A Solid Finish
'Atko calling at the end of Wales Rally GB.
'Today's itinerary featured three stages repeated twice totalling 83.10km of stages that I know from the past and I was really hoping to set some good times. We made some set-up changes to the engine map last night, which seemed to be heading in the right direction as this morning we had good grip and the feeling with the MINI was great. Unfortunately a sensor in my MINI's gearbox (which meant that the monitor showed sixth gear whichever gear I was in!) cost us some time on the morning loop.
'The problem was fixed by the mechanics at midday service but of course it made our morning a bit more difficult than we had hoped for. We set off this afternoon ready to clock some good times on the second loop. We were promoted into the Top 10 and the points scoring positions when Ott retired on SS17 – the first stage of the second pass. However, it just wasn't our day!
'Towards the end of the last stage with two splits to go we broke our left-rear toe control link, the function of which on the car is to align the wheel. We held Ogier off, but in one stage we dropped one minute and 30 seconds to Nasser and fell back down to 11th. Fortunately, I was able temporarily to jury rig the spare wheel so that we could get the car back to service.
'Overall I'm happy and positive that we're in a good place for the forthcoming gravel events. I'm satisfied with what Stéphane, myself, the team and our MINI achieved together here in Wales. We finished the rally in 11th overall and our pace was nice and consistent, always close to the targets we set coming into the event. We were hoping to be one kilometre per second off the pace and we've been there or thereabouts most of the time. And we're especially pleased that between here and Germany, we've contested 32 stages and completed all 32 successfully!
'Unfortunately my team mate Paulo was forced to retire after midday service today due to vibration causing an alternator cable to fail. I'm gutted for him, he was doing a good job and having loads of fun – it's incredible how he never gives up and how much he enjoys what he does.
'It was a big weekend for my co-driver Stéphane as well as he was awarded with the Michael Park 'Beef' Trophy to honor his career in the WRC. We started to work together in 2007 and even when we stopped competing in the World Rally Championship we continued to work together in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship. He's been doing other things in the meantime as well but we clicked from the start and have always worked really well together. From my side I can say he's an amazing co–driver - he's very professional, focused and the feeling in the car is always great. For me, that's exactly what I need from a co-driver and our relationship both in and out of the car is fantastic.
'I want to add a special thank you to my mechanics. They’ve worked tirelessly all weekend! I'm really happy with their work, they are all very professional and always put their best effort in making sure the MINI is in top form. We have Italian, Portuguese, Brazilian and Irish mechanics in the team but they all work together in a fantastic way!
'I'm now staying in Europe for a while so I don't have to fly back and forward to and from Australia, which means... no jetlag. Bonus! An even bigger bonus is that my family is going to join me and I'll get to spend some time with them before I head to Strasbourg for Rallye de France, which’ll be my third event with WRC Team MINI Portugal and after Germany we’re keen for a good follow up result on Tarmac.
'I've never competed in Rallye de France since it was moved from Corsica to Alsace, but in 2010 I was (half of) Ken Block's gravel crew so I know more or less what to expect from the stages.
'Thanks to everyone for following me and WRC Team MINI Portugal this weekend, it's great to have support from all over the world.
Catch you soon,
Source: Team MINI Portugal