Australia - Post-event press conference
6 September 2009
Driver / co-driver: Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroën Total WRT), Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen (BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT) and Dani Sordo and Marc Marti (Citroën Total WRT).
Team principal: Olivier Quesnel (Citroën Total WRT).
Sébastien welcome back to the top step of the podium. It's been a fantastic weekend out there hasn't it? And so incredibly close, do you think it's been one of the closest battles we've seen so far in this year?
Yes, it has been in Finland also. It has been a great battle. It was 35 stages so it was really long and to keep a rhythm all the time was not easy, it was a big pressure for the Championship. I knew that I have to win and I knew that I am not allowed to do any mistakes so that was difficult, and Mikko was pushing very hard. Finally we won and it was a really good moment, because when you are used to winning, like in the start of the season, you get used to it and it's nice, but when it's four months and you do not have any victory it's really a great sensation.
Going into the remote service today you were 11 seconds ahead of Mikko. Did you think “I can start maybe to relax now, he can't catch me” or not?
No, because the problem is when you try to change the rhythm, for me I am flat out or when I release it it's a bit too much so I couldn't go in this rhythm, I had to continue to push like I am fighting. So no, I couldn't relax and also Dani was pushing hard behind, so Mikko had to go flat out also and I had to too. I knew at the remote service that nothing is done, I have to continue to take some risks until the end of the rally.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge here in Australia this weekend?
The biggest challenge was to be on the limit all the time without doing any mistakes. For me it was a really long rally, a lot of stages. Even if the stages are short, it feels like it's really long and you have to be constantly concentrated; flat out at the start of every stage, because it's so easy to lose one or two seconds at the start and then it's too late. That was the biggest challenge, to be always on the top.
Daniel, it's the first time we've ventured over to the east coast of Australia, what did you think of the stages?
Yes, the stages were okay. I like when it's very fast, but I look two or three times and see the trees are too near my door, and it's not easy. I prefer when it's very fast, not the second part of day one, it was twisty and slippery. You know, the stages are good when you win!
Mikko, it's second position overall, you've had a fantastic battle out there between five of you, but of course the big battle between yourself and Dani Sordo this afternoon. Are you happy with second position? It is eight points, and you do still lead the Championship.
Yeah well, it's better than to be third. I'm happy that in the end I managed to keep Dani behind, it was really a difficult fight against Dani and against Sébastien as well. But it was definitely, from Friday morning, just going flat out all the whole way through. And starting this morning we were all within 0.1 second; nobody had any room to make mistakes; it was really a difficult weekend.
When did you realise that you'd lost your grasp on the win?
Well, all the way through the day, I mean it was quite obvious after the morning I noticed myself that all the time when it was dry we couldn't do much; we were losing a second or two seconds all the time to Seb and Dani. But then when it was damp I wanted to be a little bit faster but it was almost dry all the way through. So I tried as long as I could all the way to the end, but I started to know in the morning that it's looking very difficult.
It's been a great battle between the three of you. You were all separated by just point one of a second at the end of the day yesterday. But there were five drivers in the mix really, with Jari-Matti Latvala and Sébastien Ogier as well. At one point yesterday I think it was just 13.8 seconds between five of you. That's good for the future and the sport.
Yeah definitely, let's do it again! Sébastien Ogier, he's given a lot and is really fast as well, and Dani also; he's just getting faster and faster. For sure we can have fantastic fights in the future as well.
This was your 100th WRC start; how was it for you?
To be honest I didn't really think about it, we were fighting all the time. Okay it's a nice occasion, and I will remember that, I will have some nice memories from this rally.
Dani, Mikko mentioned how much faster you're getting on gravel, we saw incredible speed coming threw from you today You missed out on second position though. How disappointing was that when you came through the final stage?
I'm disappointed of course, but I'm happy because the fight with Mikko and Sébastien, more with Mikko, was really, really nice. I lost the second place, but the sensation in the car was good. I finished third but this rally was great to drive, all the time flat out to try to cut (time).
You've already said that you were flat out all the way, how much were you risking to achieve those times?
Many risks. Sometimes it's too much because I saw the split times for Sébastien that were really, really fast. But some close splits were there with Mikko, so I tried to push a little more. The only time differences were two, one or three seconds - they were really, really close. So I tried to push hard and sometimes it's too much.
Marc, from your perspective what has been the biggest challenge this weekend?
I think it was the notes, always with a new rally. We are driving with such high speed. Accuracy, this is the most important thing.
Olivier, an incredible weekend competitively, and very exciting for the Championship when we had three drivers separated by just one tenth of a second last night! It's really good for the sport isn't it?
Yes, it is good. It's disappointing that we still had to use tactics though. I think if we didn't have to do anything yesterday it could have been better. But today was a big fight too and it was quite good to see Seb win again, Dani coming up and Ogier coming up. So I think for the end of the season there will also be Mikko and Latvala, it will be quite good for rallying.
Things are looking interesting in both Championships. What are your feelings ahead of the final two rounds, and Spain in particular, where Citroën has dominated the last couple of years? Are you feeling confident? What about GB?
You never know what will happen. So for Spain we are not as confident as you could imagine, so that means that we are not confident at all for GB. We are doing our job and we hope it will go quite well, but we are not confident at all.
We head home for you in the next round in Spain Dani. With the other drivers breathing down on you, it's going to be a tough challenge.
Of course, Ogier and Mikko are really, really fast. Mikko on tarmac in Catalunya was very, very fast. I will try to go fast for sure and to help Sébastien. It's a special rally for me because it's in my home, there are a lot of people and we'll see if I can go fast.
Citroën have got an incredible record in Spain, what can you do to try and beat them there?
For sure, I'll try to do all I can. We're going to have a test before the rally so that we can try and find something for the car, but I'll be trying to do some practice myself as well. I'll try to get back into tarmac speed and try to find a little bit more (speed). I'm sure it's going to be a difficult weekend for me, but you know, I'll just need to go up there and go flat out and then we'll see. I'm definitely not giving up even though it's maybe not the best surface for me, but you never know what's going to happen. So I'm really looking forward for that as well.
And how are you feeling about the Championship now with just two rounds remaining?
Two rallies to go, we don't know yet what's going to happen.
You have won in Spain for four years Seb. Spain may be the 'banker' rally for you to know that you can take 10 points, and Rally GB at the end of the year – anybody could win there. How are you feeling about the rest of the year?
I feel like everybody, I don't know (what's going to happen). In Spain for sure I have won a few times there and I know that I'm very good there, but it's hard to be favourite, because then you are expected to go and to drive and to win. Then it's less easy to be the favourite. For sure, I will try, I will do my best but we don't know. There's only one point between Mikko and me with two rallies to go – anything can happen.