Salou, 21st October, 2011.
The MINI WRC Team’s crews of Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) and Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR) were lying fifth and sixth respectively at the end of what turned out to be a controversial first day of action for the Rally RACC – Rally of Spain. On a day when running first on the road was more advantageous than ever, bad dust on two of the six stages turned what could have been a good fight into a lottery as the crews battled with visibility that was often no more than a few feet.
Stage one was the first where this problem occurred, and this was not helped by no wind speed at all. Then on the final stage of the day run in the dark the dust was even worse, and many crews were openly critical of running in such conditions. However, Sordo and Meeke also suffered other problems, with intercom issues on stage five for the Spaniard, while for the Brit and co-driver Nagle it was dust getting inside the car and in their eyes. With the gravel stages of the rally out of the way the team is hoping for better results on the all tarmac stages over the next two days. Tomorrow there will be six stages covering a total of 143.54 kilometres.
Dave Wilcock, Technical Director said, “We started the day with great expectations, but clearly from the first split we could see the stages were going to be an issue due to dust. On the first stage our two drivers had notes called for sixth gear and they were having to drive through in third! It was not a level playing field for everybody. The three minute gaps put in by the organisers to combat this didn’t work, and we took the option to take a ten second penalty for Kris for checking in a minute late for stage one. He probably gained around 25 or 30 seconds on the stage time, so it was a 15 second gain. Also on the first loop Kris was carrying a small problem as he dropped into a small hole and slightly damaged the suspension, but was able to get back to service with no problems. When Dani got into service we found he had a small amount of damage that may have affected his handling on the first three stages. On the afternoon loop we hoped to claw something back, and the first stage was okay. Then on the next one Dani had an intermittent intercom problem and lost some seconds, but it was repairable for the final stage by replacing a lead. Going into the last stage the crews had four minute gaps, expecting dust, but like the first stage it was completely horrendous and was a complete lottery. We finished the day two minutes down on the leader and most of that is due to dust. We are not very happy, but tomorrow we start the tarmac rally and we shall try and recover.”
Dani Sordo (driving the MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 37) added, “Today the first stage, like the last one, was where we lost a lot of time – in fact over 40 seconds. On the second pass of the long stage today, which was 35 kilometres, the intercom to the co-driver was broken at the start of the stage and it kept cutting out. I didn’t hear Carlos very well so it was difficult to know where the corners were, and that was bad. Then the final night stage was really bad as we had all the dust and it was impossible to see. Today was really difficult because there were many problems. I need to try and push hard tomorrow to try to show everybody that the MINI is fast on tarmac, so do the same as I did in France. It is a new rally tomorrow, with just tarmac which is good for our car, so perhaps we can make up some positions. It should be an interesting day.”
In the MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 52, Kris Meeke gave his daily report: “I had a challenging day. However, if I had really pushed myself to the limit risking everything maybe I would have been on a similar time to Dani, but then I know he is going to pull away tomorrow as I don’t have the experience of the roads. I said for once use the wise head and try to relax and go out to learn the rally. Certainly the most challenging part of the rally is over and the last stage was the most difficult stage I have ever driven. Tomorrow is all about tarmac driving, finding the rhythm there and trying to find tenths of seconds as the stage times will be separated by a lot less. Today with the dust and the rocks falling onto the road it made it very, very difficult.”
We wish the MINI WRC great success and look forward to giving our readers continuous coverage here at Miniology.com!
[Source: BMW Group PressClub Sport]