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Monte Carlo - Pre-event press conference

15 January 2013


Q:
On the 40th Anniversary of the WRC it is a pleasure to welcome you as the winning co-driver of the 1973 Rallye Monte-Carlo, competing this weekend in car number 73. Do you still hold special memories of the 1973 event?

Michèle Espinos:
Yes, for sure. It's so difficult to explain. It's a good memory for that. I do this Monte now because it's my pleasure. It's a good experience.

Q:
Are you here just to enjoy the experience then?

Michèle Espinos:
No, we try for the finish. Maurizio Verini was in Fiat when I was also in Fiat, he's a good friend and he's quiet… not the same as Andruet, totally different! It's good, we hope to finish.

Q:
Across your career you have competed over some of the most legendary events, what have been the highlights for you?

Michèle Espinos:
A lot. So different, but a lot!

Q:
Mads, a new season and a big change for you! You are now the lead driver of the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team. Are you ready for the challenge ahead?

Mads Ostberg:
I have been working many years as a privateer and now I reached one of my main goals. But now I need to prove that I deserve the seat. We need to show that I can perform well and give some good results to the team. Some challenges are bigger than others. Like this one…

Q:
You begin Rallye Monte-Carlo for the first time competitively, having only seen the roads as safety crew previously. What is the target for this event?

Mads Ostberg:
I am ready for the challenge, but you need a different approach for this rally. If you have been to this event before then you come with a different approach and you know how to drive slow enough to get through the rally. Anything can happen here – it's easy to do a mistake. We will try and stay focused.

Q:
As part of a manufacturer team you can take advantage of a full test programme before events, something you have not experienced in the past. How much will this benefit you and how has testing gone so far?

Mads Ostberg:
For this one, it's difficult to know. But for the next rallies we can do better preparation [than last year] and this will definitely help us. I am happy to do a lot of testing, to get the chance to drive the car on snow on tarmac tyres and things like that. It's been good to do a couple of days in France, getting used to everything – now I need to start the rally.

Q:
It is the start of the season and every driver will be aiming for the title; is that your plan and what will it take to achieve that?

Mads Ostberg:
The main ambition for me… I'm not starting with the main goal of winning the Championship. I need to start and get some good results early on, but we will have a new champion. Mikko [Hirvonen] is the only guy in the same seat this year, everybody else been changing and we have Volkswagen coming with two good drivers. But nobody really knows. I feel ready to push hard on the events I have done before and be careful on the new events, but it's going to be a very open season.

Q:
Sébastien, we have all been waiting patiently to see the Polo R in competition, after all the testing and development it is now time to see what it can do. Are you and the car ready for Monte?

Sebastien Ogier:
Of course, we are very well. It's a long time ago that I participate in this conference. I am very happy to be back. It's the start of a very interesting season. It won't be easy – we see that this morning, it will be very tricky. But I expect this and I am happy it's difficult. The real stages are tomorrow and we have to stay on the road.

Q:
With a brand new car at the start of one of the toughest rallies on the Championship calendar, do you think a win is possible this weekend?

Sebastien Ogier:
Really we don't know. This morning we didn't learn anything, the condition was changing all the time. It's too early to talk about victory, we will do our best. Last year I pushed as hard as possible to see what is possible and we are interested to see the times. But I really need to finish this event. The team needs me to finish and it's going to be difficult with this condition.

Q:
Are you disappointed Sébastien Loeb is retiring and you won't have the chance to fight with him on each event?

Sebastien Ogier:
We have to respect his choice. He has won so many rallies. We have to understand. It would have been great to fight like two years ago, but it's not like this, it's a few events. We won't have to focus about him. We want to fight for the victories and the Championship. At the moment I don't know about my car, I just want to focus on my race and not anybody else.

Q:
Can you win the Championship?

Sebastien Ogier:
I always have that target and I hope for good results, but it's difficult to estimate. I need some time comparisons to see what I can do. At the moment I am speaking in the wind – once we do some stages then I can give you some more idea.

Q:
Michal, a step up for 2013 as we see you compete this season in a World Rally Car with the Lotos WRC Team in a MINI WRC. A big change - are you ready for it?

Michal Kosciuszko:
It's incredible for me. I didn't expect it would happen. Here I am sitting with a multiple world champion and driving within the same category. It's really impressive! I can't wait to start. This car is a different dimension for me, how you can use the speed and brake so much later.

Q:
How has the testing been going so far? How much have you done?

Michal Kosciuszko:
I've done one day of testing, which is not a lot, but it's something. I did more than 100 kilometres on a mixed road, which helped me to get used to different behaviour of the car. We had snow at shakedown, which was very positive for me to drive in difficult conditions. I have never been on these tyres in such a light and strong car.

Q:
You have had success on this event in the past, winning last year in the PWRC category. What will be the strategy this year?

Michal Kosciuszko:
Last year we had a good race and won the races in the category, this year is more demanding. This year I will follow the other drivers – the guys with more experience. I need to reduce the gap, but first of all need to be at the finish.

Q:
Who do you compare yourself to?

Michal Kosciuszko:
I want to be at the finish, then I compare my car and see if it looks the same as it did at the start! I will not compare the times.

Q:
What are your hopes over the course of the season?

Michal Kosciuszko:
To enjoy the year and enjoy these great events and a very nice car. I spent a lot of years in JWRC, SWRC and PWRC and finally there's nothing in front of WRC – so I am very excited about that and I would like to improve as a driver.

Q:
Sébastien, normally you start every season with the ambition to be champion, this year begins differently for you with just four events on your WRC calendar. How do you feel about the 'different' season ahead?

Sebastien Loeb:
For sure it a bit different, but I feel happy about that. I spent a long time thinking about retiring, now I make the decision and I have other plans – and I am excited about those plans also. It's exciting to be here at the Monte-Carlo Rally, it's a nice rally from which I have good memories and it's my co-driver's home rally. It's important to start this one, but the situation is not the same. I am just here…

Q:
Is the motivation the same?

Sebastien Loeb:
The goal is not the same, but the preparation for the rally is the same. On the recce, everything was really serious. If I am able fight for victory, I will try to do it. But if not, it's not as bad as in the past. I am here for fun and in the conditions… it will be fun.

Q:
This is a true Monte, isn't it…

Sebastien Loeb:
I have never done the rally with a lot of snow, it's always been one stage or half a stage, but usually more like a tarmac rally. At the moment, it's not like this, the conditions will be tricky. On the shakedown, I think we were lucky it was in the field, because I think some time everybody went in the field somewhere! But tomorrow, it is not in the field, tomorrow we have walls, rocks and ditches. Let's see what we can do.

Q:
If you're not going to be world champion this year, who will you be putting your money on?

Sebastien Loeb:
I wouldn't put my money on anybody – but it's exciting! [The champion] Will be another one and, for sure, it's going to be interesting to see Jari-Matti [Latvala] and Mikko [Hirvonen]. I am looking forward to seeing what happens.


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