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Portugal - Post-event press conference

1 April 2012


Drivers / co-drivers: Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen (Citroen Total WRT), Mads Ostberg and Jonas Andersson (Adapta WRT), Evgeny Novikov and Denis Giraudet (M-Sport Ford WRT).


Team principal: Yves Matton (Citroen Total WRT).


Press conference


Q:
Mikko, congratulations on your first win for the Citroën Total World Rally Team! How are you feeling after the weekend in Portugal?

Mikko Hirvonen:
Relieved the weekend is behind. It was such a difficult start on Friday. Conditions were absolutely horrendous with the fog and rain you could barely see 50 metres. I played it smart, Petter [Solberg] and the boys were a lot faster, but I thought: “If I go faster then I could go off.” And in the end, slowing down paid off.

Q:
What was is like when you saw Sébastien [Loeb] off the road?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It is always a surprise when he makes a mistake. It's rallying, it can happen. It was early, so I knew I had to make the finish. But then Friday didn't help, it was so tough. But I came through that and then I knew the best result for me was the best result for the team. It feels fantastic to win after fighting Citroën so long, but it's also fantastic to win for another team.

Q:
It is rather odd that none of the drivers represented on the podium have stage wins to their name this weekend - how is that?!

Mikko Hirvonen:
We are just so smart!

Q:
Did you feel the pressure on your shoulders after Sébastien Loeb retired on Thursday?

Mikko Hirvonen:
Not so much. I have been in this position a few times. The conditions on Saturday were a lot better which made it easier.

Q:
Was this one of the toughest Rally Portugals you have done?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It was definitely the toughest Portugal I have done. I haven't seen this before. It was so difficult. I remember one year in Argentina when we had similar muddy conditions. You get in the stage and can't see because of the rain and the fog. It was very stressful.

Q:
Jarmo, first win with a new team. How does it feel?

Jarmo Lehtinen:
It's a special moment; the first win for Citroën. Okay, Seb [Loeb] is not here, but he is the big champion and we were quite good to back him up on the first day. I'm happy for the team.

Q:
The weather has played its part this weekend - what has been the most difficult aspect?

Jarmo Lehtinen:
Friday was very difficult. There is no rhythm in the car and you can't see anything. Even the co-driver can make the mistake! But, after that there was no need to push – but then it was even more difficult to concentrate. These last days have felt like a week. It was big relief to reach the finish.

Q:
Mads, you are really stacking up the podiums now – how does this one feel?

Mads Ostberg:
It feels great, I'm just relieved to get to the end. I knew I had to fight with Evgeny Novikov to get back to the second position – but once we were there then it was just a really, really long rally and a fight to stay out of trouble. We held back from the fight then to stay out of trouble. The biggest fight was probably the one not to do any mistakes. Saturday and Sunday were two really long days, but I am happy with what we have done. Friday went really good and I was really happy with the team and Jonas – the performance from everybody was fantastic. For Jonas especially, it was so easy to lose the focus with the notes. It was important to be clear in the fog and he did that well and we did a good day. After that it was all about getting through.

Q:
And you had some issues this morning. Tell us about those.

Mads Ostberg:
It [the car] was running okay this morning, but in the long stage the car was misfiring a lot. We went to road mode and drove, but then when we went back to the stage mode it was okay. We carried on for about a kilometre, but then after one or two kilometres it came back and stayed until the end. I was worried that it wouldn't go; we did the Power Stage [SS19] with the heavy misfire and three cylinders. I was quite relieved we made it through. I had asked Jonas at the start line: “Will we get through the stage?” He said: “Yes.” Luckily, he was right.

Q:
It sounds like it was all about survival. Did you push?

Mads Ostberg:
We did push on Friday and then a different kind of pushing to stay normal. In these conditions, you hold back 10 per cent in the fog, so that you have 10 per cent to play with if you have a moment. We made the 90 per cent limit. We had three moments on Friday and we were lucky to come through them. The worst would be a puncture or a spin. We pushed quite hard and then pushed hard on Saturday morning to try and take the time from Mikko, but it was not possible.

