MINI WRC takes 5th @ Wales Rally GB (FIA World Rally Championship) Day Three.

The sun came out in Wales, but it still threw challenges at the Wales Rally GB crews. Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR) finished day three in their MINI John Cooper Works WRC fifth despite having to battle with a broken engine mount for the first three stages. Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) re-joined the competitors in the SupeRally and had a trouble free run.

Meeke started the day eighth and his aim was to move up rapidly to sixth and then battle for fifth. His goal was helped by the retirements of Petter Solberg (NO) and Kimi Räikkönen (FI), but not by the broken engine mount. Despite suffering from this he still set some decent stage times on the three stages into mid-day service in Builth Wells. His car was soon as good as new and ready to challenge for fourth in the afternoon. Meanwhile Sordo was feeling much more confident in the car on the low grip conditions, and on Sweet Lamb was fourth quickest first time through and third on the second run.

Dave Wilcock, Technical Director described the day thus, “We had a small issue with Kris on the first loop this morning. There was an engine mounting that had come slightly loose and it had pulled one of the exhaust slip joints off, so we had hot exhaust gas leaking into the engine bay, which melted a couple of items but nothing that cost too much performance. Because of this he took it cautiously for the first loop. We repaired that at lunch time, this afternoon things were back to normal, and we saw some good stage times from Kris. He struggled a little bit in that last stage, which was nearly 28 kilometres in Myherin, and we need to have a look at the data as he thought it felt okay. As for Dani, on the SupeRally today there were stages he knows from previous years. He was looking forward to today and his times have been improving all day long. He is now much more confident in these low grip conditions, and we could clearly see that in his stage times.

For Kris he has 45 seconds to make up to get fourth and we are now looking for a little over half a second a kilometre to leap frog Henning Solberg. It is a tall order, but there are 84 kilometres to go so we shall see how we get on on the first stage. If he is on target at that point then he will continue to push. If not then we shall just consolidate fifth position.”

Dani Sordo (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 37) shared, “Today was quite good. I like the stages a lot, but at the same time they were very slippery. I particularly liked the Sweet Lamb stage, and this showed in my time. Tomorrow will be quite tricky as we have some parts on tarmac and some new stages. It was good that it did not rain today, but here in Wales even when it is dry the roads are muddy as it has been raining for a long time.”

Our BMW folks covering the events forgot to mention which position Dani Sordo took at the end of the day, so I guess we’ll find out more tomorrow!

Kris Meeke (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 52) chimed in, “We sorted the engine problem from the morning at lunch time, which was good as every time I changed gear the engine was moving. We just had to drive through and try to get it back here. The second pass today was tricky and very slippery like the surface had been polished. The car is working well on the smooth stuff, but on the ruts we lose a bit of time. We shall see tomorrow what happens, as it will be interesting to see if we can catch Henning. I have done tomorrow’s stages in the other direction, so maybe I should try reversing through them!”

Whether they run dry, wet, muddy, or somewhere in between, we are pleased to see team MINI WRC on the rally circuit, and look forward to tomorrow’s competition as well the full season next year.

Here’s a few more dirty pictures for you to enjoy .. dirty MINIs that is!

[Source: BMW Group PressClub Sport, Wales, Nov 12 2011]