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Wales - Post-event press conference

13 November 2011

Drivers / co-drivers: Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT), Mads Ostberg and Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Stobart Ford WRT) and Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor (M-Sport Stobart Ford WRT).

Team principal: Malcolm Wilson (Ford Abu Dhabi WRT).



Press conference.


Q:
Jari-Matti congratulations on the fifth win of your career and your first this year! Is it a good feeling to be back on that top step?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Miikka was calculating that it is over 15 months, so it is a long period. Honestly, it's been a difficult year for me. Okay, in previous seasons I have made mistakes, I have been going off the road. But now I was able to keep it on the road but losing by so small margins, and that is like killing you inside. When you go 0.2 seconds in Jordan and 8 seconds in Finland, your home territory, so at some point you think it is starting to look like you are not going to win anything this year and it's going to give me even more pressure for next year. This victory opens the box for 10 times to do this rally before I can win it!

Q:
After your team-mate Mikko Hirvonen retired the team were looking to you to go out and win against Sébastien Loeb. This morning things were not going quite right, there were a few mistakes creeping in. Why was that?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
The rally started well in the Great Orme stage, then on the forest stages I was a little bit behind Mikko and Loeb, but when Mikko retired I realised then the situation was that we need to get something for the team at least. I got the spirit – I want to fight back and I want to get something from this rally now. I had been waiting for victories for a long time so I wanted to fight for that. I started and it was really hard. Yesterday morning when I saw on the Hafren stage I was ahead of Loeb by over five seconds I started to push, maybe a little bit too much. It was really my fault; I went on top of the mud and got worried I was carrying too much speed. It was a medium, medium combination of corners and a 9-left and I was worried that I couldn't turn for the next left hander, so I saw an access road so I went straight to the access road. I had to reverse and I lost 10 seconds. Again we were five seconds behind Loeb after that so we needed to start catching him a bit.

Q:
This weekend for the team meant a possible drivers' title for Mikko Hirvonen, that didn't happen. What did you think when you heard the news of Loeb's retirement?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
We were already putting our helmets on and were just about to start the stage. It was messaged to the car that Loeb had stopped. We thought “what is happening?”. We couldn't understand why he had stopped because he finished the stage. We saw Mads Østberg and he said that Loeb had an accident and said: 'I promise he won't come back!'. It was an easier stage after that!

Q:
What does this win mean for you after a difficult season?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
It enormously helps for next year. I was really happy when I was awarded with the 'Spirit of the Rally' - it really means a lot to me.

Q:
Miikka you said that statistically it is good to have a win every year, what do you think about it?

Miikka Anttila:
Yes for sure, I feel relieved. When we look back to the history and you have a bad year and your name is not there… I'm very happy and it is also a good moment at home; I promised that we have to win this rally because it's Father's Day at home now in Finland and I'm now covered!

Q:
What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of this weekend?

Miikka Anttila:,/B>
The changing weather conditions, absolutely. When we started at the Great Orme it was sunshine, then we did a stage in the darkness. The next day it was misty and rain. It's tough when the weather is changing and we need to read the road where there are slippy places and then of course when we do the first couple of stages, we have to mark all the slippy places, so all in all, the rally is so demanding.

Q:
Mads, congratulations on securing second position overall, equalling your best result from the start of the season in Sweden. How does it feel for you to end the season with a podium?

Mads Ostberg:
Well I feel very great. I told you I would get back there and I was getting a bit stressed to be honest during the season. Not every rally has gone the way I planned it to. It has proved to be quite a strong field of drivers, so it's not very easy to be on the top. We try to improve on every rally and I'm very happy to end the last rally like this. It means a lot for next year as well. I'm very, very pleased to show that I'm able to go back to the podium.

Q:
There were some engine concerns along the way, especially yesterday. What was going on?

Mads Ostberg:
We had an issue with the engine, I don't know exactly what it was. For me it felt quite bad in the beginning. I stopped the car, I felt it at the refuel actually, where I stopped the car and when I restarted it, it was on three cylinders. I think I forgot for a moment that I was driving a Ford as when you are driving a Subaru and it goes down to three cylinders, that means the end. These are strong cars, even though it's on less cylinders.

Q:
Were there any nerves this weekend thinking that you could take away a podium position?

Mads Ostberg:
No it was a lot better today than yesterday. I was really keen and really ready to fight with Petter [Solberg] and we just got the message as we were on the start line. I had all this energy and all this fighting that I wanted to do, but I couldn't use it. I had to calm down and everything. I was bad on the stage really, I was not focussing correctly. Saturday was like that all the way. I was struggling a lot, I just went slower so I didn't do any mistakes but I didn't go quicker because I was basically too nervous. But today it's been a lot better, pace notes have been better today and we have quite good control inside the car, so even though we were up to second it didn't put any more pressure on. Podium is podium for me, and third or second wouldn't matter too much, I'm just happy to be back on the podium. Unfortunately for Sébastien he was in the road accident and that put us in second position, that's obviously good and maybe the most positive thing about that was maybe that I can stand on the podium together with Henning [Solberg], because Henning is such a nice guy. It's nice to be on the podium together with him, also Jari-Matti of course, he's a great driver and really deserves this victory.

Jari-Matti Latvala:
Scandinavia time!

Q:
Jonas, congratulations on your second podium this year, what does it feel like to the end the year on a high?

