Drivers: Sebastien Loeb
(Citroen Total), Mikko Hirvonen
(BP Ford Abu Dhabi), Per-Gunnar Andersson (Suzuki) and Chris Atkinson
Sébastien, taking third position here would mean you win the drivers' title this year – will you be driving for third or will you go for the win?
For sure my aim is to finish third and that's the most important thing. To win the Championship is far more important than to win Rally Japan. But the situation is not so easy. I am not used to starting not being able to push to the maximum. It's not that I don't want to win but it's a new rally and it's easy for a mistake to happen with the notes not being completely right or with the grip changing a lot. We saw on the recce a lot of mud for example. The most important thing is to find my own rhythm and to feel well in the car. If I can be in the first few places then that would be great.
How difficult will it be for you to find a pace which you're happy with, if it's not flat out?
It can be tricky to find a rhythm. Even if you are not flat out in a tricky place it can be hard. I drive well if I feel well in the car. We will see what happens.
We are in a new location for this year's event. What did you think of the stages here when you did the recce?
For sure the conditions are really tricky. They were really tricky in the recce, especially the first day. Now I hear they have snow on the stages so I don't know what the condition will be. If there is snow on the road you cannot go through the stages on gravel tyres. It is not possible.
As you say, there is snow on some of the stages on day one and there is talk of possibly cancelling SS3.
If the conditions are not usable then yes, I think we cannot do anything else. If the snow is like this and we only have a gravel tyre it can be impossible to go through, but it's only one stage so we will see.
It could be a huge weekend for you, with the possibility of securing a record-breaking fifth world title. Is your feeling before going into the rally just as normal or are you nervous, excited?
Sure I am a little more nervous but that's normal because I am not used to start the rally in this state of mind. I have to forget about the title and concentrate on the rally, focus on the notes and on my driving. That is all. It's easy to say so; we will see tomorrow if it's easy to do. The stages are short so it will be important to start immediately with a good rhythm, otherwise it will be hard to catch time back. For sure there are some tricky stages and I do not want to take too many risks. We will see and try to take confidence.
Ford currently lay second in the Manufacturers' Championship and you are second in the drivers, 14 points behind Sébastien. It is still mathematically possible to win both, but how are you feeling about the situation?