WRC Team MINI Portugal Rally Argentina Day One‏

Fighting Spirit Palmeiras-Style

'Hola everybody, Paulo here!

'Rally Argentina started last night with a Super Special Stage! The start of the stage had been delayed when we arrived, which gave us time to watch the top drivers competing. Oh my goodness! It's almost like they do another sport to me. Hahaha!

'They are so fast and so skilled, they are completely in tune with their cars. It's amazing to see – or better put, to admire! I always find the speed of my team mate Armindo incredible. It doesn't matter to me if he's winning the rally or not, if you could see his performance from where I sit, the pace he shows in his MINI is fantastic.

'Next it was our turn and I have to confess I was very nervous. I don’t know if it was due to the trauma of retiring before the rally even started in Portugal or if it was because of the series of bad results I’ve had recently, which dented my confidence in my driving ability. The Palmeirinha that everyone saw in Wales at the end of last year and Monte Carlo at the start of the season was lost and I needed to try and get it back!

'Unfortunately, taking part in a rally without confidence is like going to a party without any interesting women. It’s better not to go (hahaha), so somehow I needed to find my mojo again.

'So, there I was at the Super Special Stage last night and when I turned on the anti-lag system with only five seconds to go until I was due to start I suddenly realised that I’d forgotten to switch on the MINI’s extra lights. No matter how good the light was on the Super Special, the extra lights make a positive impact in some places… But to explain a little bit, the MINI’s lights don’t switch on like those on a normal car. Instead, a computer that sits between my co-driver Edu and I with a lot of buttons – but really a lot - controls them. It reminds me of my Porquinho Verde aeroplane! :-) Once I had found the right button, Edu counted down 5…4…3…2…1, GO! And we started the Super Special.

'Corner-by-corner I started to relax and everything went exactly as we wanted. We drove at our pace and found our rhythm. We didn’t want to take unnecessary risks.

'With just over five hours sleep, we started Day One proper very early. At 6am, we entered parc ferme to take our lovely MINI to first service. We spent a long time on the road to SS2, the first stage of the day, and then were delayed at refuelling. The most interesting part of this experience was having the opportunity to see all the drivers and co-drivers interacting with each other. Normally everybody is so busy working with their teams that they don’t have time to get to know each other. Today, we did have the chance to spend a little time together though and I realised that I’m in the middle of the best world you can imagine with guys that before I only saw on television, in magazines and on the internet. And there they were all together and some of them are even my friends! This is really crazy for a guy like me who never thought he would find himself in rallies, but always only thought about playing soccer.

'We started SS2 and followed our strategy of not taking any risks to try and continue to increase our confidence and feel happy inside the car again. Everything went OK, but we had one big scare on a particularly tricky corner. It rained a lot yesterday, which had left a lot of mud on the stage and for a moment I lost control of the car and thought I was going to lose the road too. I imagined the worst, but in that split second I had the nerve to keep on full throttle and put the car sideways. We spun 180 degrees and ended up facing in the wrong direction, but we were alright! We quickly turned the car round the right way and continued on to the end of the stage without any problems.

'SS3, the second Special Stage of the day, was the longest at over 50km in length. I already knew the stage from other rallies I’d competed in here, including my WRC debut in in 2006 and some South American regional rallies. However, back then the stage was divided into two. Now the tough uphill part was directly joined to the equally challenging, fast downhill section.

'I have to confess that for me to do this Special Stage was very tiring and after avoiding many stones that cars which had passed before us had forced into the middle of the road, we clipped one stone in a corner 4km before the finish of the stage which hadn’t been there on the recce. In reality, the impact broke our front right suspension. However, at the time we thought that we simply had a flat tyre, stopped to change it and then realised that all the tyres were in good condition. We continued on, but a shock absorber had broken and burst through the bonnet and we quickly realised that it was Game Over for Day One. This was a real shame, because we were really doing our best to follow our strategy. What more could we do?

'BUT we are Brazilians and Palmeiras fans, so…we never give up!!!!

'Tomorrow we will be back with our MINI in tip-top condition and more news!'