Yves Matton: “Team orders are never easy”

Citroën’s official previews of World Rally Championship events usually include a short interview, or rather Q&A session with one team member, discussing the upcoming rally and also other topics related to the team and it’s operations.

This time it was team principal Yves Matton’s turn to answer three interesting questions, notably dealing with issue of team orders and how they shaped the results of Rally Argentina for Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen.

The Citroën Total World Rally Team achieved a one-two in Argentina after you told Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen to hold their positions. Wasn’t the gap between the two drivers too narrow to do that?

“This kind of decision is never easy to take, but we had to take action to ensure that we achieved the goals that we had set for ourselves, namely to keep the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ World titles. After drawing a blank in Portugal, Rally Argentina worked out well for us. Given the lead that our crew had established and the difficulties that still lay ahead, the sensible choice was clearly to ask Seb and Mikko to hold position. Every member of the team, starting with the drivers, knows how important for Citroën to win this titles. Clearly, it may seem particularly tough on Mikko after the way Rally de Portugal ended, but I hope that we’ll see him win his first rally with us in the very near future.”

How would you say the first five rallies of the 2012 season have gone for you?

“The most important point is obviously to lead the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ World Championship standings. I don’t think, however, that we can come to any definitive conclusions at this stage of the season. After Monte-Carlo, Sweden and Mexico, we thought that in Portugal we would get a clearer idea of the pecking order between the leading contenders in the Championship. The weather prevented us from seeing a proper contest. In Argentina, our rivals had problems just when our crews began to hit top form. In the end, we still haven’t seen a genuine scrap on a level playing field. I think that we undoubtedly have some stiff competition and I’m certain that we are going to see some very hotly contested rallies in the next few rounds. Although we have established a lead in terms of points, this championship is far from over!”

The way that the WRC is managed has undergone significant changes in recent months. What is your view of the current situation?

“When I was appointed Citroën Racing Team Principal in January of this year, the WRC found itself without a promoter at the same time. The FIA and the organisers of the first few rounds have fulfilled their role to make sure that the rallies have been held in best possible conditions. In comparison with my previous experience of WRC, I am pleased with the working relations between the manufacturers and the FIA. The team led by Michèle Mouton, Jarmo Mähönen and Alexandre Gueschir listens to our concerns. Each side understands the constraints and aspirations of the other stakeholders and we are moving forward in the right direction. The future of our sport will depend both on the heritage of the World Rally Championship and our capacity to move forward with the new technologies both in communications and automotive industry.”