

Petter Solberg:
They [the organisers] are watering the stages.

Q:
You are a local driver, what do you know about the weather?

Armindo Araujo:
I'll tell you later…


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