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Rally Italia Sardegna: Pre-event press conference

Rally Italia Sardegna WRC pre-event press conference with Sebastien Ogier, Mads Ostberg, Hayden Paddon and Martin Prokop
Drivers: Sebastien Ogier (Volkswagen Motorsport), Mads Ostberg (Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team), Hayden Paddon (Hyundai Motorsport N) and Martin Prokop (Jipocar Czech National Team).


Press conference


Q:
Sebastien, you have won here in the past and you know what it takes to win in Sardinia. What's the secret – do you want to share it with the boys?

Sebastien Ogier:
No! I think to start I just want to say I was a bit surprised after the recce that the road is a bit rougher than last year and a bit more difficult, especially day one will be a really tough one. To be honest I prefer the last edition of the rally but this one is like that. Obviously it will be a tough job to open the road on day one that's for sure. I expect to lose time especially to guys like Mads because it's quite bad to be first on the road. But I don't want to complain because the rules are like that but I have to mention it because it's a real fact that it's a big disadvantage. But my main target is my team-mate Jari-Matti. He is my main rival for the Championship at the moment so I have to focus on him.

Q:
We saw an epic battle between you and Jari-Matti in Argentina, he seems to have raised the bar competition-wise and is now one of your toughest opponents?

Sebastien Ogier:
It's easy if you look at the Championship points and he's the main one so yes, definitely. But the season is still very long so we cannot forget completely the others but at the moment it's obvious he will be really fast. It's important to focus mainly on him but not to forget the others. Also when I start a rally I try not to finish second or third or just in front of my team-mate. I just try to be ahead of course but I expect a tough job this weekend.

Q:
You mentioned the road sweeping tomorrow. You are used to that but when you are going through those stages mentally does it affect you and do you get frustrated because you can see the time loss?

Sebastien Ogier:
You don't have to get frustrated. You have to do your job as good as you can and don't take too much care about the times. That can push you into a mistake. It's never easy to find the limit and know exactly if you are doing the best performance you can. You just have to deal with yourself and the car, do your best but don't try to follow the others because it's normal they will be faster.

Q:
Mads, you were injured on the final day of Rally Argentina - a hand injury that prevented you from completing the rally. Is everything okay now?

Mads Ostberg:
Definitely the thumb is working again. It's not back to normal but for sure driving today in shakedown was no problem. It's working and I'm glad we had the long break so we can be ready.

Q:
How are you feeling ahead of Rally Italia? You've been here quite a few times before so you have a lot of experience in Sardinia. Are you feeling confident going out there this weekend?

Mads Ostberg:
For sure. For me Sardinia is one of my favourite events. I always enjoy coming here, I enjoy the stages and somehow I feel a lot more at home here than in other places, even though I am far away from home so I don't know why. It's a nice place, with nice roads and I really enjoy it. After the recce everything is perfect and I'm ready to start.

Q:
So what's the strategy for you this weekend? Unfortunately it was a bit of an early bath for you in Argentina. Will we see you fighting with the leaders this time around?

Mads Ostberg:
I hope so for sure. We were taken a little bit by surprise in Argentina. We've done no testing since that so for sure it's going to be a careful approach on the first day. It's so slippery and there are so many of those dips and bumps that we saw in Argentina that caught us out. We will be maybe a bit more cautious than we planned before arriving but after we saw the stages in the recce it was a little bit maybe unexpected. So we need to consider that, have a decent first day and push a bit more after.

Q:
With eight stages tomorrow is there an element of caution that comes in when you've only got that remote service?

Mads Ostberg:
Not really. If you go off, you go off. It doesn't matter if you have service and then two stages. Okay if you do small damage to the car you can cope with it hopefully but the biggest challenge is the stages, not that we have remote service.

Q:
Hayden, this is the moment you have been waiting for a long time, a manufacturer drive with Hyundai Motorsport - how are you feeling ahead of Rally Italia Sardegna?

Hayden Paddon:
We're as ready as we can be. It's been a long wait since the contract was signed, we've been waiting six months now for this opportunity. Now it's here I have to do the best as I can. We're working well with the team at the factory and I've been doing some testing in the car. Even today at shakedown it was a chance to find out how the car handles in these conditions for the first time.

Q:
What are your thoughts on the car? How has the testing been going? Do you feel at one with the car?

