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Sardinia - Post-event press conference

8 May 2011

Drivers / co-drivers: Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroen Total WRT), Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT), Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson (PSWRT)

Team manager: Sven Smeets (Citroen Total WRT).



Press conference.


Q:
Congratulations on your second win of the season! It is your fourth win here in Sardinia, how does it compare to the other wins here in terms of toughness?

Sebastien Loeb:
For sure, it was the first time that we drove first on the road all the time, with finally a victory at the end. I didn't believe at the start of the rally that I could do it like this. I didn't know what would happen after the first day, I expected the others to be just behind me and pushing me on Saturday, finally we saw on Friday after Petter's little problem and Mikko's problem that we were leading, and that it wasn't a bad lead, so we saw that we were not in a position to make any strategy, we had to push, and that's what we did all weekend.

Q:
The pace has been incredible this weekend, have you been able to ease your speed at all or were you constantly one hundred per cent?

SL:
In the middle of today's third stage I thought okay, now it's not bad. I saw in the splits that I was two seconds slower than Mikko but I had a 24 second lead, so I said okay, now I can take it a little bit easy and lose a little bit of time, and it's what I did. Before that we were pushing very hard all the time.

Q:
You picked up another point on the Power Stage, was the goal to get maximum points or did you not want to push too much?

SL:
To be honest when I saw the time of Jari-Matti (Latvala), which was the first time we had, I said we won't get three points! Then I saw that Mikko started even faster than Jari-Matti, I was only 13 seconds in front of him so I still had to have a very good rhythm, that helped me to keep pushing. I was feeling well, I made a little mistake in a hairpin and I nearly stalled because I was in second gear instead of first. It's a bit stupid, I lost maybe one or two seconds on that but except for that the feeling was good and so I took one point. I did not want to take big risks for that.

Q:
Sébastien mentioned one mistake, it seems you had a practically perfect weekend. Was that the only mistake?

Daniel Elena:
This weekend was hard for everybody because this race is very technical. The first day is complicated because it was completely new and we had a big moment on stage two, a long crest flat, the pace note said keep left, he missed it and landed in a ditch on the right, that was the big moment for the weekend. It's a good race, technical, slippery, but not easy.

Q:
Was it distracting to see many cars on the side of the road, especially Friday?

DE:
I remember we passed one hairpin right and after we saw ten cars, Sébastien told me it must be a car cemetery!

Q:
Mikko, second position! How many times have you have been runner-up in this event?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It's five times now; obviously I just cannot win here!

Q:
You did win the Power Stage, those are good points…

MH:
Yes, I am really happy with the result and the pace we had this weekend, it's not too bad at all.

Q:
A few problems for you though, what happened?

MH:
We had just one problem, a puncture - that was my own mistake, who knows what we could have done without it. I made a mistake and I got a puncture, with that I'm happy that we still managed to be second and get some really good points.

Q:
Just seven points short of the lead of the Championship as we head to Argentina, are you happy to be returning there?

MH:
It's nice to do rallies now, I'm very happy with the car and with the pace, like I said. Who knows what's going to happen in the next rallies, but I'm pleased with what we have done and we must wait to see what we can do in the next rallies.

Q:
You won the Power Stage and took maximum points there. What was it like to drive through this stage?

MH:
I was a little bit surprised by my time. At first I was thinking of Petter, if he'd go crazy and set an unbelievable time. I just went for his pace. Like Sébastien, when I heard Jari-Matti's time before the stage I thought it was really good, I thought he was going to take the points and that I'd just fight with Petter. I just had a really good flow, I was thinking on one split, when we were 4 seconds ahead of Petter, I don't need to push anymore, I can take it easy. I had a good feeling and good rhythm, I just went for it in the end. I was surprised that the time was that good. I got good points so it's not too bad.

Q:
You're becoming a veteran of Power Stages; you won one in Mexico, now one here. All points are crucial when you're fighting for the Championship.

MH:
True, there's quite a lot of points to take in Power Stages. Everybody knows that. It's just that I'm sure Sébastien had to think a little bit whether it was worth going for the maximum risk; for everybody it should be more equal and more fair if it was out of the results, for sure it brings more interest for the last stage though.

Q:
Jarmo, a slight discrepancy with your time from Monte Lerno yesterday; what happened?

Jarmo Lehtinen:
Yes, it was stage 10, in the morning. As usual I do my timing in the car, and it was different from the organiser's timing. I was 120% sure I was right. It took almost 24 hours to correct that one, but it was obvious, we can check it from the car data. I knew what our time would be.

Q:
Tell us about the weekend. Things seem to be going in the right direction for the Championship this year.

JL:
It's nice to see that we started with new cars in the start of the season. Now I can see that Mikko found his place in the car, he's the master now, not the car any more. It looks really good for the future, now he's really relaxed in the car.

