Drivers / co-drivers: Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle (Abu Dhabi Total WRT), Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jaeger (Volkswagen Motorsport) and Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Motorsport).

Team principal: Yves Matton (Abu Dhabi Total WRT).

Press conference

Q:
Kris, you've picked up your second WRC win. You seem to like the classic rallies. It has been a good weekend for you.

Kris Meeke:
Yes, it's been a very good weekend. From a personal point of view, not to put a foot wrong all weekend. We came here knowing we could do something good. But we're not affecting a championship, so it's just a case of picking some rallies this year that keep me sharp. I really enjoyed this rally last year - the stages have a really nice profile. And we had good speed here last year and I think we used our experience. The weather in the lead-up to the event, for sure on the recce, wasn't looking like we would have any benefit but there were a couple of days of sunshine. Friday wasn't perfectly clear but Saturday morning, for sure, we were able to make a good difference. From Saturday lunchtime, it was a case of trying to protect it and not to put a foot wrong. To come here, do my job and get the result is very pleasing.

Q:
Did you have that expectation before coming here? Did you think you could push for a win, without the pressure to score manufacturer points?

Kris Meeke:
A few weeks back, when we knew what we were doing and this was one of our rallies, you suspected coming here with a good road position you could do something good. But it is never simple to win a rally in the WRC. The weather in the lead-up changed our minds a little bit but the road position did play into our hands a bit. I actually saved Seb some points today - he lost less points in the championship than he would have done, so he might actually be lucky I was here! It's good for me, good for the team and good for PH Sport - not forgetting that we are not under the official Citro?n banner this year and the guys from PH Sport have done an incredible job. So I am really happy.

Sebastien Ogier:
It is the second victory for PH Sport in Portugal. My first win here was with PH Sport too!

Q:
Will you be yearning for a little bit more of this action?

Kris Meeke:
Yes. As I said before the rally, I haven't been missing kilometres as I have been testing but after three or four runs of a test stage, you know it well and anticipate it. It is not like doing a rally where you are driving to your notes on every stage. You miss the competition, so maybe absence made me a little stronger. But we have to concentrate on the bigger picture. Citroen are going to come back next year with a full effort behind the rally program. This result proves I have taken another step in my career, so it is exciting for the future to be part of a team like Citroen, knowing what is coming. We have to concentrate on the bigger picture, do our testing and do a good job to arrive with a good package. But we have to use the events that we are doing this year to keep me in rally shape and keep me sharp.

Q:
We saw your first victory in Argentina last year. That was an emotional affair. How different did it feel this time?

Kris Meeke:
The first win you will never take away. It is also probably going to be your most difficult. We led from the first stage in Argentina. That was my first time leading an event by that much. It was more difficult to manage then. This was a lot more simple and like anything in life, the more you do it, the easier it gets. A lot of people say the first win is a monkey off your back but I think the second one is. I think there were six drivers in the championship before this rally with one win. It is quite easy to call one victory a fluke, but to back it up with number two for me really is the monkey off my back. Certainly we know what to do when we get in this position again. But we have to stay realistic. We had good road position, we used it well and I never put a foot wrong and I'm really happy.

Q:
Paul, how does it feel for you?

Paul Nagle:
I think without question it was our best performance to date. As Kris said, Argentina was special but this one was very much controlled from the middle of Friday, then Saturday morning punching- in fastest times one after the other. It was a very strong base for us and then, to control it up until the final stage, it was a big step for the future of our career and as I say, definitely the best performance of our rallying career so far.

Q:
Your lead built quickly. Did you feel pressure in the car or did it feel simpler?

Paul Nagle:
It never feels simple. We might have made it look simple. You learn from other events - we learned from Argentina last year and even a couple of rallies on where there was pressure on to get points for runners-up in the championship for Citroen. It was more relaxed today and yesterday afternoon. We did carry two spare wheels for safety, in case there was rain but it was totally in control all weekend. As Kris said, he didn't put a foot wrong all weekend.

