Jyväskylä, 30thJuly, 2011. The MINI WRC Team cannot pretend to be satisfied that neither of its MINI John Cooper Works WRCs made it to the end of Neste Oil Rally Finland, but this doesn’t mean it has been an unsuccessful outing. The first retirement was of car number 52 for Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR) after 19 of the 22 stages, while Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) only missed out on the very last stage. Both retirements were precautionary after a lot of sand and dirt was sucked into the cars’ cooling system, which could have caused damage to the engines.
The problems started on stage 17, Leustu 2, when Meeke suffered from a puncture and then overheating. At that stage he had been lying ninth, but the loss of over a minute and a half to the leaders dropped him to 14th. It was soon obvious how rough the stages were proving on the second run through, and on the next stage, Surkee 2, Sordo, then seventh, also had problems with the sand blocking the air intake and lost 45 seconds to the leaders. The team’s engineers knew they would learn nothing more from cars limping through stages, although Sordo was able to go quicker than Meeke. After Urria 2 the team decided to retire Meeke’s car, and then after Isojärvi 2 Sordo was told to drive back to Jyväskylä and not attempt the Power Stage to avoid engine damage.
David Richards, Team Principal:
“There is obviously a great sense of disappointment throughout the team that the rally should end for both Dani and Kris within sight of the finish. However, we have to take heart from the performance of the cars throughout the event, with their pure speed and the fact we were close to the pace right from the word go. We now go to a very different surface, with the asphalt rally of Germany which will present further challenges and another step in the learning curve for our new team.”
Dave Wilcock, Technical Director:
“The first loop of stages today was very good, and these were stages Dani was familiar with. Here he showed us that the pace of the car on certain splits was very, very good. This was encouraging for us, so in general we were very happy with his performance. Kris was surprised by the speed of the others this morning, but, as we have always said, for him it was just about getting experience and getting through the stages. On the second loop it all started to go wrong for us. The stages had cut up far worse than expected and, even though we had raised the car for the second pass, we ran into some problems with collecting sand into the cooling and air intake systems, which eventually made us call an end to our rally and retire the cars rather than suffer any damage. This was mainly because we didn’t want to damage the engine with dirt getting into or through overheating.”
“I am a little disappointed as it would have been really nice to finish here in Finland, but motorsport is like that. We have had some small problems, but this helps for us to understand our car and improve for the future. I am quite happy today as the stages in the morning today were very good and we were close to the top times. I enjoyed today as they were really nice stages. I would have liked to do the power stage, but it was best not to risk damaging the engine. ”
“It was good to get very nearly a full rally distance under our belts, as it has been a long time since we have done a full rally. I began to really get into the groove yesterday and start to really understand the car in rally conditions. I think yesterday afternoon we felt comfortable, and to get within half a second a kilometre of the top guys on this rally is something that I think we can be very encouraged with. Today we were back to the traditional type of stages, and this morning I was really having to learn them. I think anybody coming here for the first time is bound to be blown away by those stages, as the lines these guys take are impossible to do the first time. I am glad I have seen it all and I have video footage of the entire rally. I will be studying that very closely over the next few days, and will even start making corrections to our notes for next year. It is all an experience exercise, but with that we also proved the car is quite fast when the conditions are good, but we just have a bit more work to do when the conditions get rough.”
Rauno Aaltonen supports MINI WRC Team on his home rally.
Jyvaskala, 30th July, 2011. With the World Rally Championship visiting his home turf, it would have been inconceivable that Rauno Aaltonen would not be on the Neste Oil Rally Finland to give support to the next generation of MINI drivers. He was there to repay the compliment after Dani Sordo (ES) and Kris Meeke (GB) went to see him on the Historic Monte Carlo Rally in January.
A very happy Aaltonen explained his role with MINI: “As a representative of MINII I have the honour to be here for both the road going MINI for the normal people and, as you know the rally people are not quite normal, so for them we have this MINI John Cooper Works WRC car. I think this is fantastic as in Finland the word MINI is synonymous with the word winning, and now, of course, the whole of Finland is expecting the MINI to win. However, we have to be realistic and understand that no car has ever won a world championship rally during its first year. I think we are doing very well indeed and the spectators say it is so nice and it is going well and they are all very pleased.”
Aaltonen has spent the three days of the rally both in and around the event’s headquarters in the central Finnish town of Jyväskylä, and in the Lahti region for Saturday’s remote service. He is no stranger to the rally as when he was rallying a Mini in the sixties he has been on the podium on this event that was then known as the Rally of the 1000 Lakes.
His packed schedule has included wishing the two MINI WRC Team crews - Sordo and Carlos del Barrio (ES) with their no 37 MINI John Cooper Works WRC and Meeke and Paul Nagle (IR) in no 52 - good luck when they left the service park each morning. He has also featured on tv and radio as a real expert on everything about MINI in rallying and the sport in Finland. Today he presented a MINI Countryman to two of his fellow Finns, Arttu Pihlainen, the world’s fastest downhill skater who won the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship, and Peetu Piiroinen, a successful snowboarder who won the Burton Global Open Series. They won these cars, which were given by BMW Suomi Oy, in races last winter and both have been customised according to the winners’ designs.
Rauno Aaltonen was born in Finland in 1938 and started his rallying career in 1956. In a long and illustrious career he has been famous for not only winning the European Rally Championship in a Mini Cooper S in 1965, but also going on to win the third Monte Carlo Rally victory with the car. The first win on this famous event for the team was in 1964 for Paddy Hopkirk (GB), then the next year it was Timo Mäkinen (FI) and Aaltonen’s win came in 1967. They were known as the ‘Three Musketeers’ and Aaltoen the ‘Rally Professor’.
by: MINI World Rally Team