Team Citroen Total boss Guy Frequelin and drivers - Colin McRae, Sebastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz - talk about Monte Carlo, their hopes for the Swedish Rally and more...

Q:
Guy [Frequelin]. As in all sports, the match that comes immediately after a resounding win isn't always the easiest of challenges.

Guy Frequelin:
That's why I started preparing the team mentally as soon as we got back from the Monte Carlo Rally. There's nothing wrong in taking the time to savour such a sensational and important result for Citroen, but it's essential to get quickly back to reality. We still have a great deal of work to do and we won't finish every round as we did in Monaco. We are not sitting on top of the world and we will doubtlessly suffer other setbacks. We are conscious of this and that's why we are preparing ourselves mentally for such a turn of events.

Q:
What lessons did you learn from your first visit to Sweden in 2002?

GF:
On the positive side, we saw that our level of performance was satisfactory. Thomas Radstr?m set one fastest time and, I believe, five other times inside the top three. Sebastien [Loeb] proved his ability to adapt, notably recording a third fastest time on a 28-kilometre stage, just 7 seconds down on Marcus Gronholm who was in dominating form. On the negative side, there were essentially two points which have both since been worked on - the stability of the car over deep ruts and snow getting into the engine compartment.

Q:
You say you will be satisfied if you get two cars into the top-five, including one on the podium. That's a very cautious objective?

GF:
We mustn't forget that this rally has still yet to be won by a non-Nordic driver. For this very specific type of terrain, for which we do little work since we only compete on it once a season, our rivals have acquired a great deal of experience over the years. In the circumstances, I think our objective is realistic. I would be especially pleased if we achieved it in style. By that I mean if we are competitive and up there fighting in the leading group.

Q:
Colin [McRae]. You made your WRC debut on the Swedish Rally in 1987. What do you remember of that event?

Colin McRae:
The first thing that springs to mind is the amount of shovelling I had to do to dig the car out of the snow banks. I spent more time with a spade in my hand than at the wheel! But Sweden is one of my favourite rallies. I have very fond recollections of that first visit.

Q:
How would you explain the pleasure you derive from driving on slippery stages at high speed? Is your often-sideways style suitable for such narrow, snow bank-lined roads?

CM:
Sweden is a rally that's great fun to compete on. The snow banks are very forgiving when you get it wrong. If you use them well, they help keep you on the road. I think my driving style is well suited to these conditions. In spite of the speeds we get up to, the Swedish isn't a dangerous event. It's not a rally where you can hurt yourself.

Q:
When you thanked your team over the radio at the end of the Monte Carlo Rally you said, "We'll win others!" Do you think the next victory can come in Sweden?

CM:
There's perhaps a chance... Hum! It's still a little bit early - I still lack running time with the Xsara. I will need to drive it more to feel totally confident. So yes, we have a chance of winning, but only a slender chance!

Q:
Sebastien [Loeb]. Like Colin, you quote Sweden as one of your favourite events. Why?

Sebastien Loeb:
Probably for the same reasons as him. When you enjoy driving, you can only take pleasure from driving at high speed on snow and ice. You're permanently sideways, trying to control the power slides, juggling with the car's momentum to set it up for the corners. Sometimes that's done with gentle, fingertip precision, at others you have to be more brutal for the few sharper turns. Sheer pleasure.

Q:
What do you remember from your last visit to Sweden in 2002?

SL:
Last year was my first non-asphalt outing with a Xsara WRC car. I started the event second on the road behind [Tommi] Makinen and spent my time making fresh tracks in the snow. I was reassured by the fact that my times were comparable to his. Later in the rally, the conditions were less fun as the thaw set in and we began to hit mud. Naturally, I remember my third fastest time when I was just 3/10ths of a second slower than Marcus Gronholm. That told me I could also be competitive on other surfaces than asphalt.

Q:
You lead the championship going to Sweden. How do you see the event going?

SL:
You have to understand that the Monte Carlo and Swedish Rallies are two very different events. Nothing is comparable. Neither the type of surface, nor the tyres, nor the studs. On Day 1, I will be first on the road. I can't tell yet whether that's an advantage or a handicap. We will only find out on the day. My personal aim is to be consistently amongst the top five or six stage times and, above all, to do my best to ensure that my times aren't that far off the fastest.

Q:
Carlos [Sainz]. You are another driver who says the Swedish Rally is his favourite event. Isn't that strange for a Latin driver?

Carlos Sainz:
It's no doubt because we don't get much snow in Spain and I love skiing. I was delighted to see snow in Sweden! Seriously, it's because I love driving on this event and no doubt also because I have generally gone well there.

Q:
Indeed, you were the first so-called Latin driver to win Rally Finland and also the Rally of Great Britain. You haven't won yet in Sweden but you've come second four times in a row. What's needed to convert those results into a win?

CS:
It's true I've come fairly close to winning in the past. There are situations when the only thing that's lacking is a little luck. Even so, these results showed I can be competitive on what is a demanding and very fast rally, and I hope to show it again. To make the picture perfect, I also hope the weather is very snowy.

Q:
Given the combination of how the Xsara went on last year's Swedish Rally, how your pre-event testing went and the experience you acquired on the Monte Carlo Rally, what will your objective be?

CS:
That's the big question, both for me and the team. Our preparations have gone well, but nobody really knows where we will finish. I will do my best to stay as close as possible to the leading pack, but it's difficult to predict a result.

Comments

Loading Comments...