Michal Kosciuszko talks about the recce, shakedown and more ahead of the start of Rallye Monte Carlo today, the opening round of the new WRC season and his debut event with the Lotos Team WRC-run MINI John Cooper Works WRC
Michal here again. It's been a busy few days! After three days recce and driving around 1,600km (a whole new scale compared to other rallies!), we did Shakedown this morning before heading to the FIA Pre-event Press Conference, official photograph and finally the autograph session.
The recce routes were quite similar to last year, with only two new stages on the itinerary. Although the roads were the same, the conditions were more difficult! We often found snow and ice where last year we only had bad weather on one stage. This time around it's very different – you can drive half a stage in the dry then the second half has a landscape more like Rally Sweden!
This is my first WRC event in a MINI John Cooper Works Countryman WRC, so it'll be a real challenge. I think the more difficult it is, the better, because I can learn how to handle the car in a wide variety of conditions, which is great experience. In unpredictable conditions, the top drivers may also make mistakes, which could mix the field up quite a lot. Of course we can also make mistakes easily – but I'll be careful! We've made very precise pace notes so now it's over to our gravel crew.
After the recce it was time for Shakedown. I woke up this morning without looking out the window and was in a great mood, until my Team Manager Bruno met me for breakfast, pointed outside and showed me that everything was covered in snow, which was still falling. It was crazy to drive my first run on Shakedown in conditions like this, especially on small Monte Carlo snow studs, but the MINI was surprisingly easy to handle.
I thought it would feel more nervous and be harder to control, but it felt quite comfortable and was a lot of fun. It seems that the MINI handles well in the dry, wet and snow. There was one clean Tarmac line revealed for later Shakedown runs so everyone's times improved a lot. We could move our braking point a little further, but still had to be careful of the mud, snow and ice in the corners, which meant the grip wasn't perfect. It was tricky, but we were pleased with our times.
Shakedown done, I headed to the press conference, which was a great experience. I've done press conferences before as part of the WRC Support Championship line-up, but this was the first time that I was sitting with the guys in the top category. It was incredible to be there with the multiple World Champion, Loeb, and my friend Séb Ogier, who I am sure is a future World Champion!
The rally starts tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to it. There's a lot to learn and this will be a steep learning curve, but it's the first event of the season and I am going to take it steady and get as much experience as possible. My MINI feels good, the team is very supportive and I trust my co-driver Maciek completely. So I guess all that's left to say is – here goes! Wish me luck…