So a challenging rally is behind us and while 6th place is more points in the bag, it was far from the performance we were looking for. However, on the positive side a change of driving style and approach for the final day did see some improvements and at least this gives us something to work on now working towards Rally Spain in just 10 days time.
Going into the rally we were hopeful that recent testing, study and lessons would help us be more competitive here. Throughout the rally I certainly felt more comfortable on tarmac compared to the past, and the first loop of stages our times were not too bad – starting the rally with a top 5 time. However 2 afternoon punctures halted our progress, which mysteriously was halted even further on Day 2. Day 2 had the trickiest stages of the rally and while from inside the car we felt we had good runs through the stages, we could not understand how and why we were loosing 30 seconds a stage. To be honest it was demoralising and no matter what we tried, nothing changed.
Saturday night I spent a lot of time reviewing data and onboards and decided to just go back to basics today, and drive my natural style like I would on gravel. It certainly was not as efficient in places, but the track we were going down was clearly the wrong path, so by going back 2 steps today it means we can start refining again. Although Sunday is always hard to gauge speed as a lot of people are in more ‘cruise mode’, its clear that we made some improvements today. 2nd fastest on the longest stage of the rally and our first fastest spilt on tarmac is progression.
Now we need to keep that progress moving forward to Spain. Im happy that Day 1 in Spain is gravel, but we then have 2 days of tarmac where its vital that we don’t have another tarmac performance like this one. Im fired up to make sure we don’t!
For people from the outside looking in, its very easy to say, if your times are not good then your clearly not driving fast enough. However the art of driving on tarmac is very particular, and its not a matter of braking later or being more committed. In fact we are doing both those things too much. Its about finding the sweet spot and of course by backing off a little to try and find that spot – its very easy to go too far. Some of it is experience related, by knowing what is fast and what isn’t in the heat of the moment. For example of gravel I know exactly if we are having a good stage or corner by the ‘feeling’. We will get there – its just taking a little longer than I hoped.
Thanks for everyone’s continued support even when we are not at the front. But Corsica rally is already forgotten and we are now focused on Spain. However before Rally Spain, next week we will be competing at Rally Legend with Hyundai Italy and the 2014 WRC car. It’s a chance to go sideways and put on a show for the hundreds of thousands of spectators at this exhibition event based out of San Marino. Cant wait!