20 January 2013
Kosciuszko column: Special point
Michal Kosciuszko on day four of Rallye Monte Carlo
Michal Kosciuszko reflects on the final day of Rallye Monte Carlo, the first round in the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship and his first competitive outing with the Lotos Team WRC-run MINI John Cooper Works WRC
Well I'm writing to you earlier than I thought I would be! I'd just set off for the final loop of stages when I heard that the last two tests wouldn't be run. After a really tough day, Rallye Monte Carlo's over and we're pleased to have made it to the end and finished in the Top 10. Although it's the second time in my career that I've got WRC points*, it feels really special to have picked up a point on my first event in a WRC car.
After our long journey down to Monte Carlo last night, we started our competitive stages after lunch today. We knew we were in it for the long haul and were determined to see it through to the third pass of the Col de Turini in the dark late tonight. Relieved to have had a good night's sleep, we set off on four snow-studded DMACK tyres with two unstudded-snow spares ready to tackle the unpredictable conditions we'd been warned off up on Moulinet and Lantosque.
Nothing could prepare us for what we found. I can only say that they were the worst conditions I've ever had to compete in. It wasn't like a rally. It was more like an endurance challenge. As drivers, we like to push as hard as we can, but I knew that if I didn't tiptoe through the stages and avoid using the throttle (which is horrible for any driver!), I wouldn't see the end of the event.
Really good – and experienced - drivers fell foul of SS14 Moulinet and this allowed us to move up through the field, but also warned us that it wasn't going to be easy to make it through ourselves. I focused on staying calm. With the help of Maciek [Szczepaniak, my co-driver], I made it through successfully in my MINI John Cooper Works WRC. On both of today's stages there was a mixture of snow, ice and slush as well as fog and pouring rain. You name it, we faced it!
Honestly, the cancellation of the last loop was bittersweet. Although we weren't looking forward to heading back out for another battle against the elements, we did have ninth in our sights. We set off focused on catching the car in front and based on our average speed, we had a good chance of achieving this. Although of course this is rally – so anything could have happened!
It was my first WRC outing in a MINI and I can't imagine I'll ever face such a difficult event again. Next up is Rally Sweden. I've only competed there once before and that was seven years ago in a 2WD rally car when I was a junior, but I'm looking forward to it. It'll be my first time competing there with Maciek as a co-driver, but I can't think of anyone I'd rather have navigating me. Whatever challenges we've faced over the five years we've competed together, we've never had a fight. I think that's because we really trust and respect each other.
The last thing I have to say is thank you to Maciek, the team and my sponsors. It would be impossible to face any rally, but especially one like this without their support. Everyone's worked crazy hours this event and they're all still smiling!
That's all for now. Thanks to everyone who's supported us during the event.
* the first was Australia 2011 where Michal finished seventh in his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
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