Drivers / co-drivers:
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Motorsport), Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri (M-Sport) and Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle (Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT).
Jost Capito (Volkswagen Motorsport).
Sebastien, congratulations on achieving the first win of the WRC season! The title defence has got off to a good start!
Of course it's very good. Like you mention, this is the best way to restart the season - like we finished the last one! It was a tough race for us; we were not so good on day one. We struggled with the weather information and we went wrong, fortunately everybody behind us copied us. If somebody had been clever behind us and taken snow tyres, maybe they would have taken the lead by five minutes on day one. We passed, but I can tell you it was quite lonely in the car when we were on slicks on snow. We had luck on this rally, we have to admit it. It could end on the first corner, we had some small slush and it was crazy. I understeered immediately and hit the wall. We improved the car in the winter: we reinforced all of the arms and maybe it was a good idea, otherwise it might have been the end of the race.
How tough were conditions this year? What for you was the hardest stage?
Every day was tough. We just talked about the first one, the first afternoon was difficult, but from day two there was more rain, and a lot of mud – the rain was heavy all the time. Every cut was full of mud, especially the second loop was a big challenge. Bryan [Bouffier] was very fast on the second loop, we took back a bit of time, but not too much regarding the amount of kilometres. When the conditions turned to the slippery one, we made a bit more the difference, but it was never enough. When you finish the race with Turini you have to have one minute lead to stay in the race; you cross this famous col with the slush on tricky tyres, it was good to be last on the road for us to check what the others were doing and look at the line.
Back to the first morning and your home backyard in Gap, we were expecting you'd get the tyre choice spot on with the weather but that wasn't the case?
That wasn't the case. Actually my dad called me but it was too late, he said what are you doing, you are on slicks, are you crazy? I said thanks dad but you are too late!
He never called me. I was running 20 minutes after!
We make the tyre choice one hour before the start of the stage and during this one hour the weather completely turned. There was humidity when the gravel crew passed and then it turned to snow. The mistake we did is we should have been more clever and know how quickly the weather can change. We know in winter conditions the weather can change very quickly and you know you should always be safe and take two snow tyres in the boot at least. But we didn't do it. We had too much confidence and trust in the information. But almost everyone copied us. Okay we lost quite a bit of time but it was still possible to come back.
This is such a huge challenge, is it the toughest in the Championship and how good are you feeling?
For sure it was and I am thinking especially about my colleagues here because for the co-driver it is a really hard job. On Tarmac events you get gravel crews and especially here they are of huge importance and there are a lot of corrections in the pace notes so you don't have a minute to yourself. On the road sections you are giving your driver the information on the road book, checking in on time and at the same time you are on the phone to your gravel crew so it's a really hard job. For sure I am very proud because we didn't make a mistake and did our best in difficult conditions and I am happy to get a trophy. At least I hope to get a trophy because for the moment there is only one!
Message to the ACM we need a trophy for Julien please…
Were there any big moments, Julien?
I try to erase everything – it's better to be competitive for the next race! I am never scared with Seb, we compete for nine years together and when we drive together I have never been scared. For sure he has to push on the steering wheel and this is an amazing job the drivers do to stay on the road. Sometimes it has been quite close, even on some finish line we jumped into some field – I did some study in agriculture, which reminded me of some stuff with the tractor! It was fine. We didn't have any big issues because of that, but I am never scared.
Bryan, second position at Rally Monte-Carlo and your first WRC podium! You have had great success in the past at Monte-Carlo but did you think a podium was possible this time around?