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Greece - Post-event press conference

27 May 2012


Drivers / co-drivers: Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroen Total WRT), Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen (Citroen Total WRT) and Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (Ford WRT).

Team principal: Yves Matton (Citroen Total WRT).



Press conference


Q:
Sebastien, congratulations on your third win at the Acropolis Rally of Greece. It had been a big fight with the Fords throughout the weekend but you gave us all a scare earlier when you stopped on the second running of Agii Theodori! How are you feeling after a tough weekend?

Sebastien Loeb:
It was just to put a little pressure to the team; they were confident so this was just to wake them up! There was nothing special. In a right-hander there was a stone in the middle of the road, the first pass it was not too high, but the second time we slid over the stone with less gravel around it. It broke my tyre, after one kilometre I decided to stop and change it. Daniel told me to continue, but I said no. I remember in 2006, I had a puncture here and I finished the stage on the brake disc, everything was destroyed. At the end of the stage I couldn't put a wheel on the car, we lost everything. I thought I had a 1m50s lead and this was enough to change the wheel.

Q:
How quick did you change the tyre?

Sebastien Loeb:
Yeah, it was 1m40s. It was good and everything went well, we are prepared to change a wheel. We practice one time in the year! No… we don't practice so much, but we know what do and everything went well.

Q:
It was a tough fight, though?

Sebastien Loeb:
It was a really tough battle. We are used to this being more endurance and not breaking the tyres. But here it was flat-out for two days and one stage. We had big fight with Jari-Matti [Latvala] – at first we were four [drivers fighting], then it was more intense. Then he [Latvala] made his mistake and Petter [Solberg] made some pressure in the mud. Petter is like this, when the condition is tough, he can go like crazy and then today he made a mistake. Then we were a bit more quiet and then we had the puncture.

Q:
Were you on the limit yesterday?

Sebastien Loeb:
Yes. Daniel just said it was 80 per cent, but it wasn't – it was flat-out, just not in the bad places where it was too hard for the car and the tyres. There were not a lot of places, the car is really strong, and the tyres. Every stage was 98 per cent!

Q:
You said after Petter went out this morning that you didn't know how to drive, what did you mean?

Sebastien Loeb:
When you are 100 per cent concentrated on driving and suddenly you know you just have to stay on the road, okay you slow down a bit, but then it feels strange. It is not driving like normal. It took some time to find the confidence, but then in the next one I tried harder again.

Q:
Was this the toughest rally?

Sebastien Loeb:
No. Every rally is a challenge, but this one is different. It is so demanding on the car and tyres. I am sure we will have some fights like this in the future. It's a rally: when you win it, you feel really happy and satisfied, but anything can happen when you start. For me, 28 points is great and Mikko second for the team, I am really happy.

Q:
What did you think, Daniel?

Daniel Elena:
It was very difficult. On the first day we had two remote services and we have to take care, but the rhythm was similar to Finland: 0.1 second gap here or 0.4 seconds there. These drivers, they drive too fast! It's very difficult. I speak with Jari-Matti a lot and say: “Jari-Matti, it is very similar to Finland, yes – but hey you are in the Acropolis!” No, it's very good – I like fighting, I am happy.

Sebastien Loeb:
In Finland we are pushing all of the time – just to explain, he [Elena] understands what he says, but maybe not everybody else does…

Q:
But with such intense battles, it must have been exhausting?

Daniel Elena:
Yes, we had four drivers on the limit; one time is one, second is the second, but this is funny; it's adrenaline and I like that. It's interesting to fight.

Q:
Mikko, congratulations, but why didn't we see you in a battle at the front of the field this weekend? Was it the team plan that you measure your pace?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It was definitely not the team plan. I wanted to stay in the fight we were in on Friday morning, but then the stages dried out, we got more grip and I struggled a little bit. Then I lost more and more time, then you've lost the last push you need. In some sections you start to hesitate, which you never do when, like these guys, you are in the fight. Then I said: “Okay, let's avoid the mistakes and get to the finish.” This is not so bad for the team.

Q:
Was it frustrating?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I have to think about things, why they are not going so well. Some things were not exactly similar to Argentina and maybe this makes the difference for me. When I dropped down on Friday, when we had the dust and puncture we were 30s behind. I should have pushed harder – it was not so good drive for me on Saturday.

Q:
Can you be more specific?

Mikko Hirvonen:
No, I won't. I know, but not talk about it. On the next rally, I will be faster.

Q:
You commented yesterday that it was like driving in Monte Carlo on snow and ice with slicks during the afternoon stages - was it really that slippery?!

