More MINI Adventures Halfway Round the World
'Here we are again at the end of another day at Rally New Zealand with both cars safely parked in Parc Fermé ready for the start of the last leg of the rally tomorrow. Armindo is still in the Top 10, in 9th overall, while Paulo finished the day having climbed to 18th position.
'The day began once again with tyre choice, but today it was an easy one. Armindo used both sets of soft tyres yesterday, so the choice for today was basically made for us. Most crews went with hard tyres with only Paulo, fellow MINI driver Dani Sordo and Petter Solberg going with softs in the morning. We had to try to maximise the grip for Armindo with small adjustments to the dampers to make the behaviour of the MINI more progressive. Unfortunately Armindo lost some time in the first stages of the day. Some of this could be attributed to Armindo holding back until he was confident in finding a good rhythm due to the combination of the hard tyre and patchy drying conditions. However, he was also cautious because he could also hear a noise from the left rear damper top mount on the road section to SS11 - the second stage of the day. Fortunately, this didn’t cost any time in the stage technically and the boys did a great job in repairing it at Remote Service in Whangarei.
'We actually carry a sort of metal super glue in the MINI for these situations. The temporary repair held for half the afternoon but finally let go again late in the day. Luckily again it didn’t cost time in the stages - it was more of an annoyance and Armindo managed to finish the day unperturbed. As soon as he got back to the main Service Park in Auckland for tonight's Flexi-Service, new parts were fitted to replace the damaged ones in the first four minutes of the 45 minute service.
'Paulo had a great day enjoying the challenging northern stages. We trimmed the MINI's height slightly for the second pass through Mitatai Girl School 2 (SS15) and only effected routine maintenance this evening.
'To be sure we had every eventuality covered, the part that troubled Armindo was also checked on Paulo’s car as a precaution and both MINIs are now all set for tomorrow.
'During the service this evening we start to have a round-up of our weather information. This includes satellite imagery and forecasting as well as people near the stages. Whilst we are expecting a lot of rain tomorrow we haven't made any chassis changes to react to it in tonight's service. We’ll do this tomorrow as it only takes 3-4 minutes to change anti-roll bars and damper settings and we will then just do the job once as accurately as possible when we are more confident of the conditions instead of trying to second guess.
'On most occasions I will discuss matters like tyre choice with Bruno - WRC Team MINI Portugal's Team Manager. Whilst he may be a team manager he has a good understanding of what is sensible and not. When you are in the Service Park and time is ticking away, your judgement can get clouded or you try to take too many factors into account. It’s then Bruno that will stand quietly and make his choice - which often turns out to be correct! There is also the financial implication to consider. The tyres we use on rallies are expensive so we always try to be sensible. If we can be sensible regarding our tyre usage then we can sometimes save some budget that can be used elsewhere to better effect. This could be an extra day's testing for example and this is where Bruno’s experience really comes into play. All I want to do as an engineer is spend money on tyres, testing, development springs, different brake pads and anything I can think of that might make the driver go faster. It’s Bruno I have to ask if we can buy them! ;-)
'I'm really glad both MINIs made it through another day here in New Zealand, it's a great achievement! With both cars serviced and ready for tomorrow it's time for me and the rest of the team to relax a bit. Me and some other team members will go for a wine tasting tonight, to try some of the fantastic wines they have here in New Zealand. We won't be too late though and we'll not taste too many because tomorrow we have the third and last day of competition waiting for us. I'm really looking forward to it, let's see how the weather plays out...
Bye for now,' Tomo