WRC Team MINI Portugal driver Paulo Nobre gears up for Rally Argentina, the fifth round in the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship...
Hi everybody and welcome to Rally Argentina!
Me, Edu (my co-driver), Pilli (my cameraman) and Cirillo (my mechanic) flew from Brazil to Argentina on Sunday where we met our team-mates Armindo Araújo and Miguelito Ramalho - who are both friends and teachers to me in the rallies! - and the rest of WRC Team MINI Portugal. It was nice to see everybody again after almost one month, I get on well with my team so it's always nice to catch up with the guys.
It was all systems go straight away, because the recce for the rally started on Monday. After breakfast Edu and I headed North of Cordoba to recce the first five stages of Rally Argentina. We raced here in 2010 and some of the Special Stages are the same as then, which has helped us a lot with our pace notes! This event is truly fantastic, the stages are amazing but extremely difficult - very long and with a lot of stones on the road and the famous 'vados' (water splashes). The weather conditions were challenging too, we found rain and a lot of fog on the stages. After a long day we went back to our hotel in Villa Carlos Paz where after a quick shower and a very nice Argentine meal – a steak, of course (almost as good as the Brazilian one! Hahaha) - we called it a night and we went to bed to get some 'beauty sleep' before another day of recce.
Tuesday was a really long day, we started with the recce of the Qualifying Stage before we travelled South of Villa Carlos Paz to the stages we'll run on Sunday, including the massive 65.74km Matadero – Ambul stage. Wow, that stage is really something! I'm really looking forward to seeing what will happen there! Finally, on Wednesday we recced Saturday's stages totalling three full days and more than 1500km of recce. On a rally like Argentina, the pace notes are more important than ever because in the fast parts if you trust them you'll be fast but if you can't have confidence in them you'll be really slow. On the twisty parts, if it's foggy you won't even complete the Special Stage - you just have to survive and trust your instincts because it's so hard to see where you're going! My favourite stage is the 51.88km Ascochinga-Agua de Oro. I like it because I remember it from the first time I was here. It's very difficult - on the ascent there are fast parts then on the way down in the second part it's a little like cross country with tough terrain, a lot of tight corners and is a real challenge.
I competed in the cross country World Cup here in Argentina through the desert in Patagonia. Of course this is a totally different type of racing, but the fans were just as excited. They like both rally and cross country here in Argentina. In cross country there are very long stages though so it's harder for the fans to follow and you don't pass through stages twice. I think there is more contact with the people in rally than in cross country, but every chance you get to speak to the Argentine public they are very enthusiastic, even in supporting a Brazilian! I've only ever seen rally enthusiasts with the same passion as the Argentine people in Portugal and in Erechim in Brazil.
Back to the action here in Argentina – today [Thursday] we had the Qualifying Stage and we were back in my MINI, Porquinho Verde, for the first time since Rally de Portugal. We had a clean run, tried to stay out of trouble and got to the end of it with the car in one piece! Tomorrow [Friday] we'll be 13th on the road (following Armindo who will be 11th). I'm really looking forward to starting. Today [Thuesday] I took part in the FIA Pre-Event Press Conference, it was my first time and I felt a little bit like a fish out of water. I looked to my left and saw Mads Ostberg, I looked in front and saw Séb Loeb and next to him Malcolm Wilson. I was thinking 'what am I doing here?' (Hahaha). I was also worried about understanding the questions, but in the end it was all OK and I really enjoyed it. It was an experience I will always keep with me!
Now I'm going to relax a little bit before the start and the Super Special Stage tonight! On a Super Special like the one this evening, you never win the rally, but you can lose, so we need to concentrate, not be worried by what the guys around you are doing, but to make your own rally. I'll be back tomorrow to tell you all about the first day of Rally Argentina, watch this space!