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Rally d'Italia Sardegna - Pre-event press conference

20 June 2013

PRESS CONFERENCE:

Q:
Andreas, you began your season with Volkswagen in Portugal but have very quickly made a strong impression. Your back to back stage wins in Greece were incredible, what can we expect here?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
In Greece it was good for us on the last day, keeping in mind that all the best drivers are not going to be risking anything, so it might lessen my chances a little bit. Coming into this rally everybody is going to start from scratch again so we will try to do the best we can and try to develop as a driver for each event, for every stage. We have had a good development since I started off in Portugal so I will keep on doing what I'm doing and getting used to the car and we'll see what we can do on this rally.

Q:
It is going to be very hot inside the car for this event, but you are a very fit driver, are you up with your physical preparation?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
I don't do any more training than normal and hopefully it should be enough for the event here. Two days ago it was 37 degrees at the end of the stage, so it will be tough.

Q:
What is your strategy here in Italy?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
It is a really tricky event and so narrow that you have to keep it on the lines all the time. But if we can have a clean rally with no mistakes, I will be happy with that, and try to have a good feeling for me would be good.

Q:
Are you targeting any podiums this year?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
It is not the aim but I would be happy if it happened, maybe a podium before the end of the year would be nice. But I'm not stressing with that. I take my time and so far it has been working very well, and we'll see what we can do at the end of the year.

Q:
It will be your birthday on Saturday, you will be 24, very young still. What result would be good for you to celebrate your birthday?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
If we can get a top five result I will be very happy with that, and not to do any silly mistakes. And if we do manage to get a clean finish, then we can get to the next rally in Finland with high confidence, so that will be nice.

Q:
S├ębastien, as the Championship leader coming into this round in Sardinia, let's talk about qualifying. Did everything happen according to plans this morning at qualifying?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
I am pretty happy with my qualifying, it is always the same but it's always a bit more difficult to open the road even if we are not the first ones driving there after the practice. Considering we were the first ones on the road we think we did a good job and we have to congratulate Jari-Matti [Latvala] because he was quite fast this morning.

Q:
It was disappointing not to see you compete for the podium back in Greece. Is the issue you had there now fully resolved by your team?

Sebastien Ogier:
Yes it should be okay, of course it was a bit unexpected and this is the kind of thing you can run into when you are competing with a new, young team. We cannot complain as after six rallies it was the first big problem we had, so I'm pretty sure that now it's sorted. Everything was fine this morning and if I can restart a season with five good results and one bad, I start immediately!

Q:
We are at the half-way point of the season and you have a good lead in the Drivers' Championship over your team-mate, and there is a very close battle in the Manufacturers' Championship, what is the team strategy from here on in?

Sebastien Ogier:
It has not changed, it is still exactly the same, in fact we haven't discussed about it to be honest. As long as both drivers have the chance to fight for the Championship it will be open, so nothing changed. Of course, we all want to score good points for the Drivers' Championship and also for the team, so we try to do our best again this weekend.

Q:
Looking back over the first half of the season, what would be your evaluation of your own personal performance?

Sebastien Ogier:
I'm very happy as we are almost halfway through the season. As I said we had five good results and only one bad, and I didn't do any mistakes so I want to continue like that. I want even more victories, and to finish the Championship at the position where we are today. So this weekend I definitely want to fight for the win here.

Q:
We are going to take a break after this event and you have had a number of rallies now with the Polo WRC. What are your thoughts on the car at this point? In terms of performance, are there any areas for improvement?

Sebastien Ogier:
Of course I'm very happy with the car, if you look at the results and the performance we had. It was possible because the car was good and fast. Let's say we can improve the reliability a bit regarding the only problem we had in the last rally. But other than that I think the team did a good job and we continue to push together because it's still very tight between everybody even if it looks good at the moment for me and the Championship. So we still want to improve reliability and also for the performance.

Q:
Dani, a great result at the last event, picking up second overall in Greece. You had a distinct strategy in Greece to finish the rally without risk, what is the plan here?

Dani Sordo:
We need to try to push a little bit more. In Greece, in the end it was good, lots of other drivers had problems so it was good for me. Sardinia is going to be difficult for everyone with a lot of stones so we need to try to go as fast as possible and fight for the podium.

Q:
You need to fight for the podium of course because in terms of the Manufacturers' Championship it is very very close. How are you feeling about the Drivers' Championship?

Dani Sordo:
Regarding the Drivers' Championship it is going to be more difficult, because S├ębastien [Ogier] is really strong and he is faster than many people so we need to find some performance. And in the Manufacturers' Championship we will need to fight as much as we can.

Q:
Greece was incredibly rough and hard on the cars. How does this event compare?

Dani Sordo:
Greece was cold compared with Italy! The risk was very high for the cars in Greece; here it is really really hot so it is going to be difficult for the drivers and for the cars.

Q:
Did the result in Greece give you a bit more confidence?

Dani Sordo:
Of course not making any mistakes and taking second place was good for self-confidence so we are going to start this rally with good feelings.

Q:
Thierry, this season so far you have secured two podiums, taking third in both Mexico and more recently in Greece. What is your strategy for this rally?

Thierry Neuville:
Especially on this one here in Sardinia, the roads are so narrow you can easily make a mistake, if you hit a stone you are out of the rally. In some stages probably we can of course increase our speed but otherwise we'll try to save the car and not make any mistakes.

Q:
In terms of testing before this event, how much have you done?

Thierry Neuville:
Nothing! No test, qualifying was the first time in the car after Greece, but it seems to be a good setup on the car. I worked out something with my engineer before coming here, then this morning we made some changes between the first and second pass. I was not fully happy but it was a good compromise so it seems to work. I was careful in qualifying but we got some good times so I think the car seems to work.

Q:
We've got two long days here and some long stages. What is the most difficult part of this event?

Thierry Neuville:
For me everything is difficult, like I said before, it is not the best rally for me. But this year the stages are completely different, so it is going to be better, it is not so rough, it's honestly very smooth so if it stays like this it is going to be good to drive and I will be able to enjoy this weekend.

Q:
You will compete at home next week at the Ypres Rally with the R5, how much are you looking forward to that?

Thierry Neuville:
Of course! But first I need to finish Sardinia with a good result, and then we will look forward to testing the R5 car for the first time. Malcolm [Wilson] said it is an incredible car, I hope he is right and we will see what happens. There are other R5 cars as well and we are not only there for the pictures, so we hope we are going to be fast there.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:

Q:
How tough is this event's high temperature going to be for the tyres?

Sebastien Ogier:
For me I am not so worried about that, I think the hard compound should be okay, the surface is not so abrasive most of the time, when it's sandy, it's not the most abrasive we know. But as you mentioned, there is going to be some high temperature so we still have to be a little bit careful about that, but I'm usually good at managing the tyres, so it should be okay.

Thierry Neuville:
It is exactly the same; I think the hard compound tyres will work very well this weekend. Of course the high temperatures will be tough but I don't see problems for that. I am also usually quite okay for the tyres and I don't struggle with tyre wear. I think the temperature will be more difficult for the drivers than for the cars.


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