Q:
Jonas, what was the atmosphere like in the car this morning when you had issues?

Jonas Andersson:
It was not stressful. Maybe it was a bit with the misfire and then he asked me if we would make it. I said yes, I couldn't say no say could I! I was quite sure we would make it through and the team would fix it in service. It's been a long rally, it's been about driving clever and it's paid off for sure.

Q:
How tough was it?

Jonas Andersson:
It's always tough in the rain, but we have to do the job and be clear. We had to get through the stages. We had quite a clean run and that paid off on Friday.

Q:
How much do these type of results help with sponsorship?

Jonas Andersson:
I have no idea!

Q:
Mads?

Mads Ostberg:
You know, Jonas is only responsible for the coffee machine in the workshop, we have other people working with the sponsors! It helps, but you cannot transfer this to sponsorship. Obviously it helps, but we need to find more partners. I hope this will help, as the two previous events have done. Okay, it's not any more money in the account at this moment.

Q:
Does he make good coffee?

Mads Ostberg:
It's a machine, you press coffee and coffee comes!

Q:
Evgeny, congratulations on your first-ever WRC podium - how are you feeling?

Evgeny Novikov:
Thank you very much. To be honest I was waiting for this moment for a long time, so I am happy. It's difficult to imagine some person who would be more happy than me right now. I am maximum happy.

Q:
We're working on this, but we think, at 21, you are the youngest person ever on the podium. How does it feel?

Evgeny Novikov:
Of course it's very important for me and maybe I feel a bit more confident in myself. I am very happy with this of course.

Q:
You had a few issues this afternoon with the throttle - can you explain what happened?

Evgeny Novikov:
We nearly lost our third position 500 metres from the start of the second stage [this afternoon]. We had a problem with the gas pedal, it was broken. This was the first moment I thought we would not finish the rally, but we were lucky and for me it was possible to pass the stage. Then we fixed this with the tape and we were at the finish.

Q:
The atmosphere must have been very tense in the car…

Evgeny Novikov:
Of course, it was quite difficult, but Denis [Giraudet] is very professional and he doesn't disturb me with things. I concentrate on the driving and he concentrates on the notes, but this was really difficult. We had no option but to finish the stage – there was no chance to lose this third place.

Q:
Is Denis a good, calming influence?

Evgeny Novikov:
Of course, he helps me a lot. He is always telling me the very dangerous places where somebody crashed and where and who went off. He is maximum professional for me.

Q:
It's the first time you've been on the podium for 10 years. What did Evgeny say to you?

Denis Giraudet:
He was really happy for me, but much more I am for him. He is 21 and he is waiting a long time.

Q:
How have you seen him develop?

Denis Giraudet:
Like you will see many young guys doing their sport. It is not so easy, even footballers have to develop, but they are not taking so much risk. Rally is a risky business, it's not easy. Maybe we expected too much too early. Now he has more experience and like that he has more confidence.

Q:
How far can he go?

Denis Giraudet:
When I sat next to him for the first time at shakedown in Greece and we finished a few tenths behind Seb Loeb and we were second quickest, I thought: “S**t, maybe I have the opportunity to be back in the business again quite soon”. And this was only nine months ago.

Q:
Yves, a tough rally but it is a win for Citroën and the first with Mikko, what have you thought of his performance this weekend?

Yves Matton:
We are very happy with this result. It's very important and this is a great result from Mikko. It's not easy to join a new team and an eight-time world champion. But from the start of the season, he has shown great professionalism and shown us what he can do. This win is very important for the team and for him.

Q:
How shocked were the team with the news of Sébastien's accident?

Yves Matton:
It's always strange to see Sébastien go off the road – it doesn't happen a lot. After it was strange to be with one car and against two other factory cars. But we had to make the finish and we made it to the finish.

Q:
Finally, it's been a great weekend…

Yves Matton:
Yes, finally, it's a win for Mikko and Jarmo, but as well we take points for the manufacturer, and we are still leading the Manufacturers' and in the Drivers' [Championship] we are first and second – this is what we want to achieve.


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