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WRC Portugal 2013: Pre-event press conference

11 April 2013

Present: Mads Ostberg (Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team), Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Motorsport II), Yves Matton (Citroen Racing) and Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Motorsport).


Press conference

Q:
Mads, last year in Portugal we saw very difficult conditions which you seemed to really enjoy! From what you have seen from the recce will it be the same conditions?

Mads Ostberg:
For sure we are here to push this year. It will be difficult this year as well, from the weather last year we damaged a lot of the road and it doesn't look like they have repaired the roads one hundred per cent. It will be a hard event this year, we need to be careful, but the plan is to push maximum from the beginning.

Q:
We saw some tactics from you in Qualifying. What can you tell us about that?

Mads Ostberg:
We decided to run the hard tyre through the morning. We don't have too many [tyres] for this event, and we will need the qualifying tyres as spares, so we decided to go on the hard tyre. We knew this would slow us down a bit, but I'm quite happy with that and the others choosing the soft tyre is better for us.

Q:
We have seen your performance improve this year; you have upped your pace however you have had some technical issues out of your control. What is your thought on the season to date?

Mads Ostberg:
Well, it's both good and bad things. We have had too many problems with the car, which is difficult for us, but we can see we have the speed and we can push on the high level. I'm happy with the speed, but not the results. We have only done three rallies, hopefully the results will come soon.

Q:
Last year, it was a win for you after Hirvonen was excluded. We are still waiting for the first 'real' win though. When do you think we might see that?

Mads Ostberg:
I'm trying this weekend…

Q:
Since we saw you last you have been a little bit of a 'Dare Devil' making a 60 metre jump on snow in your WRC car. Are there anymore stunts planned for this year?!

Mads Ostberg:
It's was a show in Norway, in one of the biggest ski resorts. Basically, it's a show for people to come and watch. We jumped just over 60 metres, it didn't go to plan, we hoped for more. It's difficult on the snow, you need perfect conditions and we didn't have them and the jump was a little bit short.

Jari-Matti Latvala:
No, it looked pretty nice, I saw some clips on the internet.

Mads Ostberg:
You can co-drive me next time!

Jari-Matti Latvala:
I have been doing my stunt driving in a historic car, this is more my area.

Q:
Andreas, your first WRC event with Volkswagen; there has been a lot of build-up and preparation to this moment so how much are you looking forward to it?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
For sure the feeling is absolutely amazing. It's finally nice to stay for the whole rally, instead of doing the recce then going for the plane on Thursday morning. This will be the most difficult rally of season for me. I have only done it one time before in 2007 – I was quite a young boy then! The main thing is for me to get experience. I am here to learn the Championship, to get to the finish of rallies and get experience.

Q:
You must have been about 12 in 2007…!

Andreas Mikkelsen:
I had just turned 18. I'm starting to get old now…!

Q:
How does it feel to come here as part of a manufacturer team?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
It's a dream come true. It was a hard decision in 2008 when I stepped back, but I learned a lot. It was all about getting back to the WRC. I have done two years in the IRC and I have learned a lot with Skoda, and I am very grateful for that. But now I feel ready to tackle the WRC again. To come with Volkswagen is fantastic, especially seeing what they have achieved. Now I need to be back – it's indescribable.

Q:
How have your preparations been?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
I've tried to get ready as good as possible. I did a two-day test in the Polo and some development driving in Germany. I have also done some cross-country ski races and some other physical training; I have done what I can to get ready for this event. Also, I have a new co-driver. We have done some events in Norway, but this is with English notes. It's a lot of new: new car, new co-driver, new language and new stages.

Q:
How are things with Mikko Markkula? Will having the notes in English slow you down?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
It's hard to say. It's working really well now. In Norwegian I had quite lot of words describing the corners, but in English I am struggling to get them in – so I have had to make less words. Mikko is doing an amazing job. It won't slow me down.

Q:
Last year in the S2000 we saw some good battles between you and Ogier - what can we expect to see from you now that you step up to a WRC car?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
The plan is to get to Srbastien [Ogier] and Jari-Matti's pace, but not in the first rally, definitely not in the first rally! I take my time. I have a good contract with Volkswagen, which is not ending this year. I take no pressure, I take my time and build step-by-step. I will be quite confident when I have the car in my body and I have the feeling – I have the speed to be there. I could go very fast here and then make mistake on second stage and that would not be smart.

