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Rally Japan – press conference

Present:
1st Sébastien Loeb – Kronos Total Citroën World Rally Team
1st Daniel Elena – Kronos Total Citroën World Rally Team
2nd Marcus Gronholm – BP-Ford World Rally Team
2nd Timo Rautiainen – BP-Ford World Rally Team
3rd Mikko Hirvonen – BP-Ford World Rally Team
3rd Jarmo Lehtinen – BP-Ford World Rally Team
Representative of the winning manufacturer Kronos Total Citroën World Rally Team – Marc van Dalen

Welcome to the post-event FIA press conference.

Q:
Sébastien, congratulations on your 27 world rally victories. How does it feel to be the most successful driver in the history of the sport? Has Carlos Sainz telephoned you to say well done?

SL:
Yes, sure, it’s a very good feeling to break Carlos’s record. He was the man who had the most victories. I’m sorry for him. It was a pleasure and good experience for me to work with him. He learned me a lot, maybe now he thinks he learned me too much! Now, with 27 victories the most exciting thing is that this victory was a very big fight with Marcus – a really incredible rally. No, I think Carlos is sleeping now!

Q:
Mikko, you finished in a commendable third place – your fourth podium of the season. You must feel pretty satisfied.

MH:
For sure it’s good to be on the podium again. Now that’s my fifth time on the podium, which is good. The consistency is getting better and the speed is going as well. These two (Loeb and Grönholm) are going so fast, there’s still more to improve on the coming rallies.

Q:
Jarmo, was it particularly tough on the stages? There seemed to be quite a few drivers making mistakes.

JL:
For sure it was difficult. The grip level changed at almost every corner. Fair play to Mikko, though, there were no mistakes. A couple of times we went wide, but that is what you would expect in these conditions.

Q:
Mikko, what have you thought of the rally? It has been exceedingly well organised, with more fans than ever. Have you enjoyed it?

MH:
Yeah, it’s fine. There are a lot of spectators and the stages are nice, but we need to move headquarters about 100 kilometres north towards the stages. That would be perfect. People say all this for three years; the road sections are too tight and the sections too long, this is something which needs looking at.

Q:
Congratulations Marcus, eight points and a podium second; not quite what you wanted, but such an exciting end to the rally. How was it for you and Timo in the car?

MG:
I said I took no risks, but we were always on the limit. I was not thinking about points, I just wanted to catch him. Two mistakes yesterday cost me too much. Anyway, it’s quite okay to be second after this fight – normally I don’t like to be second.

Q:
Timo, the crucial time for you and Marcus was yesterday on SS14 and 15, with those two spins. Why did it suddenly go wrong for you?

TR:
The mistakes at this speed could happen anywhere, they just happened to be there. On the first, it was one long right corner. It was all going well, it looked like we would go normal through the corner. Then the front wheel touched the grass and we spun and stalled across the road. It’s something that cannot happen if you want to win against Seb. He is always there, sometimes behind you or sometimes ahead. There is no space for errors like that. Then Marcus is a fighter, he wanted to take all 22 seconds back in the next stage, so we went 10 seconds backwards with another spin! It’s very easy to make a mistake – what can I say?

Q:
Marcus, you’ve been fighting Sébastien hard for the last three or four seasons. I know you would prefer 27 victories, but what do you think of his achievement?

MG:
Absolutely, for me he is the hardest driver I ever fight since when I started to win rallies. Seb is the fastest and the most difficult to beat. For me, he is the right man for the record, but don’t worry, we will be catching him, don’t worry!

Q:
Marc, congratulations to you and the team. It’s been another fine victory. What are your thoughts about your record-breaking driver?

MvD:
First, we are very proud. When we start the season, nobody expects seven wins like that from Seb. It’s a dream for us. I am very happy because it’s real team-work all the time. Everybody works in the same way, and we don’t have to forget Daniel – that’s the most important thing for us, the human atmosphere we have in the team.

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Q:
How do you see the rest of the season? Will it be more records and victories for Seb,  and then the manufacturers title?

MvD:
Like we are now, there’s still five rallies to go. We will do the best we can to catch the Championship. The gap to Ford is only 15 points, we stay at the same level after Finland, which we are very happy about.  We are very happy with Dani (Sordo) as well. It was a difficult rally. We will try and then see where we are after GB!

Q:
Daniel, congratulations. You became the most successful co-driver earlier in the year, but you must be pleased to help Seb get his record.

DE:
I am happy for Sébastien, but it’s not my fault if I have broken my record before him! Thanks Luis (Moya), he stopped early. It’s hard for the co-driver; if I break the record at the same time as Sébastien, then the co-driver’s out (forgotten)… thank you Seb!

Q:
Sebastien, you’ve got the 27 victories, did you ever imagine people would be talking about Sébastien Loeb in the same sentence as Kankkunen, Sainz and Makinen?

SL:
Sure it’s really nice to be in the position to have this record. It’s good, I’m really happy for that. When I’m driving, though, it’s more my passion for the fight in the stages than the record, and to do a rally like that today is nice. If I break the record with 27 wins, it’s not because I’m a better driver than Carlos; it was another time – perhaps more people fight for the victory, perhaps different cars. Like Marcus said, he will try to beat it, we will see for the future.

Q:
Can you break the other big record and make it five world titles in a row?

SL:
Yes. But, er, for the moment I’m fighting for the third! Next year is a new season. We took a lot of points advantage in the six, seven or eight first rallies, and since that it’s been really close. Next year is a new season, we have a new car. Marcus and Ford are really ready and ready from Monte Carlo, it can be more difficult, but I hope it will be as exciting as it was here – that’s the most important thing.

FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHP

1st Fumio Nutahara
1st Daniel Barritt

Q:
Fumio, congratulations on your win at home. Did you think it had all gone after the three stages on the first day?

FN:
I would like to thank the organisers for such a good event and Mitsubishi and Yokohama, who have supported us. It was a difficult rally for us, we tried to push hard, but we lost one minute with the punctures. Jari-Matti (Latvala) drove very fast. We hoped to catch him, but we knew it would be difficult. At the same time, (Gabriel) Pozzo was pushing from behind. It was lucky for us and unlucky for Latvala that he had an accident and we won.

Q:
Daniel, this is your second win of the season, what does this mean for your Championship? Is there any chance of beating Nasser Al-Attiyah for the title?

DB:
We couldn’t have asked for a better result this weekend. Like you say, Nasser is going to be very difficult to beat. We’ve got three rounds to score and he’s only got two. If we can have a good result in Cyprus then we’ll see what happens on the last two events.

Q:
How difficult was this rally from the co-driver’s perspective. It’s easy to make mistakes.

DB:
It was very difficult. The recce was very important and from our point of view it helped having previous experience of the event. He knew where the bad places were, we had to keep it tight on the narrow sections and that’s what we did for the whole three days.

Q:
Fumio, what do you think of the home support and what has the rally been like for you?

FN:
We have never won the PWRC event in Japan. Toshi (Arai) was driving the World Rally Car, so we didn’t compete with him. After the punctures I almost gave up on winning, we focused on finishing. This rally is really very important for me being Japanese.

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