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Sweden - Pre-event press conference

7 February 2013

Drivers: Evgeny Novikov (Qatar M-Sport WRT); Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Motorsport); Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT); Martin Prokop (Jipocar Czech National Team).


Press conference


Q:
Evgeny, it was an impressive performance before heading to the Col de Turini stage in Monte-Carlo a few weeks ago. Accident aside, how did you find your first event for the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team and were you happy with your performance?

Evgeny Novikov:
It was very good until the moment we retired. It was a difficult rally. What can I say? It was one of the most or maybe even the most disappointing retirement in my career.

Q:
Has the accident knocked your confidence or not?

Evgeny Novikov:
No. Not at all. It could be much better and we could feel better here, but I am not thinking about this. I am concentrating on this rally. I forgot Monte-Carlo, now we keep going.

Q:
How many kilometres have you done in testing? What were the conditions for the test? Are you happy with the set-up achieved for Sweden?

Evgeny Novikov:
We did one and half days of testing with 400 kilometres. We did 250 one day and 150 on a different road the next day. I have been finding out the set-up and now I am feeling confident to see how it will be tomorrow.

Q:
Driving in the factory team, is there more pressure on you this year?

Evgeny Novikov:
In our position more people are waiting for good results and we have to make them. But this pressure doesn't influence on me. If you think about this, it will be more difficult, so I don't think. I concentrate on each stage and trying to do the best that I can.

Q:
You've talked about being a changed man, no more maximum attack – is this still the case?

Evgeny Novikov:
Of course. We are here to fight. I have to attack and drive maximum, as quickly as we can. It's still the same, but now I hope I am a bit more consistent – I have more experience now.

Q:
Jari-Matti, it was your debut for the Volkswagen team in Monte-Carlo, a new team and a new car to get to grips with in treacherous conditions. What is your assessment of your performance there?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
I was the same as Evgeny, I was very disappointed with the retirement and we went off in the same place – but maybe I went off in quite a harder way. The target was points and it was going according to plan. But the conditions were so difficult and I just didn't have enough experience to understand where are the limits of the car. It came as a big surprise when I lost control and went off the road. Here it's completely different, here is more consistent conditions. My testing went well. I have a good feeling with the car, it's a completely different start to Monte-Carlo.

Q:
Accidents happen but you tend to take them to heart - have you put the Monte-Carlo issue behind you now?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
I have forgotten it, but of course it was a bad start for the season and I wanted a good start. I couldn't get it. Life goes on. There are some new rallies coming and I can't change what happened. You have to analyse it, learn from it and I have done that. Now I concentrate on new things. Go for it.

Q:
Can you win?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
The confidence is there, the question is will this be our speed in the rally. In qualifying you can see a good performance, but I want to be careful. The shakedown stage was getting quicker all of the time. This rally will not always be about the fastest from start, you have to save studs and you have to see what's happening at the finish. I don't know how it will be; a podium would be a fantastic start. Winning would be very special, but I'm not taking that as a target.

Mikko Hirvonen:
Oh yes you are!

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Only in my secret mind…

Q:
Was the reliability from the Volkswagen better than you expected in Monte-Carlo?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
The reliability was 100 per cent. We had no problem at all.

Mikko Hirvonen:
I'm not sure about that. The Ford must be better – you and Evgeny crashed in the same place, but he lost only one wheel but the Volkswagen lost two!

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Fair point! Maybe we have some work to do, we will consider that in the next meeting… Look at Ogier, it was a really good rally for him. I had confidence in the third day, it was going really well, I had a couple of good stage times. The reliability was better than I expected.

Q:
You have had great success here in the past with two wins under your belt. Last year you took second position in your first time in the DS3 - do you feel you know the car enough now to push a little harder for the win?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I am afraid now I am going to lose all the wheels – I should have been quiet! I feel good. I have one more year at Citroën under my belt, we are ready for the rally.

Q:
You didn't seem to get into your stride at the last round in Monte-Carlo - did you discover why that was?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I don't know. Maybe the crash before the rally didn't help to be confident in those conditions, but in the end I was lucky and slow enough to finish the rally. It will be a totally different story here. At least I hope so…

Q:
With Loeb retiring are you feeling extra pressure to perform for the team?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I am too old to take any pressure. We're going to be fine.

Q:
How did the test for this event go; similar conditions to what we have now?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I had maybe a little more snow on the test than here. In Norway there's a lot of snow. The level of the ice was quite the same. Everything went well in the test.

Q:
You need good confidence for this event, though…

Mikko Hirvonen:
Confidence is always the thing. You are always aiming for the win and maybe sometimes I am a bit more calculated, but this is a different story here – you have to be on the pace from stage one.

Q:
Martin, you finished seventh in Monte-Carlo just a few weeks ago, a good start in difficult conditions!

Martin Prokop:
Monte-Carlo was something special for us, with my team and DMACK we were ready for different conditions. We had a good test for dry or wet tar, but we were not ready for the snow and the snow came for the shakedown. It was a really difficult event and the most important thing was to stay on the road. We had a lot of big moments. Maybe ours was the most damaged car – apart from Jari-Matti and Evgeny's – and we were very happy to be at the finish. We were happy with 10th place, but when we jumped to seventh, this was amazing!

Q:
This will be your second year in a WRC car. After last year's 'learning experience' what are you hoping for in 2013?

Martin Prokop:
Let's see, we have quite lot of experience with the new car, but this is a different level of racing from the Junior category or even the SWRC. It's a different level, all the guys are on the same level. Now everything is new for me and the level and speed of the factory guys is very high. We are getting closer, but we have to fight with a small team. We are doing our best, things are still improving.

Q:
Who do you compare yourself with this year?

Martin Prokop:
I try to see all the drivers. Last year I compared with Mads Ostberg, who was the best private driver, it was good to see his speed and compare, to see how much we lose per kilometre. But now he is the factory driver and we have to see how is the level of the drivers and which drivers are on the events I did last year. I have no real target.

Q:
What stages stand out as being the most difficult? Do you enjoy rallying on snow? What will be the toughest challenge for you this weekend?

Martin Prokop:
I started here many times. But still, when I come here for the first time in a year, I find a piece of white material and I can't understand how slippery it is! The Scandinavian drivers do understand whether the dirty snow is more slippery, or the white, or where is the black ice? On every race, I am trying to find the limit. In previous years I was the fastest non-Scandinavian in the category – it will be hard this year.

Q:
A question for all of you: where will you start on the road?

Mikko Hirvonen:
You first… [Latvala]

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Mikko will start position 16. For me, anything after 10.

Mikko Hirvonen:
I agree.

Evgeny Novikov:
For me after eighth place, but we don't have so many options.

Martin Prokop:
Somewhere in the middle, 10th place.


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