Q:
One more question to Kris. We notice that when you left the service area, you walked out with a razor, tackled a mechanic and shaved half his head of hair. Why did you do that?

Kris Meeke:
It's a long-running bet I had with a mechanic from the PSA group I have known for a long time. He was with Peugeot and then Citroen. He joked with me many times that if we ever got to the rally where he was a mechanic on my car and I win, I'll shave his head. He's a guy with a bit of an affro hairstyle so the mechanics reminded me of it and handed me the razor. So in front of all the cameras, I started the job but I didn't finish it. I have to do that later. Or maybe I'll leave it as it is!

Q:
Andreas, you walk away with second, which is a great result. You started slowly and Jost Capito told you to go quickly. Saturday morning, you said you were sick and tired of going slowly and from then on, you were flying. What made the change?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
Well, Friday was not really good, partly my driving and also the car wasn't really feeling like I wanted it to be. So I sat down with Richard [Brown], my engineer, and we made a plan for Saturday morning. That we should change the set-up of the car and I should think about my driving and let's meet the next morning. So we did and the driving was perfect and the car was just how I wanted it to be. When you are in that situation, everything feels not easy but it is just there. We managed to catch Dani and then, in the end, Sebastien. So the last couple of days have probably been two of my best days in a rally car.

Q:
In your whole career?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
Well, maybe. There have been many good days and many bad days but yes, one of them.

Q:
Today, you had the opportunity to push for second. Did you get up this morning and decide you were going to go for it?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
Yes, of course. I thought a lot last night and watched the videos a couple of extra times. I knew to catch Sebastien with three seconds will not be easy. But if there is a stage where I can make a difference, it is the first one in the morning. I concentrated on that one and we set a really good time on the morning loop, which put us in front with quite a bit of time. Fafe I know Sebastien is really fast from last year, so I tried to drive it really quickly the first pass through and we managed to increase the gap. After that, it was about making sure he didn't catch us. It has been a clever day. The morning loop was fantastic and the second part, I tried to control it as much as possible.

Q:
You're up to second in the championship but Seb is quite a few points ahead. What are you thinking of the championship?

Andreas Mikkelsen:
It is nice to be back in second place. We lost a lot of points in Mexico but I think we are on the way back now. I feel that we can carry this momentum we have now into the next rally in Sardinia and hopefully, we will get a good result there and climb a bit closer to Seb, which will be nice.

Q:
Anders, are you happy with the weekend?

Anders Jaeger:
All in all, we are very happy. We were a little disappointed after Friday - we didn't have the feeling and didn't get the times but we had a plan B and after that, Saturday was great. Today was really early in the morning but after the first stage, you were properly awake, for sure. It has been an amazing event for both of us and for the team and the organisers. It has been a proper event.

Q:
What are your thoughts on the stages here in the North? What did you think of the event?

Anders Jaeger:
It's great - really. The stages were really nice during the recce and the fans as well - lots of people. And the weather - it was good. There were no big surprises for the conditions. It was perfect.

Q:
Sebastien, taking third position. At the end of day one, you said second was as much as you could hope for with your road position. You did a solid job Friday and Saturday but today, chasing down Andreas, it didn't go quite to plan. What happened?

Sebastien Ogier:
First I need to congratulate Andreas and Anders. They had a really good speed this morning and they have done a really good job. In the same time, I think I was not so lucky. It has been a tough weekend overall. Of course, the two first days I knew it would be tough and I would lose time but I was very happy to have second place on Saturday night - that was a great result for me. And of course, the plan was to hold it today. But it started with the first slow puncture, in the beginning of the first stage this morning. That cost us a bit of time - it is not easy to say how much but I drove 15 kilometres with a slow puncture on the front. Luckily, the tyre stayed on the rim - that was a miracle - and I didn't lose even more time. But then I was under pressure for the rest of the day because I could not get another puncture as that would have meant zero points for me here. And that was not an option I wanted to have. So I tried to carry good speed for the rest of the morning. But at the same time, Andreas was driving well and fast and it was not enough to try to catch back second place.

