» BACK TO CRASH.NET

Crash.Net WRC News

Finland - Pre-event press conference

1 August 2012

Drivers: Mads Ostberg (Adapta WRT), Petter Solberg (Ford WRT), Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen Total WRT) and Chris Atkinson (Qatar WRT).


Press conference


Q:
Mads, it has been a busy off season for you, competing and winning Rally Estonia and testing. You had an accident at shakedown of Rally Bohemia where you injured your back - is it okay now?

Mads Ostberg:
I'm fully fit. I feel very well now. No problems. It was quite painful when it happened, last week it was much better, nothing in the test or shakedown today. We did some big jumps, but nothing.

Q:
You won Rally Estonia, how similar are the roads to Finland and has it put you into the mind-set for this event?

Mads Ostberg:
It was a good test. The surface is lot looser in Estonia, but the character of the roads is very much the same. There are crests and jumps - it is very similar on that. Okay we need to do some small changes after the test, but just minor ones.

Q:
You have talked about breaking into the 'big five' in terms of the top WRC drivers, do you feel you are making progress in that regard?

Mads Ostberg:
I am closer than I have ever been. On a lot of rallies, we have ended up in good positions then slowed down to secure the position rather than fight for the higher position. In the second half of this year we want to fight for the higher positions, we need to show more speed and we're going to start that on this event.

Q:
Should these guys be worried about you?

Mads Ostberg:
No, I just drive as quick as I can - they do the same and hopefully we can fight for the top positions. Nobody needs to worry. The roads here are enough to worry about!

Q:
There were some issues with funding earlier this year, are you now secure for the year ahead?

Mads Ostberg:
It looked quite good before I started crashing three events ago. I had two crashes: one in the Norwegian Championship and one in Bohemia. It is not cheap to have crashes, they take quite a lot of budget. It is looking difficult now, but we are looking hard to find the money. We want to deliver on the rest of the events. It is not 100 per cent, but it is looking positive.

Q:
Is a podium realistic for you here?

Mads Ostberg:
I think so, with the optimal rally. I like these type of roads and we have been quick here before. We were able to fight last year; Mikko caught us after his mistake, but our times were close to Petter on the last day. I hope we can be there from the start and fight with all of these guys and some others from the service park.

Q:
Petter, second half of the season is now here. What is the plan from you and from Ford?

Petter Solberg:
We have made some small changes, just small things which are different with the car, which will mean less mistakes with the back end of the car when we are attacking. It is really good now and we can push hard. We need some victories - and less mistakes. We have made some [mistakes], but hopefully we have no more.

Q:
You haven't won this event. Can you do it this year?

Petter Solberg:
These guys will go hard, but this is a fantastic rally. People here know how to organise a rally for the people and I hope on this rally we can fight for the victory. Even with this strange starting number [13th]...

Q:
You tested last week, how did it go and are you happy with the results?

Petter Solberg:
At the test it worked really well. In shakedown and qualifying, everything went well. It is lucky that we're not going first to choose the position. The Ford guys have been the first to choose on almost every rally, but here it was Citroën. It is not easy. It will be very interesting to see the pace tomorrow.

Q:
Ouninpohja returns to its former glory, you hold the record for the stage from 2004. How much will you defend that this weekend?

Petter Solberg:
For sure. I don't know if Mikko has the balls to do it!

Mikko Hirvonen:
Do you want to check?

Petter Solberg:
It is a fantastic stage and I have the record. I am not sure how the cars and tyres can compare, but sure they will all be trying and I will try myself also. It is a crazy stage. When we did the recce I thought the road was more straight...

Q:
Are you now number one in the team as you have a chance of the Drivers title?

Petter Solberg:
My plan here was not to win or fight for the Championship, if I'm in the top three then good - the plan is to win the rallies. If we do that then we can fight for the Championship. I have enough podiums, I want wins. It will be a tough weekend, but I'm not going to hold back.

Q:
Ford has a new livery, tell us about that.

Petter Solberg:
We have something from Ford Motorsport, they brand all the cars around the world [like this] - it is cool.

Q:
Mikko, happy birthday for yesterday! First time in Finland with the Citroën DS3, how are feeling about competing on the stages?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It is always nice to come here and have a rally in my hometown. It is really good and as always the stages are fantastic. The car is good and I'm not here to roll!

Q:
How does the car feel?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It feels very good. I didn't make any big changes in the test to make it work - it was just fine tuning and it was perfect. I'm sure the car is fast enough to fight for the win.

Q:
The past two years in Finland have not been kind; will there be a different approach this year?

