Actually in the morning we spoke with our team co-ordinator, and I said to him many things in Whaanga Coast could happen. But then someone said to me that unfortunately Ford was never the winner of those. But this time we made it back.
Sebastien, I think everyone in this room and around the world feels for you right now. It all disappeared from you on the final stage. You were on the brink of your first WRC victory – it's been an incredible performance from you this weekend. What happened on stage 21?
It just happened, one last mistake before the end – for sure it was a big shame to make this mistake at this moment of the race, but it's the race – it's never finished until the finish line. So I'm still very happy with my weekend, I think I did a good job with Julien this weekend. And first I want to thank all the team because it wasn't planned for us to come here at the start of the season. But finally Citroen find the budget to come here and it's a good result for everybody and for me it was a pleasure to drive here this weekend. For sure it was a big disappointment to lose my first victory like this, but it doesn't really matter if I continue in this way I will have a victory soon, so it's a good result.
It didn't look like your first time competing here in New Zealand, it looked like you had years of experience on those stages, why do you think you adapted so well?
I don't know, it is difficult to explain that. From the second stage I find a good rhythm and I was very confident with my car and have a good feeling. I think with Julien we make a good job during the recce because we have very good pace notes. Until yesterday night I had no moments and pushed quite hard, but today I pushed quite hard and made two mistakes. But today I think I pushed like never, it was a big attack from the first stage this morning until the end. Unfortunately I had no split time from Jari-Matti in the last one, so I pushed a little bit too much at the end and I lost the victory.
The confidence you must have got from this result... surely a win is on the cards at some stage this year?
Yes, that is most important for me. I am closer and closer to the best driver this weekend. I was faster just after Seb (Loeb). Seb was the best, but for me it was good news to be closer and closer to him and I was faster than everybody else except for him. So it was good news for me, but it's still a long way to go to be fast and clean so we have to continue to learn rally after rally. But I think I'm confident for the rest of the season.
Julien, congratulations on second position, what was it like pressure-wise in the car this weekend.
We didn't feel like that except for we knew we had some hard work to maintain the gap. I would say we took it easy, we tried to do our best and we are pretty happy with the times we did in the stages where we have to clean. We knew that the rally would be long and the final issue would be on Whaanga Coast – the 21 kilometre stage. So it's a very good experience for us to take the lead like that in such a rally.
Seb, an incredible event, lots of action, lots of drama though. We saw drama from you on Friday, and yesterday at the start of the day you were 1 minute 20 seconds down on the lead and at the end of the day just five seconds off the lead. More dramas today though, what happened?
I don't know, it was a strange rally for me. When you are first on the road, like the first day, there is lots of gravel on the road and it's very slippery. So I had to really push very hard to not lose too much time and one time it was a bit too hard and so we lost a lot. A lot of people thought it was over, we knew that we would have a good road position the second day. We knew that sometimes it happens in some rallies that when we are first on the road we can be faster one day than the other, so okay we tried for sure. I had a great second day – no mistakes and pushing on the limit all the time. Very good feeling with the car – everything was going perfectly and we finished only five seconds from the lead; that was a perfect situation for the last day but on the last day I went off again two times. One time off the road, one time a spin – maybe trying a bit too hard?
It must be disappointing for you, because everyone was saying you really deserved to win the rally after the performance you put in yesterday – to now finish in third, how do you feel?