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Rally Finland: Pre-event press conference

Rally Finland WRC pre-event press conference with Mads Ostberg, Sebastien Ogier, Thierry Neuville and Mikko Hirvonen.
Drivers: Mads Ostberg (Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT), Sebastien Ogier (Volkswagen Motorsport), Thierry Neuville (Hyundai Motorsport) and Mikko Hirvonen (M-Sport WRT).


Press conference


Q:
Mads, you have already had success in Finland this week, winning the Helsinki Battle on Saturday. What was it like to compete against the Finnish legends of the sport?

Mads Ostberg:
To be honest, it was a good show. It was a show. Everyone was there to enjoy and to make something good for Helsinki and the rally environment in Finland. I think everybody enjoyed it. It was a good thing to win and it gives a good feeling before this weekend, even though there's not a lot to bring from that stage to this one.

Q:
I heard when you stepped out of the car, you said to Marcus Gronholm: “Beat that, old man!”

Mads Ostberg:
No, I said: “Good luck, old man!”

Q:
Given that it's Mikko's birthday to day, maybe you would say the same to him?

Mads Ostberg:
Yeah, I hear he's getting quite old. Maybe I would say: “Good luck, Grandpa!”

Q:
Seb, what did you think of Helsinki?

Sebastien Ogier:
Like Mads said, it was a great event, great promotion from Neste Oil. To have this kind of promotion before every rally would be good to promote our sport. There were a lot of fans, it was a great show and we were all there after the test, so there was no time lost. Great day!

Q:
Thierry, you had Marcus Gronholm in your team – did he pass on any advice?

Thierry Neuville:
Not really. We were there to enjoy. I tried not to be boring with stupid questions! Everybody seemed to enjoy the event but I guess I was… not afraid, but a little bit nervous to beat his time. I did not want see him go quicker in my car! In the end, it was okay. For the championship it's important; at the moment we struggle a little and need to get more fans and get closer to the people. That's what we have done in Helsinki. It was one and a half days where we have less free time, but we have to do more like this.

Q:
Mikko, did you enjoy it?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It was really nice event, especially mixing in Tommi [Makinen], Marcus [Gronholm], Markku [Alen] and Juha [Kankkunen],that really boosted the whole weekend. Like everybody said, we had a good time and I hope we have more events like that.

Q:
Confidence is one of the keys to this event - how are you feeling? Was testing successful?

Mads Ostberg:
We had a really good test before the Helsinki Show. I had a really good feeling in the car for the one and a half days of testing. In fact, after half a day I was really happy with the car. I was able to confirm some ideas in the car and to take a little bit more, we have found quite a few small details that can help for me to be faster. I hope my driving will help as well. We are prepared to take the challenge and fight for the win.

Q:
You hesitated then, I wondered if you were going to say: “… fight for the podium.”

Mads Ostberg:
To be honest, I was wondering the same, but I thought… why not say the win!

Q:
There have been some reports in the media that [Citroen team principal] Yves Matton will make a decision on his driver line-up for next season after the next three rallies. Does this add pressure for you?

Mads Ostberg:
He hasn't told me this, maybe it's a secret.

Q:
Does it give more pressure?

Mads Ostberg:
To be honest it's just a focus on the event – that's the most important thing. I am not able to change anything or do anything better, I can only focus on doing the events as well as possible and hope for some good options next year.

Q:
Your pace has been improving, do you feel ready to challenge for the win now?

Mads Ostberg:
Yes. I am more and more confident in the car for every rally and now it's more normal. Before on the test it felt a bit strange, but now when I arrive to the car and start driving it feels normal. I need it to be like this in the car, ready for the fight: you can't spend a day getting comfortable.

Q:
Sebastien, you know what it takes to win here in Finland after sealing your first win last year, what is the secret?

Sebastien Ogier:
Last year was nice – it's nice to win and this is really a special one. A special one that I wanted in my career, so I am really happy for last year. But I don't need to tell you that I am really hungry again. But they are all hungry, especially the Finns. I hope to be able make a good fight, we hope to be there from the start.

Q:
Running first on the road, do you expect there to be much loose gravel around?

Sebastien Ogier:
With the rain last night it was quite damp on the shakedown this morning and there is some more rain this afternoon, and if it's damp it's usually better to be first. At the moment it looks not bad for me.

Q:
You have a 50-point lead in the championship over team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, is it possible to feel 'comfortable' with that gap or is it too early to say that?

Sebastien Ogier:
You cannot really say that. Of course it is a little bit more comfortable, but it's still six races to go and a lot of points to come. I am in the best situation, but I have to keep this in my mind and not go crazy. I start the rally with the mind to win. But we will see, if I have to take the big risk – like in Argentina – then maybe I can accept a bit less.

Q:
Your other team-mate was particularly strong in Poland, is Andreas Mikkelsen now at the level to fight it out at the top on every event?

Sebastien Ogier:
I think only he can give the answer, but definitely he has passed some steps and he is really close. In Poland he did a really good job and I had to push. Jari was not really there in Poland, we expected him to be there on this [fast] profile of event. But we see from the shakedown time this morning, he is back on this event. If I want to win here I will really have to push.

Q:
How was the car in the test? You finished the test a bit earlier than expected…

Thierry Neuville:
The test was going very well and that's why we decide to finish a bit early! No, I was pushing very hard on a beautiful road and I push too hard. I found my limits and went over, it was a big, big crash – the biggest of my career so far. But the cars are really safe now and there was no issue for me and Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver]. We were both fine and we already forgot that when we did our Germany test straight after. The speed was still there. Let's see what we can do here.

Q:
What do you think of the new stages here?

Thierry Neuville:
This is only my third time on this rally, so I discover some new beautiful stages and this looks like the best yet. And from the conditions – after the rain we expect this afternoon – the conditions can be beautiful and we can really enjoy them.

Q:
You were second here last year on only your second time at the event, which was hugely impressive. What is your aim this time?

Thierry Neuville:
Last year was an incredible rally. We had a nice fight with these three guys around me. This year my focus is still more on the car to try and move the car [forward]. But I am ambitious and I would like to succeed on what we did last year. Every rally is new [for the team] and like we saw in Poland everything is possible. We have some small modifications on the car, let's see where we are – I hope to do the job as good as last year. I hope for the good position.

Q:
Mikko, this will be your 13th participation at Rally Finland. How are you feeling ahead of the event?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I feel good. Let's see how far it's going to get us. Even me, I'm following these youngsters watching the on-boards in preparation. You know, I put these big glasses on to see the screen! After the recce it feels really good, I hope we able to challenge them.

Q:
Everyone will always look to the Finnish drivers at their home event, do you feel that pressure or can you just enjoy it?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I enjoy it. The media always expects Finns to go really fast and of course that's what we want to do, but it's not so strong for us any more.

Q:
Why?

Mikko Hirvonen:
Everybody gets more experience and I suppose the [on-board] videos will help and then there's the recce: we are doing the recce all the time all around the world, so even after two passages they get their notes right and this helps a lot.

Q:
Some new stages and some classics return, Harju today seems to have got a lot of people excited, why is it so special?

Mikko Hirvonen:
For me it's just the fact I watched the rally many times myself. It was where we used to start the rally, from the centre. Actually, I say 'we' I didn't start the rally from there - I'm not that old! The stage is a kind of classic, but as a stage itself there are a couple of tricky places, but we will be driving in front of thousands of people.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Mads Ostberg, Jonas Andersson (Citroen DS3 WRC, #4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT)
Sebastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo WRC #1, Volkswagen Motorsport)
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC, #7 Hyundai Motorsport)
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport World Rally Team

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