Now after a couple of days to reflect on a tough Rally Portugal – we have moved on and fully focused on making amends for things at the next event in Sardinia.
Portugal was one of those rally’s that despite all the preparation and a successful test before the event, things just never fully gelled right from Shakedown. The feeling with the car was never 100%, which we later tracked down to a small technical issue. However this never allowed us to be as competitive as we would have liked. On the positive side, Friday morning we only dropped 11 seconds to Seb Ogier, whom we were right behind on the road. This was not so bad, so still some good to take from the weekend.
At midday service me made the decision to change the rear diff to try and get on top of our problems. Not only did it fix the problems but because we had been trying to compensate for the over steer so much since Shakedown, during the first stage after service we now all of a sudden had a whole lot of under steer. But this wasn’t a bad thing, as I feel much more confident to drive a car fast with under steer, compared to over steer. We were the only car on full hard compound tyres for the stage, and while our splits started slower (compared to the others who had 1 or 2 softs on the car) the tyres were getting better and better as the stage progressed. In fact at the time where we had our accident, we were 4 seconds up on Seb Ogier, with 14km of the 27km stage still to go.
The accident itself that caused the fire, that everyone I’m sure already knows about was not that big. The most frustrating thing about the accident is that it didn’t come from over driving or a major driving mistake – we simply got caught out by a hole that had developed in the road between the first and second pass. In fact we took the corner slightly slower that what we did on the first pass. We were not the only one, however – of the 9 cars that went though the stage (before it was stopped) 8 of the cars had big moments. The only difference between Ott Tanak (who also crashed on the same corner) and us was that we were carrying just that little extra speed.
In this case, the consequences do not match the crime and its very gutting to see a WRC car destroyed in this manner. A simple thing, as a hot exhaust setting the car alight in less than 10 seconds is a freak thing that is not commonly seen in the sport, and it now puts a lot of pressure on the team to get a new car built in 2 weeks. All John and I could do was watch the car burn, which brought back a lot of memories of when our Evo 4 burnt to the ground in 2005 in Ashley Forest.
However, we must move forward and focus on the positives. This accident does not dent the confidence at all – in fact we are only more determined than ever to come back in Sardinia and set the record straight. It will be a huge task for the team and I will make sure I get into the workshop several times to help a little where I can – although most of the jobs are best left to the experts. In the meantime we also have a 1 day test in Sardinia this weekend where we will get on top of the issues we had in Portugal so we can hit the ground running for Sardinia rally.
Huge thanks for everyone’s messages of support. It’s humbling to know how much support we have through both the highs and lows. I do promise however this is no more than a small bump in the road that we will come back stronger from.
Until Rally Sardinia in just over 2 weeks time,