Drivers: Evgeny Novikov (Citroen Junior Team), Sebastien Loeb (Citroen Total World Rally Team), Mikko Hirvonen (BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team) and Matthew Wilson (Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team)

Press conference:

Q:
Evgeny, you are competing with the Citroen Junior Team this year, your first outing was in Norway. What did you think of your performance there?

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Evgeny Novikov:
It is a very fast car. On a technical level we are trying to get a good set-up. The last race in Norway was quite good for me. I wanted to reach the finish and I did that. The stage results on the first day and the Sunday stage times showed that we could go fast.

Q:
We are used to seeing you in a Group N car, what did you think of the C4 WRC?

EN:
It's another level. It is not going to be easy to take a result here. I will try my best to do what I can.

Q:
We saw some impressive displays from you last year, most notably in Japan where you almost took away the win. Will we get to see that kind of pace from you in WRC this year?

EN:
Of course, my aim is to finish the rally. It will be a very difficult rally. It will also be my first time on tarmac roads on gravel tyres.

Q:
It will be your first time competing in Cyprus - what did you think of the stages from what you saw on the recce?

EN:
They are very nice and technical stages and they will be very hard for the driver and the co-driver. The roads are very twisty, but I like such roads.

Q:
You are part of the Citroen family now, what has the support been like? Has Sebastien (Loeb) been giving you any advice at all?

EN:
It is a good opportunity for me to be in a team with such a friendly atmosphere. 'Seb' and I have not spent that much time together until now but, hopefully, he will give me some advice, of course.

Q:
Sebastien, we are back in Cyprus after a break of two years and the drivers are faced with a mixed surface event using gravel tyres on tarmac on the opening day. You have tested the tyres on tarmac, how was it?

Sebastien Loeb:
It's going well. No special problems. The only thing is it is very slow compared with what we usually do on tarmac. It is not dangerous, just a case of adapting a different driving style. We will see tomorrow. On the shakedown there was a lot of gravel on the road.

Q:
You are reported in the press as saying that you will go flat-out to try and build a big lead on the opening day. How much of a lead would you be comfortable with to sweep the roads with on day two?

SL:
I don't know if I will be able to take the lead. I am first on the road. I will try to do my best and drive as fast as possible. It is very difficult to know how much of a lead would be comfortable. We will see.

Q:
The forecast is for rain tomorrow; that could make it even trickier out there...

SL:
So we have to take rain. I have no idea about the tyres in wet conditions. It doesn't matter.

Q:
Do you think it's a good move to bring back mixed surface events?

SL:
Yes, it's not a problem. I was happy to hear we have a tarmac day in Cyprus. The tarmac stages are very nice. I would prefer to drive them on slicks, but this is a question of budget and it is more important in these economic times to save a bit of money.

Q:
Are you thinking about the 50th WRC win?

SL:
Not really, 50 wins is a nice thing, but I will just concentrate on my preparations and my rally. This rally is totally different to the first two wins of the season. Here we are in another quite specific rally.

Q:
Marcus Gronholm will compete in the next event in Portugal, what do you think about him coming back to the Championship?

SL:
I am really happy to see him back. It has been a long time not to see him. If his Subaru is working well it could be another driver in the fight.

Q:
Mikko, Sebastien has said he will push for a big lead on Friday, what will your approach be on the opening day?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I'm sure he will push to try and get away. I will try and stay close. There is nothing much more we can do. They are forecasting some rain. If he gets a big lead, it will be difficult to catch him.

Q:
Ford had what was described as a marathon test for this event; what did you learn from it?

MH:
It went okay. We never had a big test in these conditions before with a gravel car on tarmac roads. We needed to get a feeling for how it worked. It all went well. We will see tomorrow when we get into the action.

Q:
We have talked a lot about mixed surfaces but the sting in the tail of this event could well be the final day; only three stages, but incredibly long...

MH:
There are long stages, quite technical stages and they take lots of time. It will be imperative to stay focused and attack in every corner. You can easily lose some time.

Q:
You told us in Cyprus that to beat Loeb you have to be perfect on every corner; with gravel tyres on tarmac that could be asking a lot!

MH:
There are plenty of corners to be perfect on! Hopefully it works well.

Q:
Matthew, you have completed the recce, what did you think of the conditions?

Matthew Wilson:
Yes, it's going to be a tough weekend. It is totally different. You go to Finland and it's really quick and you come here and it's really slow. I hope it stays dry. The stages will be less muddy. It was difficult on the recce. We will see.

Q:
With the various aspects of this event; gravel tyres, the weather, Sunday's long stages - do you think this could turn out to be one of the trickiest events on the calendar?

MW:
Yes. Tomorrow is a bit of an unknown for everyone. No one has tried gravel tyres on a wet tarmac road and a 40 kilometre stage on Sunday will be a tough finish to the rally.

Q:
What is your plan for the weekend?

MW:
Like I said it is a bit of an unknown. The shakedown was not representative of the stages. We will see what happens on stage one. We had no test before the rally and it will be an unknown in the morning. Rally GB was the last time we drove on gravel. We are looking for points to keep the run going. I will be happy to do this.

Q:
You have been competing in WRC for four years now. Can we see you get on the podium this year? What will it take from you to get there?

MW:
That was always the plan. I am in a more fortunate position than a lot of people and have been able to drive a WRC car from the age of 18. Not many get that opportunity. I wanted to use that the best I could. This year will be a big year and I intend to up the pace on certain rallies. We have had a good start to the year so far.

Questions from the floor:

Q:
Sebastien, what do you think about the Super 2000 route and the change of cars for the future of the WRC?

SL:
For me, on the driving side, I would be happy to have a turbo. We would not have a lot of torque with the new car. On another side it is a difficult moment with the financial problems for nearly everybody. Maybe the most important thing is to save the Championship and to take the chance of having new manufacturers joining us. The best decision now could be to take the Super 2000 regulations without the turbo. It is not for the drivers to decide at the moment.

Q:
Will you be taking part?

SL:
Why not!