Hayden Paddon:
From the very early stages I felt really comfortable in the car. The feeling is very similar to some of the cars I've driven in the past. It suits my driving style which is not to slide the car so much and use the front axle like a front-wheel-drive car. It suits me like that, it's very neutral. We've done some small changes in testing and it's easy to adapt the car to my liking. The most important thing is to feel comfortable in the car. The speed will come later.

Q:
What has the team been saying to you about the weekend? What are your instructions?

Hayden Paddon:
We're all on the same page on that one. For me I need to get as much experience. I need to learn because it's my first time on this event and there are some very tricky stages here. We need to know where the places are we can push, where we have to look after the car. I need to get as much experience as possible for myself and for the team. After here we get onto events we know and we can start pushing more.

Q:
What do you think of this event coming here for the first time?

Hayden Paddon:
Not as bad as I thought. I was expecting a lot more twisty sections from videos I've seen. But there are some fast places, which is quite nice. But there are narrow sections as well with rocks on the side of the road so there's not a lot of room for error. Keeping the car in the line and hitting the braking points is critical.

Q:
You've talked about pressure, is it difficult not to put pressure on yourself?

Hayden Paddon:
It's difficult but I'm going to handle that by not looking at the times on Friday. On the first day in Spain for my first time in a World Rally Car and on gravel it was very difficult. I was looking at the times and I got very demoralised and that started to play games mentally. I'm not going to look at the times tomorrow. I'm going to concentrate on my driving and enjoy it and assess where we are with the feeling of the car and start taking more notice of the split times on Saturday.

Q:
What is the toughest challenge here in Sardinia? Is it tomorrow or the Monte Lerno stage at 60 kilometres?

Hayden Paddon:
For me tomorrow is the hardest day with 160 kilometres of stages and they are quite tricky stages with a lot of tricky places, a lot of rocks. The Monte Lerno stage will be challenging but I think it will be easier because it's nice and flowing and it's easy to get a good rhythm.

Mads Ostberg:
I have a question for Hayden. How many rallies are you doing and will you be testing for each rally?

Hayden Paddon:
Why, are you worried?

Mads Ostberg:
Yes! I was just watching the times on shakedown and you were beating me. If that's your first kilometres in the car I'm a bit worried.

Hayden Paddon:
I'm doing seven rallies and will do a test for each rally.

Mads Ostberg:
Good.

Q:
Martin, it was a tough start to the season for you but your best result came in Mexico with a fifth overall. What have you thought of 2014 so far?

Martin Prokop:
So far overall it's okay to be ninth in the Championship, it's perfect because the aim for us was to be in the top 10 at the end of the season. For this I am happy but I am still not happy with the speed and how fast we are doing the events. On this we are trying to improve. In Argentina we can say it was better and were able to improve. We had a good fight with Robert [Kubica] and Elfyn [Evans]. This is important for us. When we have a good fight with somebody we can improve in that way. In the past, in Juniors, we had some very good fights, especially in Argentina. In the last years I did not have so many good fights because it's impossible to fight with the factory drivers. Argentina was a small step but there are still more steps to take.

Q:
What have you done to find improvements – is it set-up work?

Martin Prokop:
A lot of things we changed but the set-up we can't do too much. We are not finding too many things on the car. It's all about me and finding the confidence. If we are fighting with somebody you forget all the worries. I need to find some drivers to fight and hopefully I can have some fights on this rally. It's really my favourite rally, I've had the best times in Juniors here, also some bad moments, but it's a good rally.

Q:
What have you been doing to prepare for this rally both physically and with the car?

Martin Prokop:
Physically it's no problem. I had two days testing in Czech Republic. It was not the same surface but I was happy to have two days in the car so I feel a bit better for that. We don't have too many test days during the year but I am always happy to be in the car.

Q:
You have competed many times here in the past, what will be your strategy?

Martin Prokop:
It's always difficult. It doesn't matter if it's two long stages or four short stages and remote service. You have to save the car in the difficult sections and try to drive as good as possible. I like the stages although they are more rough than before.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Sebastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo WRC #8, Volkswagen Motorsport)
Hayden Paddon [Pic credit: Hyundai]
Mads Ostberg (NOR) Jonas Andersson (NOR), Citroen DS3 WRC, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT
Martin Prokop (CZ) Michal Ernst (CZ), Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Jipocar Czech National Team
Sebastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo WRC #8, Volkswagen Motorsport)
Sebastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo WRC #8, Volkswagen Motorsport)

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