Q:
Petter, the first podium this year, it's been a while since we saw you here! Are you happy to take third position?

Petter Solberg:
Very happy, it's been quite a difficult start to the season. The speed was good in the stages, but we didn't always get a clean run on every rally. Now it was good fun on the stages and we ended up on the podium, I attacked quite hard and I am very pleased with that.

Q:
What was the problem that you had on the opening day, a turbo pipe?

PS:
Yes, a turbo pipe came off. We were looking at the splits, I was very happy and pushing hard. It doesn't matter. We lost a lot of time, but coming from 10th up to third place I shouldn't be asking for more than that.

Q:
You wanted to get the fastest time on the Power Stage. At service you were trying to remove weight from the car, I even thought you might not want to take Chris with you?!

PS:
We have to fire up a little bit! Maybe all the other guys fire up at the same time, try to play the game a little bit. First of all we were very happy for my sponsors, everybody knows how hard it is to get sponsors, this third place is very important for the whole team and for the motivation. We are very happy with that, we shouldn't ask for more. For the Championship it's quite hard now, since the start of the season we've had a lot of problems. It's a long year. I have good hopes for Argentina, we'll have a two day test before the rally and hopefully I can find some more speed in the car.

Q:
Do you enjoy Argentina?

PS:
I like every rally. They're all good, even Germany where I've struggled for many years, since last year I like it a lot.

Q:
Chris, were there any issues on the Power Stage? We were expecting maybe a slightly quicker time.

Chris Patterson:
No, no real issues, we were just a bit shocked when we saw Jari-Matti's time, and we thought okay, it's third place, there was no point in pushing too much for it. Like Petter said, third place was very important for us and as soon as we saw Jari-Matti's time we knew there was nothing we could do.

Q:
You've been with Petter for almost a year now, how has this time been?

CP:
It's been interesting and of course very demanding. We all know who Petter is, it's very enjoyable, we're getting on well together. I think we enjoy the challenge of all the rallies. We're all a team, working well together and it's all looking good.

Q:
You're still chasing a win. Do you feel the momentum in the team; is there that kind of desperation as you really want to get on the top step of the podium?

CP:
The whole team is very driven; we all want to win, right down to the ladies in the catering. Petter drives us all very well, we keep pushing and never give up, and we're looking forward to trying to get another couple of steps up the podium.

Q:
Sven, Citroën now leads the Manufacturers' Championship over Ford. It's been a great weekend for Loeb but Ogier doesn't seem to have been on the form we are used to seeing, why was that?

Sven Smeets:
I think that's because he's not been here a lot, only once. He didn't have a good rally, he went off twice on Friday and Saturday. He didn't feel well on the road on Friday. He lacked a little confidence, he decided to take it easy to try and get around. Yesterday he had a much better feeling, there were some stages he knew. Today he had a small hit with a small bank and I think fourth place was the best he could do.

Q:
Sébastien and Daniel had a fantastic weekend, what did you think of their performance in Sardinia?

SS:
I think it's nearly comparable with that one day in New Zealand - starting up-front in one of the most slippery roads in the world. We were maybe a little bit helped by Mikko's problem, his flat tyre, and Petter's problem. Still yesterday in one stage, even in the first pass, he did the best time; it's been an incredible performance.

Q:
WRC returns to Argentina next - is it a welcome return for Citroën?

SS:
Yes, for us it's one of the most important rallies of the Championship. We were very sad last year when it was out of the series. We're back, probably with something in Buenos Aires the weekend before to entertain the people. The Citroën team is very driven, there are lots of spectators. We're very happy to go back. We pray for rain; that would help us a little bit!



Questions from the floor.


Q: Claudio Pilia (Rally Emotion Magazine, Italy).
What do you think of the opening stages on Friday?

SL:
Fantastic, it was really good. The stages were really difficult, the surface was really good, even better than the others because it was very hard, even on the second pass the stages were perfect, not destroyed. I had some very good times so I think the stages were very good!

MH:
They were really good. Maybe a little different in character from the Sunday stages, but not too much; some very fast sections and slower ones as well, a bit of everything. I really enjoyed them.

PS:
You need a good pace but also for the driver to be on the case, so the co-operation between both is very important. It's a good challenge.

Q: Reiner Kuhn (Motorsport Aktuell, Switzerland).
Will you miss Sardinia if we go back to the mainland?

SL:
It depends if I'm driving next year or not!

MH:
I know there are really good stages on the mainland as well, for sure stages here are really nice. I don't know how it could be, with stages on the mainland maybe we would have a little more spectators; we'll see what will happen.

PS:
The place is spectacular, it's very nice. The people are very good, here we get good support, it's maybe coming back to the spectators. The stages are absolutely fantastic; it's up to those who decide.


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