On the Road Again!
'Hi everyone or 'Kia Ora' as the Maoris say,
'Tomo here again! So we’re at the end of Day One at Rally New Zealand and it’s been a good one for WRC Team MINI Portugal. Both Armindo and Paulo made it through a tough day of competition with Armindo coming home in eighth overall and Paulo in 20th.
'This morning my alarm went off quite early (5am!) and we started the day with quite a debate about tyres. After discussion with the engineers and Team Manager both Armindo and Paulo elected to use softs, which proved to be correct as all the stages were humid and wet after last night’s rain.
'After a quick breakfast and loading the vans with equipment most of the team headed down south to Raglan for the Remote Service while I stopped at the Te Akau refuel to catch up with our drivers after SS2, the first run of Whaanga coast. It’s the job of the engineer and No. 1 mechanic to try to be at all remote refuels. This is allowed within FIA regulations and is very useful because you get a chance to look the cars over, check tyre wear and also advise of any set-up changes required. Today both Armindo and Paulo were in good spirits and content with their times so no changes were made.
'Two more stages then the cars headed to the remote service point in Raglan and went well with both MINIs requiring only routine servicing. Due to the fact that the ambient conditions hardly changed soft tyres were again fitted for the second loop of stages. We analyzed engine data at lunchtime via the data cards removed from both crews data recorders. This samples all major parameters at up to 1000 times a second and also allows an element of chassis tuning via the sensors directly linked to the driver. These include front and rear axle speeds [road speed], steering wheel angle, accelerator pedal angle and brake pressures. It's a very useful record to allow us to compare drivers so that they can learn from each other's strengths and unlock some extra speed.
'Raglan remote is a famous location for all the teams, historically it has been more or less the last service of the rally, today it was the first. The service is on the town's airfield adjacent to the sea and you can see the waves crashing into the shore which adds some drama to the occasion. Also whilst trying to consider carefully the set-up and tyre choice you can often see the weather fronts coming in!
'With Remote Service done and after a nice packed lunch which kept us going for the rest of the day, it was back to the refuel once again for Max [Armindo’s No. 1 mechanic, pictured with me] and I to catch the crews after the second Whaanga Coast pass (SS6). Everything was OK, but Paulo needed to use some of his drinking water in the washer tank as he’d nearly exhausted his supply. No set-up changes were necessary, which confirmed we were near to ideal for Armindo and Paulo. However, looking at the tyres, as with all the Top 10 crews it looked like some static camber could be reduced (this is the angle of the wheel from the vertical when looking form the front of the car ;-)). The purpose of the angle is to try and maximise the tyres’ contact patch when cornering - too much and the tyre overheats on the inside, too little and the tyre overheats on the outside. This would be impossible on a standard car as it has a fixed parameter, but it will only take Max and the boys five minutes to tune at tonight’s service ready for tomorrow’s stages.
'With our detour via refuel, Max and I were the last members of the team to arrive at the Viaduct Events Centre Service Park back in Auckland. We immediately started preparing for the final flexi-service today and the mechanics have readied the spares in case any are needed. Normally it should be routine, but we need to expect the unexpected!
'Our MINIs are about to come in for service so I have better go and check on them. Tomorrow will be another long day as we have another Remote Service, this time we head up 150km north of Auckland to Whangarei but I'm really looking forward to another day of MINI adventures.
'Stay tuned for future updates!' Tomo