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Rally Sweden: Pre-event press conference

Rally Sweden pre-event press conference with Jari-Matti Latvala, Juho Hanninen, Mads Ostberg, Robert Kubica and Pontus Tidemand
Drivers: Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Motorsport), Juho Hanninen (Hyundai Motorsport), Mads Ostberg (Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT), Robert Kubica, RK M-Sport WRT) and Pontus Tidemand.


Press conference


Q:
Last year you were still adapting to the Polo R WRC during the event and we didn't see the usual performance. What can we expect this year?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
The car feels very good. This morning I was happy and confident with the car. Last year it's true, I was struggling and having big difficulties. I crashed in Monte Carlo and came here with a lot of pressure. This year I finally achieved the target of finishing Monte and I am more familiar with the car; it's been about fine-tuning since the end of last year. I am more confident with the feeling.

Q:
Are you confident you can challenge for the win?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
OK, we will see how it goes, but let's say the feeling is good and that's where you have to start. After that we look at the stage times, but I'm not going to think about it too much. I'll just drive…

Q:
Tell us about the conditions out there…

Jari-Matti Latvala:
We have snow in the forest which is great, this is still a winter rally, but the conditions are not optimal: we have zero or plus one degree. The snow or ice layer on the surface is very small and when you have 300 7mm studs sticking out from the rubber and spinning on the ice, it will break and bring the gravel up. This will destroy the studs for sure. On the second passage you have to drive fast and save the tyres – that's the key element.

Q:
What's the secret to this rally?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
These are fast flowing roads in the Varmland forests, but normally when the conditions are like this you start to see… how I call it, a bit of summer in the winter forests. It's not optimal. You need to follow and read the road: do you have ice? Or is that slush or snow? Or gravel in some places? And according to that you decide when and where you push. In some places you don't have so many studs and then in the ice it can be pretty horrible. You have to decide where you can make the push – you cannot push 100 per cent all of the time. Maybe you can push 95 per cent…

Q:
Juho, we see you in the WRC in 2014 with Hyundai Motorsport. This is your first competitive event for the team, what are your expectations?

Juho Hanninen:
Like you said, this is the first time for me – I have been looking forward for a long time. I have done a lot of testing and these rallies are part of the project.

Q:
You have been part of the test team during 2013, how different is the car now to when you began testing? What has improved, what still needs to be worked on?

Juho Hanninen:
Quite a lot has changed from July when I drove first time on the proper test. You have to remember that is only half a year ago. The car is very good when you are thinking about this. I say now the same thing: the car has a lot of potential. It felt very good on the test and this morning. It will be good – like we saw in Monte Carlo.

Q:
What will be your approach this weekend? What has the team told you to do?

Juho Hanninen:
I think it's not better to do what I want. I think we all want to see the cars at the finish and gaining maximum experience – if we can do that then I believe we can make a result.

Q:
Are you testing constantly?

Juho Hanninen:
Yes. As I said, these rallies are part of my work. I am very happy for this.

Q:
Mads, we see you as part of the Citroen team this year, competing with the DS3. A big change for you but a good result in Monte with fourth overall. How has it been for you so far?

Mads Ostberg:
I definitely don't know the car yet. It's still a lot to learn. On normal driving, when the grip is equal, it's quite easy. But, when you start to do proper stages and things start to happen, that's when you learn how to save the tyres and where is the limit for the tyres. I learned quite a lot in a short time. We had two good test days. We are not optimal, but it's enough for a good result.

Q:
This is the event where we have seen you on the podium the most. No doubt the pressure is on to target the win! Are you feeling confident? Are you feeling the pressure?

Mads Ostberg:
I can feel the pressure, but for me it's good pressure, it means more people than just me think I can win – it's a positive thing. I really enjoy the rally. I will go the fastest I can and more than that it's not possible.

Q:
We go into Norway of course – what can you tell us about your home stages?

Mads Ostberg:
Finnskogen is a nice one and Kirkener is different. I don't think you will find a driver who says this is a nice stage, but it's very good for spectators.

Q:
Will it be one of the most difficult days with no mid-day service?

Mads Ostberg:
I don't think so. Torsby is quite an okay stages; it's a mix of the two Norwegian stages Finnskogen, which is nice, and Kirkener which is technical and difficult. But this is not the difficult day – it shouldn't be a problem without service. For me Friday and Saturday will be more difficult.

