19th January 2012.
After day two of the Monte Carlo Rally, and another 131.76 kilometres of stages, Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) were still fighting with Petter Solberg (NO) for the second podium position and had snatched the place back as the cars returned to Valence for the last time. Meanwhile the MINI WRC Team’s French crew, Pierre Campana and Sabrina de Castelli, were still in seventh after a trouble free day.
In his MINI John Cooper Works WRC number 37, the same number carried by the Monte Carlo Rally winning Mini Cooper ‘S’ in 1964, Sordo started the day in second. On the first stage – the fifth of the rally – he dropped to third behind Solberg, then on stage six he moved back in front of the Norwegian, only to lose the position again on the final stage of the morning. In the afternoon this great battle continued and on stage eight Sordo set the fastest overall time, his first of the rally. However, it was not until the final stage of the day that he reclaimed his second spot and moved ahead of Solberg by 3.7secs.
Campana was driving steadily in the tricky conditions, but it was on the final stage today that he was able to move up to seventh after Sébastien Ogier (FR) crashed and Ott Tanak (EE) stalled on the start-line of the stage.
It was again a day when the team’s choice of which Michelin tyres to use was crucial. The two MINI John Cooper Works WRCs started the day with four super softs and two softs as spares. Then in the afternoon both cars were shod with four soft tyres. The weather was dry with any frost on the stages run the first time round disappearing for the second loop. However, the forecast for where the Friday morning stages are being run is for overnight rain turning to snow on higher ground, so again the tyre choices will be important. Day three starts in Valence with the first car out of Parc Fermé at 08.44. The competitors return for a service at lunch time, but this is the last time the rally goes back to Valence before it heads to Monaco, where the first car is due that evening at 19.59. There are just three stages, which total 77.30 kilometres, but the total mileage for the day is 545.72 kilometres.
Dave Wilcock, Team Principal: “It has been a good steady day. For the morning loop we had a slightly different tyre choice to that of Petter (Solberg), who we were really competing with as Sébastien (Loeb) was a minute in front. We were interested to see how that would pan out, but by the end of the morning loop we found there was not much in it. The tyres for the second loop were a simple choice as it was damp but with drying conditions, so for that reason it wasn’t very complex. We made some set-up changes at lunch time for Dani, which suited him as on stage eight he set the fastest time and this picked up his motivation. Petter, for some reason whether it was tactical or genuine, dropped a couple of seconds to Dani in the final stage of the day and it put us back in the same order we started. There were a few casualties later on this afternoon, so Pierre has jumped from ninth to seventh and we are very pleased to have the two cars in these positions with two thirds of the distance completed. However, the latest forecast is predicting rain, possibly turning to snow, so tomorrow is going to be a very difficult day to get right.”Dani Sordo (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 37):
“Today was good, as I didn’t have any problems and it was more like rallying in normal conditions. It was a little bit slippery in the morning with some frost on some parts of the stages, but then some places were completely dry. It is good fighting with Petter as on one stage he is faster than me and then on another I am faster. In the last stage we took a little bit of time off him and got back to second, so we shall try to continue that way tomorrow!”Pierre Campana (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 52):“Today I have learnt a lot about the car in the changing conditions. It was all trouble free and I had no spins, which I am very happy about. The tyre choice was right, but in the first stage there was more gravel than I expected, as in my pace notes it said frost. I am feeling better in the car after each stage, but I know we could have some tricky conditions tomorrow.”