WRC Team MINI Portugal newbie Chris Atkinson reflects on day two of Wales Rally GB, the tenth round in the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship...
Atko here and once again I'm checking in to tell you about my day at Wales Rally GB. Today was the second day of competition with seven stages totalling 95.36km - a shorter day than yesterday but still a good innings! For me, Stéphane [Prevot – my co-drover] and our MINI it was a positive day overall. We weren't as fast as we wanted to be but we narrowed the gap down to our target of one second a kilometre off the pace on a couple of the morning stages and I feel there's still room for improvement.
We're one position off getting WRC points, but it's tough to catch the guys in front of us. Anyway, the rally is still plenty long enough for anything to happen! My team-mate Paulo [Nobre] finished the day as well without major problems - it's always great to see him reach the end of a day with a big smile on his face.
I knew today's stages better than yesterday's and we had a pretty good run this morning. The opening stage - Crychan - felt good although on the second (Epynt) and the third (Halfway) we suffered a bit because the gravel was quite loose. I'm still not driving at 100 per cent. In some stages I tried quite hard and we were probably at 98 per cent while on some other bits I lifted my foot off the gas a bit more.
The problem we experienced with the brake pads was fixed last night at Flexi Service, so today it was all good from that point-of-view. We went back to the original material and we had a good consistent pedal feel today, which was great.
It was a pretty straight forward day regarding the set-up. We tried a few things regarding the balance of the car trying to get the sensation from the chassis that I'm looking for to try and pick up the pace a bit. We made those changes at midday service and I feel that it helped us a bit in the afternoon stages.
We chose soft tyres for the morning loop and for learning purposes looking ahead to Rally Italia Sardegna and Rally de España we went with hard tyres in the afternoon loop. It was a close call but together with my engineer Tomo and the team management we decided that it was worth a try. Unfortunately this decision wasn't quite 'spot on' for today, because it was quite cold up in the stages and we struggled a little bit under the trees and anywhere where it was more slippery. On the bright side, it was good practice and we really hope it will help us on the future gravel rallies. I hadn't driven with the hard tyre over any great distance before so that was a good learning curve today.
We've done some work and we got a new engine map to put in the MINI for tomorrow which should make a couple of improvements to the engine performance and the turbo control. Tomo is already looking forward to getting his hands on the data from that tomorrow and seeing what we can do looking ahead to the next events.
We're now back from the stages to Cardiff for Flexi Service and after a long day it's good to catch up with the team and discuss a bit about how the day went and what could have been done differently or talk about decisions for the following day of competition. I get along very well with the guys in the team, they work very well and the level of professionalism is high. I've only done two rallies with them but Stéphane and I have felt very welcome from the very first day and we immediately felt at ease with everybody.
Tomorrow we still have a big day ahead of us - with another early start - so I guess I've better to go and rest a bit (I'll save the cheeky 10km run for tomorrow night... ;-)) Looking forward to tackling the stages again tomorrow.
Stay tuned for more action, Atko