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Greece - Pre-event press conference

24 May 2012

Drivers: Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford World Rally Team), Evgeny Novikov (M-Sport Ford World Rally Team), Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen Total World Rally Team) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar World Rally Team).


Press conference

Q:
Jari-Matti, welcome back! You missed Rally Argentina due to injury, how is the recovery going and is it good to be back on the WRC?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Thank you. It's honestly great to be back. I was following Argentina closely to see how our team and the others were going. It is exciting to follow, but as a driver it was frustrating. It felt like I had been one year away when I got to the recce here.

Q:
Is it possible to aim for victory this weekend or do you feel you will be hampered by your shoulder?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
I have full movement of the shoulder and 90 per cent of the power is back, I can't lift heavy things and I avoid stress elements. I have a 10cm titanium plate and six screws – it should be strong. There will be pain in the compression and jumps, but it should be okay.

Mikko Hirvonen:
You're lucky it's really smooth here…!

Jari-Matti Latvala:
We tested in very hard and rough conditions. If the pain comes it goes as well very quickly. It won't affect the driving.

Mikko Hirvonen:
I didn't ski one metre last winter – that's why I'm okay!

Q:
What are your thoughts on the Drivers' Championship now? Do you believe there is still a chance?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
It doesn't look so good. But as long as you have the chance, you keep fighting. When it does look like I have lost the chance then I need to support Petter [Solberg], as I did last year with Mikko. That's the team spirit and that's what you do, but as long as there is a chance I will fight.

Q:
When do you make that decision; what about this rally?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
We have to see. This is not the rally to go flat out: you have to look after car and tyres. If the speed is not enough, many things can happen. We need to drive and then decide how we go further. If I could make the podium, that would be good.

Q:
Evgeny, back in Portugal you picked up your very first WRC podium. Was that a one off or will we see more podiums from you this year?

Evgeny Novikov:
I hope of course you will see us again – maybe even here. We will do our best.

Q:
Do you think that your approach to rallies has changed, that you are less aggressive in your driving style?

Evgeny Novikov:
Difficult to say. I still have the same style of driving, but I have experience and improved my pace notes: it is quite safe and fast.

Q:
How's the confidence here?

Evgeny Novikov:
I feel confident from the Qualifying Stage, the car feels better than before. Before the speed was more slow, but now we have found the same speed as Sweden or Monte Carlo.

Q:
What will be the biggest challenge of this event for you?

Evgeny Novikov:
I don't remember the name of the stage, but it goes downhill in the middle. It's very fast and narrow and rough – it's on Saturday, I think. I think that stage will be one of the most difficult.

Q:
Mikko, you are currently third in the Championship just three points adrift of Petter Solberg, what are your thoughts on your season so far?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It's looking pretty good. My pace is getting better and better in the team and that's important – I have to try and do that in all the rallies.

Q:
Are you still learning the car?

Mikko Hirvonen:
Some things, maybe. I change the car a little bit more – even in Argentina there were some sections where I wasn't so strong. At the end of the day, it's just a car with a steering wheel and pedals. We drive it…

Q:
Tell me about the Qualifying Stage this morning, you almost had a spin – things didn't quite go to plan?

Mikko Hirvonen:
That was exactly my plan…

Q:
And your position on the road?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It's tenth, I think. Or is it ninth? It's ninth or tenth [It is ninth – Ed].

Q:
How was the recce?

Mikko Hirvonen:
For Friday and Sunday, the conditions are better than last year – but Saturday is very rough. There is still the Acropolis Rally spirit in this rally and that comes on Saturday, when you need to be a little bit careful.

Q:
We saw team orders in Argentina, when the gap between you and Sebastien Loeb was very small. How do you avoid that this time?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I will do the same as what I did in Argentina. I was happy to show the pace and be up there on that rally and I want to do the same on this one.

Q:
Nasser, this year is the first time for the collaboration between Qatar and Citroen. It is also the first year we see you in a world rally car. How have you adapted and how do you feel it is going so far?

Nasser Al-Attiyah:
I am really so happy to move the biggest step and the team is fantastic. I learn a lot with the team. For me, it's not easy. The speed compared to S2000 or Group N is completely different. But every race we are better and we try to find our pace, but everything is going very well.

Q:
What do you think of Friday, with no main service, just remotes?

Nasser Al-Attiyah:
This is a very difficult rally. For me, my opinion is that the speed doesn't mean anything on the Acropolis – you need to watch many, many things. It's a long rally and long liaisons and if anything happens it's game over. We need to be careful, we need to always be on the road. In some places we push and some places we are careful.

Q:
Will the weather change things, if it rains?

Nasser Al-Attiyah:
For Greece it is not a big change. It is a rocky, hard rally. The choice of the tyres is not big, we only have 10 soft and most hard. We must be very careful because we have to go a long way. If you go on the soft tyre, I am sure you won't come back to service.

Q:
What do you hope to achieve in 2012?

Nasser Al-Attiyah:
To learn.

Mikko Hirvonen:
He wants a gold medal!

Nasser Al-Attiyah:
Yes an Olympic medal – he is right! But from the rally side, I would like a really good year. And from the other sport, in the Olympic Games, we have only two months but I will do a lot of training and I have a good feeling.

MH:
Jari-Matti will be doing the Winter Olympics next time!

Jari Matti -Latvala:
I think I need to train more. Maybe I should take Mikko as my trainer…



Questions from the floor

Q: Marcus Stier (Sport Auto, Germany).
Jari-Matti, titanium is banned in world rally cars now. Do you comply?

Mikko Hirvonen:
Exactly!

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Titanium was used in old world rally cars. And, as there are younger guys driving than me, I am already the older specification, so I am allowed to use this!

Q: Reiner Kuhn (Motorsport Aktuell, Switzerland).
A question for Jari-Matti and Mikko. Do you have special suits or safety clothes for your shoulder Jari-Matti, and Mikko you have driven with the American HANS system, is it better?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
I have a standard HANS device and specially made padding which we have modified to use it how the FIA has advised us. It's thick padding under the HANS device which divides the pressure away from the collarbone.

Mikko Hirvonen:
I am using the new, American-style HANS device. I am not sure it makes a big difference. Maybe it's a bit more time consuming to put it on, but there is less pressure on the chest. It feels like I can get the [seat] belts on tighter and I feel I have more room to move my arms and do silly things in the car.


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