Q:
Mads, you had a great shakedown this morning. Are we going to see a fighting Mads this week – can you give us some fighting talk?

Mads Ostberg:
For sure, we will fight for it. I know how to be second and third, Jari-Matti didn't say much at all about how to win, he just sat there and read some poetry from his phone under the desk! But I believe we have enough to do it if I feel confident. The aim is to win and I will do all I can to do that.

Q:
Robert, what's your approach going to be to this rally?

Robert Kubica:
For sure it's not going to be the same as Monte Carlo. Finishing would be an achievement here. This is my first time on a snow rally and we don't know the conditions. This is the first time also with long studded tyres and the first time in the Fiesta on loose surface – I have many things to learn. The stages are fast and narrow in places, sometimes like Finland. But the conditions with the surface, like Jari-Matti says, we can have everything in there. Like Jari-Matti says, you need to read the road but doing this when you have no experience can be very tricky – we will try to survive and learn as much as possible.

Q:
Marcus Gronholm sat alongside you on part of the test, I believe he said that you were 'the most talented driver he had ever sat alongside' - how do you feel about that and what advice did he give you?

Robert Kubica:
It was very nice of him to join us for a test. I knew I could learn many things from him – he is very nice guy and more open. Maybe it's a bit more of the circuit mentality, but if it had been me, I wouldn't have told him anything! But, Marcus will probably never race against me. He was very open and very professional in his approach. He was in the car with me, but the conditions for my driving was much better – I know the test road very well. And when it becomes like this it becomes more like circuit driving: you know when to brake, how much speed to carry and I know how to drive like this. The difficulty is when it comes to new stages, every 100 metres of every stage is new for me. There are many traps and uncertainties and that's part of my rally. Experience is crucial. We exchanged set-up ideas and he confirmed where I wanted to go with the balance of the car, this was positive – even though I have very little experience I know what I would like the car to do with the balance.

Q:
Did he drive the car?

Robert Kubica:
I discovered that M-Sport has the second car in the garage and I know he asked if they can bring the second car… he didn't drive. I would like to keep for myself what he said after the first run. I think he was also a bit disappointed, but he helped me for my driving with the set-up. I said to him that we could put dark side screens in and he can drive some stages for me. In the night, nobody can recognise… even when he gets to the finish, he can always go through the finish and not stop – just tell them: “No problem…”!

Q:
How's the confidence for you?

Robert Kubica:
I feel the same as nearly every event I start from the beginning of last year. Portugal last year was similar when I had only done two days of test on gravel in my life. It's exactly the same here and this puts me 11 months backwards. Okay, this year I drive a different car, things happen quicker in the World Rally Car, but for me the target is to learn as much as I can. I must use this opportunity if I want to come back next year.

Q:
We saw great speed from you on this rally last year Pontus, what can we expect this time?

Pontus Tidemand:
I hope the same speed as last year, but I haven't been in this kind of rally car for almost 12 months. I have to think about what we can do to be faster in a World Rally Car.

Q:
Have you tested?

Pontus Tidemand:
Yes, I have done one small rally in Norway and one day testing in a private car and one day in this M-Sport car.

Q:
You won the Mountain Rally. That was a good boost…

Pontus Tidemand:
We were not on the same tyres, so we cannot compare – but it was good for the notes and good for me.

Q:
Is there extra pressure on you this season?

Pontus Tidemand:
I'm looking forward to seeing the flags and fans in the forest. I just won't put any pressure by myself.

Q:
What about the rest of the season?

Pontus Tidemand:
We are working on a programme for WRC 2 with six or seven events in the Fiesta. We are still working on this.

Q:
What advice have you had about competing here?

Pontus Tidemand:
Many drivers in this circus are quite open, but the important thing for me is to get experience. I look at everybody and what they are doing.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Pontus Tidemand (SWE) Stig Rune (SWE), Ford Fiesta WRC
Robert Kubica (POL) Maciej S zczepaniak (POL), Ford Fiesta RS WRC, RK M-Sport World Rally Team
Robert Kubica (POL) Maciej S zczepaniak (POL), Ford Fiesta RS WRC, RK M-Sport World Rally Team
Juho Hanninen - Hyundai i20 WRC
Mads Ostberg (NOR) Jonas Andersson (NOR), Citroen DS3 WRC, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #7, Volkswagen Motorsport)

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