Harri Rovanperä: As fired up as ever!

Harri Rovanperä: As fired up as ever!From Peugeot Press [ 17/06/2004 ].
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With the wind back in his sails following his superb 3rd place in Greece, Harri appears to have overcome his recent jinx. And now that he has rediscovered the joys of fighting at the sharp end, he has no intention of stopping there… What were your first thoughts when you found yourself back on a WRC podium? "First of all I was sorry not to have been able to offer Peugeot even more points by finishing in 2nd instead of 3rd place. An anti-roll bar problem hampered the handling of my car on the final day and I really couldn't do any better in the circumstances...."

"...I now know though that the 307 WRC has the potential to win. And when everything begins to go well, you quickly find yourself wanting more. But that didn't prevent me from savouring the moment. It was a great feeling to finish on the podium. It's something I haven't done for some time and my result in Greece came as a huge relief after my difficult period at the back end of last season."

What do you put that lean patch down to?
"Life isn't always rosy. Teams and drivers sometimes go through a barren spell and, when success fails to come your way, it can lead you to doubt. That in turn can unsettle you and make you make mistakes. But it can just as simply be a run of bad luck that lasts a bit too long. In world class rallying, the pace is so fast that every driver experiences one or more of those knife-edge 'moments' when it can tip one way or another. More often than not, the only price you pay is a brief adrenalin rush, but there are times when it doesn't work out. And when your luck turns, that can happen a number of times in a row. When that happens, people naturally begin to think you're on a downward spiral. It's probably inevitable that we are judged according to our two or three most recent performances. Today, however, the trend seems to have been reversed and our most recent results are quite encouraging for the future.

Have you changed the way you approach rallies in any way?
"Not really. A barren patch is a bit like a virus. There's no real remedy, you just have to sit it out and wait for it to pass. Deep down, I have never doubted my speed or my ability to mix it with the best of them. To maintain my current form, I am working on my concentration and physical shape. And as far as the mental side is concerned, one of the strong points of everyone at Peugeot Sport is that they never give up whatever happens. That's contagious and so I benefit from that too. My year got off to a particularly good start when I was called in to drive again for the team. It's a team I like and feel comfortable in. Not only is it united and convivial, but it is also highly talented and capable of giving you the tools to succeed at the very top."

Even so, the early part of the season wasn't easy for you…
"That's normal with an all-new car. Everyone worked very hard last year to prepare for the switch to the 307 WRC, but nothing can replace actual competition. You can only really judge a car's potential once it has taken part in its first few rallies. That's when you discover the sort of problems that are impossible to detect in testing and which you have to correct as you go along. The reactivity of the team has enabled the car to fight at the sharp end very quickly. Even though its development has only just begun, the 307 WRC is today reliable and a potential rally winner."

In your opinion, in what areas does it still need to improve?
"To begin with, we need to work on the suspension and differentials. Greece marked a step forward but the car's overall balance is still perfectible, especially over the bumpier stages. But the engineers are working on that and I am certain they will succeed in taking its performance another step further very soon. Marcus was the fastest driver over the stages in Cyprus and we were involved in the fight for outright victory throughout the Acropolis Rally. I am convinced the 307 WRC will get its first true win very soon."

What is your objective in Turkey?
"Last year, this event was a newcomer to the World Championship and was made particularly difficult when heavy rain cut up the stages and mud made driving conditions very delicate. This year's rally takes place in the summer and it will doubtlessly be very different. The stages are globally the same, but the roads should be drier, and therefore smoother and more interesting. It's almost as though we were going to a brand new event. Last year, like us, the organisers were victims of the poor weather, but they struck me as efficient and motivated and their event could well be a big success this time. Risto and I will do everything in our power to pop the champagne again at the finish. We found our way back onto the podium in Greece, but we can still go two places better…"