Portugal - Post-event press conference
27 March 2011
Drivers / co-drivers: Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (Citroen Total WRT), Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroen Total WRT), Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT)
Team principal: Olivier Quesnel (Citroen Total WRT).
Congratulations Sebastien on the third WRC win of your career! We haven't seen you on the podium since Japan last year; is it good to be back?
It's a very good feeling. As you said, it's a long time without the podium for me, around six months, which is so long. I was performing in the last races and fighting for the podium and victory, but for many reasons I didn't finish and today is my third victory. It's a very big pleasure.
Does this make up for Mexico?
Yeah, I think we had very bad luck in Mexico. We were very fast, but we made a mistake. It was not a big mistake, but it had a big consequence and meant we had no points from there. I wanted to come back here and make big points. I was under pressure, but we took a good victory. I want to thank the team; they gave me the perfect car to do it.
How hard was this win?
It's never easy to win a rally, especially when you are fighting at this level, where there are lots of fast guys in the Championship. It's not easy, but this was almost the perfect weekend. We started very carefully on Thursday and wanted to stay in a good position, and then we start to push and get the gap and we had a good gap for today. Today was just to stay on the road and finish the rally, avoiding punctures. Finally we did it and it was a big pleasure to cross the finish line.
You were frustrated after Mexico, do you feel relief you've got your Championship off to a start now?
Yes. There is one thing that can summarise – “I feel good.” [Ingrassia plays tape of James Brown song]. I'm sorry – I spent too much time with Daniel [Elena]!
There have been three winners from the three rounds so far, is it good that you're in the fight?
It's great for us, great for the spectators and for you [the media]. I hope to come back again and play you another song! Sorry, it's great to get in to the fight.
After the rain on stage 16 you had said that you wouldn't push on the Power Stage; what made you change your mind? Were conditions better in stage 17?
The conditions were different in the last stage, it was drying a little bit so I said: “Okay, I have to try.” We started the stage trying hard and we saw in the split times we were in the right rhythm so we continued the stage like that and we have the three points, which is better than nothing. It has not been the easiest weekend for us, we lost our chance in the dust of Mikko yesterday and since that the game was a bit over. Today we decide to take it easy for the last stage.
Why was 37 seconds too much of a gap to overcome?
Because before that we have done 250 kilometres maybe, and we were quite equal except for the dust. We were fighting on the second, so it's not possible in three or four stages to make the difference like that. We were playing for the team, we [Citroen] lost some points in Mexico and now we have a one and two; it was easy if we didn't make any mistakes.
The Power Stage is a new concept for this year; do you feel it is a good addition to the WRC?
What I would say is that we are not all equal at the start of the Power Stage. Some drivers have more pressure, Seb especially today, for the victory, and me for the second place: I could lose 18 points to try and win three. I would do it if we were out of the classification, even if there is a mistake, it's done and you can come back for the stage. But, I cannot say it's not good: I scored seven points from a possible nine, so for me it's a good stage at the moment.
When you were caught in Mikko's dust, there was a lot of frustration in the car. Sebastien was angry, how did you calm him?
“Angry,” this is not the word. The situation was nasty, but all the time I said to stay calm in the stage. It's the game, when you are training to change the wheel in less than two minutes, it's for that. It's the race. One moment he went to Mikko, and I said: “Calma, calma.” It's the race, but when you fight for the victory and lose this time it's not easy to sit there and it's more difficult to keep the concentration on the car – you are speaking more rather than reading the notes.
Jari-Matti, you have finally completed Rally Portugal! How are you feeling?
I said in the press conference on Friday evening that “I got the monkey away from my heart” – I meant to say “the monkey away from my back”. Now I can relax and relax more in the next rallies. Now I complete the Rally Portugal. I am disappointed things looked even better at some points during this rally. We were fighting with Ogier yesterday, we were 10 seconds behind him, then the problems started. Then we lost the Power Stage to Loeb by 1.7 seconds, it was a little disappointing in the rally, but we are here.
It's your third 'third' position this season; with the driveshaft problems you had yesterday you must be pleased to be on the podium here?
The driveshaft was in the second stage, six kilometres before the end. I heard a friction noise on the rear-right, it was a long-left corner where I heard the noise and then suddenly it stopped completely driving. With the three shafts, when you don't have the centre diff it's quite weird to drive. Honestly, we worked in the road section to increase the pre-load in the diff to get it more easy to drive. And then, by accident, I did not notice one tyre going down. At the start of the stage we had one tyre going down and then in the middle of the stage, I had to change it. Mikko overtook me, then I have to catch him and pass him back. Then he had to stop for Sébastien to pass. It was like the Paris-Dakar Rally with a lot of dust and passing.
You wanted victory in the Power Stage today to gain those extra valuable points. You took two points after finishing second. Were you at your maximum during the stage?
I did some risks, I was pushing hard. I was happy for my driving, maybe I hesitated in some areas in that stage, because I had Petter's split times and thought I was up so much I thought I didn't need to push so hard. Then I saw I was three behind Loeb and I realised I had to push again, but it was too late – I woke up too late! It was not so easy, but I tried. The better man was faster this time.
Miikka, we know the history from you both here in Portugal, it was two years ago that you had that huge accident. How different in approach was it from you guys this time and how much less speed were you carrying?
Two years ago we were at least two gears too high and at that time we only had a five-speed gearbox, so we were far too fast.
You must be relieved to make it to the finish of Rally Portugal?
I would compare it to Christmas, when you hear about Father Christmas. We heard stories there was a finish for this rally, but we didn't know if it's true – like Santa Claus. Today we found out it's true: there is a finish!
Olivier, maximum points for Citroën here in Portugal in both the Drivers and Manufacturers Championships. A perfect result?
It's been a great weekend, the first one-two for the DS3 after the victory in Mexico. You said we've had three rallies and three winners, but we've had three rallies and twice Citroën has won. Sébastien Loeb came back for the Drivers' [championship] and Citroën is back too. Portugal is representative of what we will see for each event, the car has been really competitive and strong. We could be confident. It's not done but I am happy.
After two very specialised events what have you thought of the DS3's performance here in Portugal?
The DS3 has been really competitive, the Ford is also. We have a really strong car, we have to be confident and we have to work, but it's good for us.
Did you have any niggling problems with the cars this weekend?
No. But even if we did, I wouldn't say!
Question from the floor.
Q: Reiner Kuhn (Motorsport Aktuell, Switzerland).
For Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti, do you agree with Loeb about the Power Stage?
Yes, I think the same as him. I said this in the past.
Overall it's good for television and it's more interesting for the people following. In 1999, we had the same system tried in Finland. At that time, the winner of the rally took 10 points and winner of stage three points. The gap was even more significant then. I'm okay with 3-2-1 for the points when it's 25 for the win. And when it's a real stage and it doesn't feel like a super special, it's good. I like the real stage.