Well it’s that time of year again – time for most to wind down, enjoy some time with family and refresh the batteries for 2016. For us of recent, it has been quite the opposite and the off-season since Rally GB has been anything but ‘off’.
After a flying 8 day visit back to NZ immediately following Rally GB for PR and sponsor commitments, it was then back to Europe for a 2 day Monte Carlo test, the launch of our 2016 New Generation i20 WRC car and a further 2 days of testing for Rally Sweden. In between times we have been also working closely with the team, engineers and trainers to prepare for the new season and use every available time to improve the ‘systems’ for a new year.
It has been good being in the car a bit of recent, with over 700km of testing between our Monte and Sweden tests. As we will be doing Monte Carlo rally in the 2015 spec car, we did two days with this – our first time on icy/tarmac roads. Using the old car on our debut of Monte – one of the most challenging events on the calendar, will allow us to try and adapt to the conditions as best as we can. Monte is a rally of compromise, where one-way or another you will be on the wrong tyre. You could start a given stage in the valley on dry tarmac, but climb over 1000m to the col where it is full ice and snow. It’s in these circumstances where you have to decide if you take the slick, or the studded tyre, and weigh up the time loss to the time gain. It’s almost like a game of chess, which will be enjoyable. It was also enjoyable trying out the different tyres during test, including studded snow tyres on dry tarmac……which was like drifting.
It was also amazing to be part of the birth of a new chapter with Hyundai Motorsport, with the launch of the new car presented to the public and media with the striking new livery. The car looks amazing, and not just from the outside. Under the skin a lot more time and detail has gone into the design of the car, which we hope we will reap the rewards from, come the rally.
From round 2, Rally Sweden we will have the new car for the rest of the season. So we spent 2 days last week in mid Sweden conducting our first snow tests. The new car certainly feels great to start with and suits my driving style well. However whenever starting with a new car, we have to start from scratch with the setup to find a base. To do that in 1 test session is impossible, so while we are best prepared as we can be for now, it will take a few more rallies/tests until we have got the full potential from the car. The early signs are promising though.
Also early in the New Year we will announce our personal partners who we will be working closely with. In the meantime a huge thanks to our current partners Hyundai NZ, Pak’nSave, PlaceMakers, Z Energy, New Balance and Scott Bikes.
Unfortunately after 5 years together, PlaceMakers will not be continuing with us for 2016, but will take this opportunity to thank the whole PlaceMakers team, including customers and store owners who have been part of the journey with us. PlaceMakers have also been very loyal and supportive of us since they joined in 2011 and it has been amazing working with many passionate people. Thanks PlaceMakers!!
Now its back home for 10 days, to enjoy some time off with family and friends and soak up some NZ summer. Then 4 January we are back on the plane to Europe to get the season kick started – something myself, the team and a lot of others are eagerly awaiting.
Monte Carlo test video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTrumYxQWn4
Rally Sweden test video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwSZ6Vg3eW4
In the meantime John, Katie, the whole HPRG team and myself wish you a great Christmas and New Year. Please be safe during the holiday period and enjoy value time with your family. Your support as always has been amazing and looking forward to sharing more with you in 2016.
See you next year!