Q:
As Kris was saying, it's not so bad on the points. You still lead the championship by quite a margin.

Sebastien Ogier:
Now after five rounds, we have managed to improve the gap on every event, compared to second. It is always my main target when I start a rally - try to beat second in the championship and increase the gap. We have done it again and we have almost a two-win advantage. So for the points, it's a great operation and I am happy with that. Anyway, I have the feeling that I gave everything I could this weekend and achieved the maximum I could achieve.

Q:
How are you feeling about the next event - Sardinia, in two weeks' time?

Sebastien Ogier:
Yes, let's say if you want my true feeling, it is normally one of the most difficult rallies to open the road. I know it is going to be a tough one, once again. But I hope I will be at least a little bit more lucky than this weekend. Once again, I think it will be too optimistic to speak about victory but I will try again to score good points and try to make this plan working again, to beat the second guy in the championship.

Q:
Julian, I never know what you are going to say. How are you feeling after this weekend?

Julien Ingrassia:
Firstly as Seb said, I want to congratulate Kris and Paul because they did some really good times. I was inside the car and I know the times they did. They were not cruising. Also to our Andreas and Mr Jaeger. Everybody had a really good drive this weekend, so everyone here deserves to be on the podium. But I am in trouble. Because when I come back home, I will call my grandmother - you know I am Italian, so I have an Italian grandmother. "I want to know everything. Did you win?" "Ah no, we didn't win." "Why didn't you win? You haven't won for many rallies now. What are you doing? Do you want to be the shame of the family?" "No it's not so simple. The guys are strong this year and there is a question of rules. We need to clean the road." "What! Clean the road? What do you mean?" So you understand this is tough for me when I go home!

Q:
I'm sure she won't be too disappointed. You have had some great results in your career.

Julien Ingrassia:
Yes. I think I gave her some bad habits. Big expectations!

Q:
How was the event? We know it was tough and Seb has given everything he could. How was it from your seat?

Julien Ingrassia:
For me, there are a lot of good things on this event. The organisation of the event was one of the greatest we have had, ever. Of course, sometimes it can go a bit far away, as when we speak to the photographers, they say it was blocked too many times. Or stopped or even close to being in jail because of the police! Maybe they need to adjust on some points but generally, all the stages were run. There were some hills full of people and coming back here to the podium, it was a really good emotion in the city. So it is really good to enjoy this rally in Portugal in the north.

Q:
Congratulations on the win Yves. Great to see the team back in a different incarnation. Did you expect to be on the top of the podium?

Yves Matton:
No, like Kris said, two or three weeks ago we knew there was something to do. But we didn't think about winning. After the recce, we were far away from thinking we could win after missing two events. Our target this year is not to try to win some events - we did not plan for this. Our only target is to work for 2017. But for sure, what happened this weekend is good for everybody for 2017 - it is very good for Kris and Paul - they have made a step and it will help us. We are really happy for what happened.

Q:
What have you thought of Kris and Paul's performance? I know you analyse everything?

Yves Matton:
I have a lot of time, between the events! First, we always know the first win is exceptional. But the way they did it this weekend, it was really something that built during the weekend. It is a long work we did with them and the team to achieve this. We knew what the strengths and weaknesses are from Kris in the past and together, we really have done a step. And the way he did it this weekend, it is proof that now we are at another level.

Q:
How many times will we see them compete this year?

Yves Matton:
Some more times, I don't want to say how many because I want the freedom to change the plan during the year. Like I told them, our only target is to be back in 2017 to win some events.

Q:
We saw the new car for next year testing. How happy are you with it so far?

Yves Matton:
I have to say I am really happy with the job we have done so far. We have done two test sessions - eight days - and never stopped for a major problem. When I see the faces of the drivers and speak with them, it seems we are going in the right direction. We still have a lot of work before Monte Carlo but when it starts well, it is always easier to be on time.

 

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