Q:
Yves, Citroen leads the Manufacturers' Championship by four points over Volkswagen going into this event, but there has been only one win so far this season and that was for Loeb in Monte Carlo - what are your thoughts on the performance of Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo so far?

Yves Matton:
I will say, when we go to the rally we try to win, but when we are in a good position with two cars and we can do a good operation for the Championship then we do it like we do in Mexico. Mikko [Hirvonen] had a big disappointment in Sweden, the fact he went off in the first stage on a rally very important for him meant it took some time in Mexico to come again to be confident. And Dani [Sordo] was not so happy in the set-up of the car. We had a good test before Mexico, but we were not able to give him the parts for Mexico. After Mexico we tested again and it was a very good test, and now here he is qualifying first and [winning] Fafe last weekend. He seems very confident – we hope we can do a very good weekend.

Q:
As far as we are aware Sebastien Loeb is due to compete in another three rounds of the WRC. Is it possible that we could see more of him should you require his winning services?

Yves Matton:
This is not the plan, he don't want to do that. We have four extra events and those are the rallies he is doing this year. But, if we need one more result for the title, I will ask him – but I don't know if he will accept!

Q:
Last night we saw the launch of the Citroen Top Driver programme; can you tell us why Citroen has decided to provide this platform?

Yves Matton:
Citroen is involved for more than 20 years in the development of drivers. When I come back to Citroen I wanted the complete pyramid. For the first time this year we have this. We have the [DS3] R1 in national championships and the top of the pyramid will be the last level before a driver moves on to be in the official World Rally Car. Last year, 10 drivers achieved this and I am proud we can do this and I hope we can again bring somebody forward.

Q:
Also here in Portugal we see Robert Kubica compete in the WRC 2 Championship - what are your expectations of him here and what were your thoughts on his performance on Tarmac in the Canaries a few weeks ago?

Yves Matton:
It's his first event on gravel: we have to let him learn. In the test we saw what he can do, but the most difficult thing for him will be pace notes and reading the road. We need to let him have some time.

Q:
Last night the team unveiled the new R5, what can you tell us about the testing and development around it?

Yves Matton:
It started a couple of weeks [ago]. We are working on the car – it will be zero car in Rallye de France and homologated on January 1 to have some cars in Monte Carlo next year.

Q:
Jari-Matti, you are now heading into your fourth event with Volkswagen. How do you think it is going so far with the team?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
I guess, yeah, everybody has seen I haven't been on my best performance with the team. For sure, the car is quick and reliable, but it's maybe the same situation as the one Dani [Sordo] is having. This is not having the confidence in the car and this is what I am suffering with. I know what I need to improve to get more confidence, it is in the front diff. Unfortunately, the current regulations say you have to use the same transmission for three events; I did Sweden, Mexico and now here using the same transmission. I can't implement the change until Argentina. I need to get as good a feeling as I can with the car, then I can improve for Argentina.

Q:
How was qualifying?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
It was alright, but there was a bit of hesitation. When you have to push, this is when I still struggle. It's in the braking where I am not 100 per cent yet. It will come when I get the right balance. I need to accept that situation and drive the car as it is.

Q:
Are the team giving you pressure?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
No, it is a very nice situation with the team. They are giving me a lot of support. But for sure they can't give that forever and I have to show potential some time – that's the reality of life. I don't put pressure on myself here, but I hope to get a bit stronger after here.

Q:
What's the hardest thing about this event?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
For me, this is the most difficult gravel rally of the Championship, because of the characteristics of the roads. There are a lot of blind crests where it's hard to see where the corner is turning – it makes it very hard to judge on the recce. As well as that, a lot of long corners have rocks inside or concrete inside and outside; there are many objects to hit and you have to find all of this in the notes. But at the same time, you need to make sure you are not giving too much information.

Q:
Have you got that yet?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
I have got good experience on how not to make pace notes! I had quite a big accident here a few years ago, so it was 110 per cent concentration on the recce for me.



Question from the floor


Q: Martin Holmes (Martin Holmes Rallying, UK).
Jari-Matti, why is the set-up of your car a disadvantage and will it be a disadvantage for Swbastien Ogier?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
It's not a disadvantage, there is nothing wrong with the transmission – it works 100 per cent and Ogier is very happy and he can drive it. But I have a completely different braking style and I can't get myself familiar with the car as it is now. I need to change the set-up to get more confidence on the braking. I could try to change my driving style and brake differently, but this is long process, it can take a whole year so then I prefer to go set-up-wise. I can be more confident with the car like this, this is why we implement the change.


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