Jonas Andersson:
It is of course a really nice end to the rally, it is one of the events that we know best. It just shows that it's good that we have done more or less all the events this year now, except for Australia, so we can try and push a bit harder next year and try to be on the podium a bit more times.

Q:
Were there any big moments out there for you? Anything you want to tell us?

Jonas Andersson:
There were a few moments for sure, especially on the Friday when we really pushed a lot and there was a few moments in the fog and in the dark. We were a bit close a couple of times, yes. The car is in one piece and we kept it more or less on the road so it wasn't too bad.

Q:
Henning, the last time you were on the podium was in 2009 in Poland – it's been a long wait until now, how did it feel to win the battle with Kris Meeke?

Henning Solberg:
It was a good fight from the morning as he was actually much faster on all the stages, but I tried to keep calm and I tried just to set good times.

Mads Ostberg:
He wasn't calm!

Henning Solberg:
I was so calm, I tried not to do anything stupid!

Jari-Matti Latvala:
He was nervous, he was really nervous!

Mads Ostberg:
One of the things about Henning, if he stops talking about diffs and springs and set-ups, he is nervous, and he hasn't mentioned anything about diffs or springs or anything so we knew something was a problem!

Henning Solberg:
The good thing was these guys, especially Jari-Matti was coming to me saying “do this and this and that” and saying “this and this” because we have an agreement. I help him with a new wife, I help him find a new girlfriend or wife, and he helps me out on this rally. So we have an agreement!

Q:
Okay, so you were feeling nervous, talk to me about the middle stage. You seemed to be doing a great job at keeping Kris Meeke behind you and then toward the end of the stage you dropped a lot of time, what happened?

Henning Solberg:
I just went straight. I don't know what happened, I think I pulled the handbrake when I was braking, so I just went straight in to a ditch. It has been a very difficult week - I have been exactly on the road position when it was dark and foggy, very foggy. So I was close to Petter and Mads except in the last stage I lost over 40 seconds in the dark and foggy stage. After that I tried to drive to my pace and have fun.

Q:
The boys mentioned that you like to change settings and tinker a lot with the car, I take it you found a good setting in the end?

Henning Solberg:
Yes it was quite good, it was okay.

Q:
What does it mean to you to take a podium on the final round when you are trying to secure funding for next year?

Henning Solberg:
I speak with sponsors all the time and I hope I get a good deal for next year. That is what I do every day now after the rally. I hope to get a good deal for next year. We will see.

Q:
Will we see you in a Ford?

Henning Solberg:
I don't think any other team can offer me that money, so I think I will stay with Ford!

Q:
So when will we know what your plan is for next year?

Henning Solberg:
Before Christmas! Malcolm [Wilson] always calls me before Christmas and before then I need a new deal!

Q:
Ilka, it's your first WRC podium since 2006 – it's been a while!

Ilka Minor:
It is an absolutely great, great feeling. Because it was 2006 the last one. Of course it was only 1.8 seconds between Kris Meeke and us before the last stage, and because we got his stage time just before the start of our stage, and so we were really, really pleased to have finished like this.

Q:
Did you notice Henning's nerves?

Ilka Minor:
Because he was not talking so much I had some sign from him.

Q:
You also won the Michael Park Award at this event, what did that mean to you?

Ilka Minor:
I'm very proud of this because Michael Park was a very good guy and I really have to say thank you that people voted for me. I don't know why I deserve it, but obviously there is something right with me.

Q:
Malcolm, three Fords on the podium but the team came here wanting the drivers' title. Unfortunately this hasn't happened, is this now any conciliation?

Malcolm Wilson:
Yes for sure, I mean it's a real conciliation and obviously I'm very, very happy for Jari because the season that he's had, and the team role that he has played for supporting Mikko for the position he has had in this event to actually challenge for the title. So it's been great; everybody knows how his performance has improved over the year and to get to the final stage sets him up for next season. But I think it's also really important from a Ford point of view that we've actually got eight Fords in the top 10, and I don't know when the last time was that that happened. I have a feeling it might even go back to the great days of the Mark II Escorts. It's been a great weekend for us all and the cars have performed really well and the guys have done a great job.

Q:
What about next year Malcolm? What will we see happening with Ford, what will we see happening with the driver line-up next year?

Malcolm Wilson:
Well I think my first priority is to make sure we keep Ford in the WRC and there is no question they want to be in and there is no question about myself and M-Sport, so we're in discussions and hopefully we will have a decision before the closing date for the entries on 12 December. Of course everybody knows that Jari is contracted to us next year and my priority at the moment is that we keep Ford in the WRC.

Q:
Could Jari-Matti be real challenger next year do you think?

Malcolm Wilson:
I think there is no question; you just have to look at how he's improved throughout the season. And I'm sure a lot of people here have also heard Sébastien [Loeb] on the last stage last night when he said that he'd driven the absolutely perfect stage, that he'd driven the perfect rally and yet Jari took five seconds off him. I think if you look at that with Jari's tarmac performance in Spain, he's definitely got to be one of the main guys for the Championship next year.

Q:
What have you thought of the new look Wales GB?

Malcolm Wilson:
To be honest I'm sure these guys have enjoyed the stages because there are some great stages to drive on. I think it's a shame that some of the conditions were a little bit difficult and tricky. I have to say from a team point of view it's certainly been a logistical challenge and I really personally don't feel that it's the way that the manufacturers' and everybody else wants to see the WRC go.


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