The MINI WRC Team was in a celebratory mood at the end of Rally RACC – Rally of Spain. Not only did Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) and Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR) finish fourth and fifth respectively, but the MINI John Cooper Works WRCs were also first and second fastest on the Power Stage. While it was Sordo’s home event, it was Meeke who took the honour and the three points for being fastest on this final stage. This was the first WRC stage win for the Northern Irish driver and, in fact, he has now scored his first ever WRC points.
The result was helped by an inspired tyre choice at the start of the day. The team’s weather forecast showed rain was expected later in the day, and so they chose to ignore what the other works teams were doing and opt for the appropriate Michelin tyres. Both cars left Salou after the mid-morning halt with two soft tyres on the right hand side, two hard tyres on the left hand side and two soft spares. This proved difficult for the drivers on the two long tarmac stages which were held in the dry, but as the first cars arrived at the final Coll de la Teixeta stage the promised rain came. This was vital and gave Meeke the fastest time, Sordo the second and the customer MINI of Daniel Oliveira the fourth. Third quickest was Sébastien Loeb (FR) who assured Citroen of the 2011 Manufacturers’ titlle.
Dave Wilcock, Technical Director:
“Obviously we started the day wanting to maintain our positions and keep Sébastian Ogier behind us. On the morning loop Dani picked up a puncture in one of the stages, and that cost 25 seconds so was really close. On the second loop all the weather forecast were showing various options, and it was a matter of which one you chose to believe. When the cars left no one had any idea what the other teams were running in terms of tyre strategy. Our call at the time was it was going to rain halfway through the second stage of the loop, so we took what we considered at the time a safer option and we went for four soft and two hard. We had the wrong tyres for the first stage, and then realised Ford had taken five hard tyres and Citroen four hard and two soft. They believed it was going to stay dry. After the first stage we took a big hit on time, as we were clearly on the wrong tyres. Going into the second stage Ogier’s engine let go, which was fortunate. Then fortunately our weather forecast came true and the power stage had rain just prior to the stage start. We were on the right tyre at the right time. We were one or two by a country mile. We just picked up and extra five points for the drivers in that stage. Credit has to go to Michelin for the durable tyre, because even with the soft tyre on the drying stages it was not that bad. Impressive as ever.”
Dani Sordo (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 37):
“It is okay to be fourth, but we lost a lot on the first day on the gravel stages and with the dust. We had hoped the rain would have come a little bit earlier today. For the first two stages we had the wrong tyres and the others had the right ones, then in the final stage we had the right ones. It was fun and a little bit slippery in some places. I am quite okay, but not totally happy as I really wanted to finish on the podium on my home rally, but it didn’t happen this time.”
Kris Meeke (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 52):
"That was the perfect end to this rally for me. I knew we had made a good start to the stage, but then knew I had messed up on the last roundabout. I had a quiet word with my engineer, Teena (Gade), in service before the last loop and she was saying just get it home as we will be happy with a finish now. I was so frustrated and wanted to go fast, as I loved the power stage the first time through. To be quicker than Dani on the same tyres on his home patch is something pretty special. Over the whole rally I don’t have the experience to compete with the other guys yet, but this shows that when I know where we are going we can be with them."
The MINI WRC team claim 2nd place in the recent Rally France. A superb result for the team and it makes you think that a maiden victory is getting close. Maybe the Rally of Wales could be the place for that first win. Its tough to beat the Ford and Citroens so well done to the team. The full official report is shown below.
2nd October, 2011. Second for the MINI WRC Team in Rally France-Alsace is a result it is justifiably proud of on only its fourth event of the 2011 season. Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) took the fight down to the wire with just 6.3secs separating the number 37 MINI John Cooper Works WRC and the Citroen of Sébastien Ogier (FR) at the finish in Strasbourg this afternoon.
At no point over the three days and 340 kilometres of competition did Sordo give up his fight for the lead he held going into day two. He started the final day 9.5secs behind the Citroen, and from the first of the six stages was trying to claw back the time. Tyre choice was critical, with the soft Michelins used by Sordo instantly proving the right choice. On the first stage of the day (SS18) Sordo took 3.1secs off Ogier to then be just 6.4secs down. This trend continued on SS19 on which Sordo was quickest, and reduced the gap to 4.9 secs. On SS20 it was honours even with them both posting the same time, however, on the re-run of the first stage Ogier was 11 seconds quicker than before, and Sordo lost a second to him. On the penultimate stage the gap was 6.7secs, and then on the Power Stage Sordo posted the second quickest time behind the Ford of Jari-Matti Latvala (FI). Unfortunately after the accident yesterday the number 52 MINI John Cooper Works WRC of Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR) was not able to start the last day of the rally.
David Richards, Team Principal:
“Yesterday we could have so easily have settled for a secure second place but that’s not our style and I’m so proud that Dani was able to challenge for victory right to the end. On this occasion we will therefore celebrate a second place and give the entire team a big pat on the back, particularly Dani Sordo. He managed to keep the pressure on Sébastien Ogier throughout the entire rally, and he’s certainly laid down a marker for his home event in Spain.”
