Well that was one tough Rally Sweden – in more ways than one, but to come away with a finish and some points has a lot more significance than what some people may think.
Going into the rally I also knew it was going to be tough. However, our preparation and test went well and I was positive we could try and repeat our performance of last year (2nd) on a rally I enjoy. But those hopes were dashed almost from shakedown – as straight away back in competition everything felt foreign and unnatural. We worked on a few things at shakedown to try and make it feel comfortable but it become apparent that once the rally started on Friday morning we were a long way off.
At Friday midday service, my engineer and I sat down to discuss what was happening with the car. As I was lacking general confidence, I was not driving the car in the normal way. With these cars, to extract the most of the technology and the setups, you have to drive the car to a certain level – otherwise it doesn’t work. So, for Friday afternoon we reverted to a setup that I would not normally drive – but was focused on making the car easier to drive. Straight away two top 3 stage times brought back a lot of confidence and enjoyment and it’s at that point that our rally really got started.
Unfortunately, some other things did not quite go our way throughout the rest of the event, with a wrong tyre choice (taking 5 instead of 6 tyres) and power-steering failure for the whole Saturday morning loop. From there on we used the rest of the event as a live test session, gathering data and trying new things. Despite a good test before the event, there are a lot of new things to learn and develop with the new car – especially with the new centre differential. I have always been a driver than gains a lot of confidence from a good diff balance, so this is now a key focus moving forward to get the car working better for my driving style.
By rally end – despite recent events, things started feeling normal again and we were feeling relaxed. Of course, the nerves were high before the event, but I feel completing all the stages, setting a few top 3 times and generally being back in the competitive environment helped a lot moving forward. It’s clear the new Hyundai is a fast car (as demonstrated by our team mate Thierry) – and now we just need to get the car working more for my style. A lot of people are helping me behind the scenes so confident we will be back to the level that I expect of myself soon.
I will take this chance to sincerely thank everyone for the overwhelming support we received since Monte Carlo. Throughout the rally everyone was understanding, helpful and that helped to make the event easier for us.
Now we are flying straight to South of Spain for 2 days of gravel tests in preparation for Mexico. Then it’s back home to NZ for 2 weeks which we are really looking forward to. While it will be a busy time in NZ with many commitments, it will be a good reset after what can only be described as a bit of a disaster start to the season. But onwards and upwards and we are still upbeat.