Mikko Hirvonen:
For sure I won't go so fast from the start, but I can't give seconds away. On the first day, I'm not going to take big risks. In the last two years, the rally has been finished for me on those first two days. So, there won't be so many risks in Lahti, but then more of an attack in Jyvaskyla.

Q:
You have competed here many times now; does the pressure of a home event ease as time goes by?

Mikko Hirvonen:
No, I don't really feel any pressure. I have made my mistakes on this rally and all I can do now is try to improve. Everybody expects Finns to fight, but for us it's the same on every rally - we will try to fight for the win. There is no difference for the pressure.

Q:
Tell us about your decision to run 12th on the road...

Mikko Hirvonen:
It was easy for me: I followed Sebastien [Loeb]. He was scratching his head about where to go, but I said: "That's your problem, I'm just going to follow you."

Q:
Can you put pressure on him?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I'll try, but all of these guys will be the same.

Q:
Are you glad to see Ouninpohja back?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It looks good. The only thing is that there are lots of good stages on way to Lahti, I wouldn't mind to do more kilometres over there. We have a lot of road mileage on many rallies, and if we are going down there we might as well do the other stages on the way and enjoy Rally Finland more.

Q:
Chris, welcome back to the WRC. Earlier this year we saw you in Mexico with a Fiesta and now you are nominated with the Citroën DS3 - how did it all come about?

Chris Atkinson:
I was in New Zealand, working on WRC Live with you! Then I was speaking to the team at the end of the rally and they said did I want to do Finland because Nasser [Al-Attiyah] couldn't do it. Okay, this was not a bad option: good car and team on a great rally, so I took the opportunity and grabbed it. Nobody would turn this down. It's really cool. I want to do well here, but that's not easy - we have to fight hard here.

Q:
It is a different car to the one you are driving at the moment in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship...

Chris Atkinson:
This is a different level. On the first day of the test I had to remind myself of the speed. And then today getting used to qualifying, that's been different as well. I made some mistakes, but we'll get into it – we're not going to be a million miles away.

Q:
What is the biggest challenge on this event?

Chris Atkinson:
Finding the groove for every stage. It is hard to do that when I'm not competing and not testing all the time. But, the feeling was good as soon as I got in the car. It felt good straight away.

Q:
Can you give the other drivers some pressure?

Chris Atkinson:
There is not too much for them to worry about with me. I'm not competing on the full Championship.

Q:
Will we see you again in the DS3 this season? What are your plans for next season?

Chris Atkinson:
There is not many rounds left. I'm focused on the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship right now and I'd like to win that. Next year I'd really like to be back with a full-time [driving] role in the WRC. We're going to try to do that, and hopefully a good result here will help with that.


Questions from the floor and via video link to journalists in Lahti


Q: Reiner Kuhn (Motorsport Aktuell, Switzerland).
Have there been any bets about Ouninpohja?

Mikko Hirvonen:
No. I have not thought about it.

Petter Solberg:
They talk about it all the time in the recce!

Q:
Would you like a WRC round in Russia?

Petter Solberg:
Give us proper roads, a good atmosphere and a well organised rally and we will be there. If they want a rally we will be there.

Q:
How is it to compete on your home roads?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It is a great feeling being in an area which you know. I have been spectating here when I was a kid. It is always been a dream to drive, and now I have done it many times, but it is always fantastic. It is always nice to drive in front of friends and family.

Q:
Do you agree it would be good to have new stages near the Lahti area?

Petter Solberg:
Like Mikko said, it is a long road section. Let's take some stages on the way and do those. It is all up to the co-operation and to find a good plan with the organisation. Give us the cars and the roads and fans and we will be there.

Q:
Do you like these kinds of super special stages here in Lahti?

Petter Solberg:
They are very, very important - there are a lot of families and big companies who want to make a special event. It is not possible for these people to come to the forest all of the time. It is a nice atmosphere when you see the flags.

Q:
What do you think of the Jokimaa stage?

Mikko Hirvonen:
Yeah, it is okay. It is different to Killeri. I'm sure there's a lot of space for the spectators. I'm sure it will work well.

Petter Solberg:
Why not close off the city centre, we can drive through the buildings!

Q:
What about the weather - how does it work when it is raining?

Petter Solberg:
Of course, you have to be a bit lucky with the position on the road. Some people drive in the full rain, some not - it does not matter to us, we drive in all conditions. But it is much more fair if it is the same. There is nothing we can do about the weather.


» BACK TO CRASH.NET