Dave Wilcock, Technical Director:
“Second is an absolutely stunning result for the MINI John Cooper Works WRC. Being just 6.3secs behind Sébastien Ogier clearly shows we were on the pace and, after our fourth rally, being in this position has made us all delighted. It’s been a stunning effort from the team, and especially the crew. Dani drove a faultless rally. He had no punctures, the Michelin tyres were absolutely perfect throughout and never once did we ever have any issues with tyre degradation. This morning we made a tactical decision to take the soft tyre option due to the damp and moist conditions, and knowing that the first stage, which was repeated, had two kilometres of gravel. It was completely the right choice. Then in the power stage to take two WRC drivers’ points and finish in front of Ogier was fantastic for MINI. This is a great position to be in going to Dani’s home event in Spain. We have a lot of work to do before then, but we shall be trying everything we can to repeat this performance there, if not make it a step higher on the podium!”
“As you can imagine I am really, really happy to finish in second position. It is an incredible result for the team so thank you to them and also to Carlos who has been great all rally. I think no-one here expected this before the rally, but we were fighting for the victory and at the end were just 6.3 seconds behind Sébastien Ogier. When you set good stage times as we have here in France, you always enjoy it. Before our first event we did not expect to be doing so well so soon. I am very pleased to be going to my home event in Spain in this position. The car was set-up well here, so I am confident it will be the same in Spain.”
A podium position on the ADAC Rally Germany was the reward for the MINI WRC Team after Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) finished third in their number 37 MINI John Cooper Works WRC after a flawless drive
It also looked as if their team-mates, Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR), were set to make it to the finish in Trier, but then on the penultimate stage an electrical gremlin struck and the car stopped while they were still fighting for fourth.
Sordo had a rally long battle with the Ford of Mikko Hirvonen (FI) and after 19 stages and 359.59 kilometres of competition finished 48.1secs ahead of him. For Kris he started the final day in fourth ahead of Petter Solberg (NO) in his Citroen. Despite a rear puncture on the first stage of the day, Meeke only lost 1.1secs to Solberg. However, on the second one what Meeke described as an ‘optimistic’ pace note saw him have an excursion into the vineyards and drop to fifth. Despite this he started a fight back, but then when the car stopped on stage 18 the battle with Solberg was over.
It was only 11 months ago on the 15th September that the MINI rally car first turned a wheel in testing in Portugal. In that time the team has competed on only three World Rally Championship events and made it to the podium on its first tarmac event. While this may be the team’s first podium, for the second time this season it has been awarded the Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally Award for Sordo’s great drive.
David Richards, Team Principal:
“I don’t know where to start to thank all the people who have made this possible. If I look at the long list of everyone who has had faith in this project from the very first day we started it’s a long one, and I would like to thank everyone of them as without them none of this would be possible. Dani has driven an impeccable event, and never put a foot wrong. I never doubted his abilities. Poor Kris - if there was any bad luck it was always with him. To have such cruel luck on the second to last stage I really feel for him, but his day will come. He has proved how competitive he can be here and I am sure he is looking forward to France.”
Dave Wilcock, Technical Director:
“We knew what we had to do today. Kris was up for getting in front of Petter Solberg. Dani just had to keep his nose clean and keep the gap to Mikko Hirvonen. The morning stages were dry and we took a bit of a gamble. All the competitors took soft tyres, but we did a split and took the safe option for Dani and Kris went for hard. It was absolutely the right choice, as we could see after ten kilometres into the first stage the hard tyres had warmed up and I was confident we were on for our first fastest stage. Unfortunately he picked up a puncture just before the end. Then at the lunchtime service the heavens opened for the afternoon stages and soft was the obvious choice for everyone. In the afternoon Dani was matching Hirvonen, and picked up the pace when he had to and drove a stunning finish. For Kris we had a loss of electrical power three kilometres into the penultimate stage. The battery managed to keep it running for a further seven minutes, but then we had total electrical failure so had to retire the car after many fraught minutes on the phone and radio to try and sort out the problem. The problem was a broken terminal, a really simple problem as you can do thousands of miles testing and never have this problem. It was the sort of problem buried in the wires that you could not have seen it if you had been looking for it.”
“I am really, really happy for me and the team. For the first rally of the car on tarmac this is very good. This is a surprise and the times were so close to Ford and Citroen that we have a lot of confidence for the next rally. The car is really good on tarmac. We have a good set-up and the suspension is perfect. Obviously we can improve and get the car better and better but this weekend it was okay. We shall now work a lot to try and beat Citroen as well. I tried to push hard on the power stage and it was great to be third, but I didn’t want to take any risks. The mechanics have worked really hard and not made any mistakes so I hope to spend some time with them tonight.”
“The day started out as going to be a bit of a battle with Petter Solberg. We held him in the first one and then on the second we had a little error on the pace note side as the note I had made on the recce was a little bit optimistic and I missed my braking point and lost ten seconds there. After lunch it was very wet and there was only a second between myself and Petter on the first stage, and then on the next about halfway through the car started to cut out on me, eventually stopped completely and there was nothing we could do. It was quite clear it was an electrical issue as there was no power to the control box inside the car. It was traced to just a little wire that had come off and it was one of those things. ”