Mikko Hirvonen:
It was really that slippery. It's amazing; actually, it's really difficult. When it rains on those stages, it makes it so difficult: the mud fills the tyre and you slide on the top. It's tricky and it's changing all the time. It's definitely not easy in these conditions.

Q:
It was frustrating for you, Jarmo?

Jarmo Lehtinen:
Frustrating is right, when you don't fight at the top. We are experienced enough to know this was not our weekend, so we avoid the mistakes and keep the car in place. We got the present this morning [Solberg's retirement].

Q:
There was good and bad this weekend?

Jarmo Lehtinen:
You always need to find a positive. And we found a lot about what went wrong and we will be a lot stronger in New Zealand

Q:
Are you more confident for New Zealand?

Jarmo Lehtinen:
For sure. It's one of the most enjoyable rallies. You don't need to worry about tyre wear or breaking the car, the roads are so smooth - it's going to be a good weekend for everybody.

Q:
Jari-Matti, it started incredibly well, three stage wins straight off the bat and a fantastic battle with Sébastien Loeb - it went badly wrong yesterday when you slid wide on the opening stage of the morning and hit a bank which caused a puncture. You inherited third when Petter retired - what is your assessment of the weekend?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
It was really great to be back on speed – of course I had some doubts. The boys were doing 500km in Argentina and I missed those. I did some [pace note] practice with Miikka in Finland, and luckily we had the test, but of course we had doubts. It was great to see the speed was there. Everything was looking good, but the mistake on Friday was quite an expensive mistake for me. It had been raining overnight and it was in a very muddy section. On a 90-left before the junction, I was feeling for braking and it felt alright, then it locked and stalled. I felt I could steer, but when the engine wasn't running, I couldn't steer. I saw a tree coming, a small tree, but I also saw an open area to the side and thought: “Okay, go there.” I got the engine running and went there. After that, Sébastien was in the lead. After that, in Bauxites and Drossohori, stages five and six, I was struggling with uphill, it was not treating me so well. We got closer towards the end of the day, I think it was six seconds at the end of the day.

Q:
Was it wise to push so hard?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Yes. We had a great fight. I was concerned on Saturday. I knew Seb would have his espresso and be very motivated to drive. I managed to keep the battle on – I had some very good stages, but then we went to the afternoon. Obviously, I could take the second place, but if we want – as a team – to get closer to Citroën and I want the Drivers' title, then I have to go for the win. You can't play safe if you want to be World Champion. I know I am far away on the points, and I did a mistake. This is the element where Seb is very, very strong – he doesn't do the mistake. You need to bear this in mind for the future; do the attack, but think about it a little bit. I ran a little wide and got the puncture and then brake problems. That's the Acropolis, we push on the limit and these things can happen.

Q:
So, you need a more Seb-like approach?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
With my background, it's all or nothing! To be at the same level takes time, at least I am going in that direction, but, yes, it would be good.

Q:
The team need a win, what can be changed to make that happen?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
I think we have been leading all the rallies this year. We have a lot of stage wins – Power Stages and qualifying stages, but if you look to the results, Citroën leads by 70 points and I am 70 behind in the Drivers' Championship. What do we do different? We have the speed, that is not in doubt. The guys have done a lot of work with the car and it's very reliable, but when you attack the risk level is going higher. How much we take the risks? We need the result – like I said, you can't play the safe cards. We need to win, second and third is not going to help us in the Championship fight.

Q:
Miikka, how do you feel?

Miikka Anttila:
Think about the positive things: on this rally we were fighting until mid-day Saturday – the longest we have been in the rally so far. Maybe by the end of the year we can be there Sunday afternoon!

Q:
But it was a fantastic fight…

Miikka Anttila:
Like Daniel said, this was like Rally Finland. On Saturday morning Malcolm [Wilson, Principal, Ford World Rally Team] said Yves [Citroën Total World Rally Team Principal] was saying that the speed is too high, Sébastien and Daniel - you didn't follow his advice…

Sebastien Loeb:
It was not Yves who said that. Malcolm came to me and told me it was too fast!

Q:
Yves, was it you or Malcolm?

Yves Matton:
I think it was both! The speed was very high, but we never asked anybody to go slowly.

Q:
It's been a great weekend, though, with the one-two?

Yves Matton:
Yes, yes, a very good weekend. We had a battle for the whole weekend. The drivers did a good job, and the team. When we are at a tempo like this, we need to be right and the work was done before the rally. All of Citroën did a big, big job before the rally.

Q:
What was it like when Sébastien had his puncture?

Yves Matton:
I was very happy not to hear the radio after I see the blue on the screen, this meant it wasn't too important. It was a huge stress in this position. We hope we will see it in green before two minutes and then it was okay.


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