Motorsport Italia team manager Bruno di Pianto reflects on day one of Rally Sweden and Michal Kosciuszko's second outing in the Lotos Team WRC-run MINI John Cooper Works WRC...
Buona sera a tutti,
It's been an exciting first day at Rally Sweden. It was an early start – Michal [Kosciuszko] and [co-driver] Maciek [Szczepaniak] were second on the road, so they arrived at parc ferme just after 6am. Unfortunately, they immediately found the clutch on their MINI John Cooper Works had a leaking slave cylinder. There was no time to change the gearbox at the 15-minute service first thing, so they headed out on the morning loop as they were.
This problem wasn't terminal, but it cost Michal around five seconds at each stage start. Moreover, the first car on the road went off on SS3 and lost so much time that Michal was promoted to designated road-sweeper. Not an easy morning, but he was still positive when he headed back to midday service.
Now the challenge was for the team. The mechanics had 30 minutes to change a gearbox in freezing conditions. The extreme cold doesn't only affect the mechanics themselves, but means the car is frozen as well as some of the tools. Changing any large component on a rally car is difficult at the best of times, but a real feat in Sweden under time pressure. They did it though – and they did a great job!
Onto the afternoon stages and Michal was again first on the road. The stages were rutted after the morning loop and difficult to negotiate due to the different lines created by the variety of cars that had passed through. This, alongside the generally treacherous conditions, meant that Michal went off into a snow bank, losing around five minutes. Luckily, he didn't do any real damage to his MINI and the fantastic Swedish spectators helped to get him back on course.
The rest of the afternoon was trouble-free, and evening service went without a hitch, leaving Michal free to head to the end of day Super Special. I should add - I'm impressed with the DMACK winter tyres. So far the stud retention has been good and Michal hasn't reported any problems.
Michal finished the day 20th overall. We would like to move up the field a little over the next two days. However, noting today's road position, Michal's lack of experience in the tough Swedish conditions and his brand new pace notes, we're pleased he got through all the stages successfully. Rally Sweden was always set to be a learning experience!
That's all for now – buona serata,