Present:

Andreas Mikkelsen, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sebastien Ogier, M-Sport World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team
Hayden Paddon, Hyundai Motorsport

Q:

Andreas welcome back to the WRC! What is it like to be back on the top flight and in a World Rally Car with Citroen?

AM:

It’s a great feeling to be back with the big guys! I have been waiting for this moment every six months and it feels really really good. Obviously it is going to be a difficult weekend. Rally Sardegna has always been a tricky rally for me and now we have a new car and this won’t make things easier. I think we will build step by step and hopefully we will be quite competitive by the end of the weekend, but I expect it to be difficult from the very beginning.

Q:

You are still adapting to the car, as you said, any instructions from yor team?

AM:

No, not really. Just do what I want, drive to where I feel comfortable and then see where we are. As I said I only had one day in the car, so to be expecting fighting at the front is a bit too much, but, ok, we have a good starting position, hopefully that can help us and then we can progressively feel the car more and more and be faster and faster.

Q:

One day testing, how was it and how did you find your Citroen?

AM:

It was in France, in different conditions compared to here, but the initial feeling was really good. I got a good feeling with the car but, yes, after so many years in a Polo it takes time to get used to a new car. So a little bit more than one day.

Q:

What was it like in the shakedown this morning? Do you feel you have a good setup for the event?

AM:

Yeah, I mean, we did some small changes tried little different things.

Q:

Like what?

AM:

Some differential modes, ride heights and different pitch, so I think now we found something I could work on for the first stage tomorrow, I hope.

Q:

Obviously everybody is hoping it’s not a one-off and we have seen Yves (Matton) say that he doesn’t plan it to be one-off, but I guess you don’t know anymore than this event or do you?

AM:

No, it is planned only for this event so far, where we can have a good rally and hopefully make it more.

Q:

Seb, how are you feeling ahead of Rally Sardegna, are you feeling happy, confident, ready to go?

SO:

Yes, I feel good. It is always good to be named the championship leader, to be honest, but that means the first day is going to be tough, but it’s part of the game now, we have to deal with it, it’s always a crucial day in the championship. We need to fight hard to pick up the better starting position for the rest of the race. I feel good in the car, last rally was good so let’s see what we can do this weekend.

Q:

We chatted last night about the fact that all the cars are so competitive and they are quite levelled. Are we seeing a really changeable championship, with a variation of drivers, do you feel that you have to give that little bit more this year to keep up and give that extra-push?

SO:

In the past it may have looked easy from outside, but it has never been easy. Anyway, fighting hard and giving a lot it’s quite true that the battle is very intense and a lot of new parameters and new cars for everyone and it looks like the competitiveness of everyone is close, so it is exciting and interesting and I think everyone loves it, same for us. I often mentioned in the past that my most beautiful victory is the one where I have to fight hard to get and that’s the case right now, it’s hard to get victories but like in Portugal when it happens it feels relaly good.

Q:

When it is so competitive it it more motivating than it has been in the past?

SO:

So far in my career motivation never failed, I would say. I was always motivated, but year after year I guess you need something extra, something that pushes you a little more and this year I knew from the moment I signed with M-Sport that I would have a big challenge and that I needed to give everything I have and that is the case, but so far the bet is still on and we still have chance to fight for the championship so I am pleased with that so far, but there is still a long way to go.

Q:

Jari-Matti, talk to me about the setup of the car in terms of dealing with the heat because in all the hot rallies we have seen all of the cars suffered of overheating. Is that going to be an issue here?

J-ML:

For sure it is a demanding rally for the cars driving in hot temperatures but I would say the most demanding situation is when you are in high altitude and then you have hot conditions like Mexico, a bit in Argentina. Here we are not so high, ok, you have hot conditions, but the stages are not that long, so, to be fair, I am not so worried for this event.

Q:

Talk to me about the feeling of the car at shakedown this morning, everything’s ok?

J-ML:

Yes, we just did four runs, we were testing a bit of setup wise because we didn’t have a real test after Portugal before this event, so we had two weeks off and that’s why I wanted to get more feeling with the driving and try a couple of little things.

Q:

What little things?

J-ML:

Just something on the suspension…

Q:

Something!

J-ML:

Interesting! Something interesting!

Q:

Talk to me about tires this morning. What did you go out with on shakedown?

J-ML:

I was on soft tyres all the way through.

Q:

All of you on soft tires?

AM:

No, we were on hard.

SO:

Mixed.

HP:

Soft (not talking, only moving his head)

Q:

Jari-Matti, what do you think it’s possible for you here in terms of results for you with what you know of the car?

J-ML:

If I think about the rally where the cleaning effect is the biggest in the championship, it’s Mexico, this one and Australia, like Seb said, he’s going to have a tough position when he is the first car on the road, I would be the third car on the road so at least there is a bit of lines, but, like Seb mentioned, you have to fight on Friday first to get your position to Saturday, I mean, we did some work for Portugal, I think we improved the car, we are getting faster, unfortunately I got sick and then things went wrong. I could not get the best performance anymore for myself and then did a mistake and that was basically it for the fight. I hope what we did in Portugal will work here in Sardinia and now, at least, I feel I am fit and I am not getting sick anymore. It should be fine.

Q:

Is it good to have your ex collegue (Andreas Mikkelsen) back in WRC?

J-ML:

Yes, absolutely. It is very nice to see Andreas driving, he really deserves to be there and I think it has been a very tough time for him fighting and winning the last rally at the end of 2016 and you’re not driving in the championship, so I am really happy to see him back.

Q:

Hayden, talk to me about your feeling ahead of the event and your season so far as we kind of reached the mid-point, what is your feeling looking back?

HP:

Probably there is no much point to talk about the season so far, it’s been very bad but we are looking forward. We are now starting to feel better with the car. The last one month we made some big steps. In Portugal and again even here in the shakedown I feel like I am part of the car now and I am not fighting it, so this is good for the future, now we can start to try to build confidence and hopefully get some results.

Q:

What big steps with your car would you say?

HP:

On various things. I think everybody is in the same situation trying to learn on their new cars, how to keep the most from them. Maybe for the first part of this year we have been following my teammates too closely for the setup, the way I drive the car is quite different, now we are adapting the setup more suited to me and just focusing a lot on all the car, just the all package.

Q:

How do you find this rally as a driver in terms of the challenge that it offers?

HP:

I think it is one of the most challenging gravel rally that we do. There are many different types of stages, some are very typical and slow. The stages on sand are rough and, obviously, the high temperatures and tire strategy and, you know, I think this is not necesserily a rally on pure speed, I think you have to look after the car and it is very easy to get caught out here, so it is important to be tidy this weekend and make no mistakes.

Q:

How crucial is the tire strategy here?

HP:

I don’t think a clear cut strategy here. The afternoons are probably pretty easy and the morning loops are a little bit complicated and I think there might be a few tire strategies, also depending on your road position, so I don’t think there will be a right or wrong but I think there will be many different choices.