'And this is it - my final press release on the final day of Rally d'Italia.
'We might have only run two stages totally 16.48km today, but we've managed to pack in plenty of excitement!
'First off, we changed Atko's set-up last night. As I mentioned earlier in the week, between Rally GB and Rally d'Italia Motorsport Italia evolved certain non-homologated parts on the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman WRC.
Chris had a good feeling about these evolutions after the test, but hadn't had the chance to test them in conditions representative of a rough second pass.
With that in mind we went for a 'safety' set-up yesterday afternoon. This perhaps wasn't the best choice and last night we found ourselves 3.9 seconds behind Ogier, needing to pull a rabbit out of the hat to reclaim fifth position. So back on with the new parts!
'Fast-forward to this morning and Chris was fifth fastest through SS15, the opening stage of the day. Back in the mix! Unfortunately, his pesky French rival drove his socks off and slipped through fourth quickest, one second faster than Atko.
Atko's new 5.3 second deficit was going to be difficult to make up on an 8.24km stage, but he headed into the last stage determined to give it his best.
'Unfortunately, a great first split was followed by a puncture 3km into the stage.
He didn't stop to change the tyre, but suffered a time loss of nearly one minute! Fortunately, Atko's lead over Mikkelsen was enough to hold sixth and earn him eight more WRC points.
This also marks MINI's highest gravel finish of the season. Hooray for Atko!
'Paulo finished 19th overall and was delighted to have completed every stage of the rally (road section problems Friday night aside!) No big dramas for Paulo today, but a big smile when he made it back to service.
Meanwhile, Atko’s successful pass through Rally d’Italia maintains his perfect record of stages started-completed in a MINI.
'So, what happens now? Well we scatter to the four winds for a couple of weeks. Chris and Stéphane are heading straight to China for the final round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Championship – good luck boys, we know you can win the title!
Paulo and Edu return to Brazil and the rest of us immediately set to preparing for Spain.
'But… before that we have the Ceremonial Finish and our debrief. I mention the debrief, because it’s an essential part of the rally weekend. The engineers get as much feedback from the drivers as possible, but it’s also key for me.
'As quite a close team, everyone tries to understand every part of the operation. As a comms person, it’s important to have a technical understanding of what’s happening at any moment.
That doesn’t mean I can read data logs or advise on technical strategy, but it’s my job to communicate technical feedback to everyone outside the team and make it as easy to understand as possible. Hence the role of the debrief!
'Lucky for me our Team Manager Bruno (who often doubles as Chief Technician during service!) also takes the time to explain what’s happening in real time as the mechanics make it happen.
Of course the boys need to be careful. If they give me too much information, I might start offering my technical advice, which could be a disaster!
'On that note, I’ll leave you. Have a safe journey home. I hope you enjoyed the rally and to see everyone supporting Atko out in China. See you in Spain.'
Source: WRC Team MINI Portugal