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Maciek Szczepaniak column: A strong start in Portugal
13 April 2013 Michal Kosciuszko's co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak reflects on day one of Rally de Portugal with the duo ending up in the points and in ninth place in their Lotos Team WRC-run MINI John Cooper Works WRC, despite a scare in the short Lisbon super special...
All in all we had a strong Day One and are pleased to enter overnight parc fermé ninth overall.
Our aim was the Top 10, so it was great to set a strong time on SS1 and finish the first test of Rally de Portugal eighth overall. The first four stages today all went well, our only problem being one small spin on SS3. After some jostling for position with the other WRC crews, we were happy to hold onto eighth as we headed into the evening Super Special, SS5.
Unfortunately, this short 3.27km test, which is normally great fun, was the most challenging part of the day! On the first lap around the Lisbon Tarmac stage, our bonnet flew up as we took off over the jump and hit our windscreen. Michal drove the next lap and a half blind! Luckily, it only cost us about 10 seconds, but it did allow [Martin] Prokop to sneak ahead of us on the leaderboard. That said, we don't give up easily. Tomorrow we'll start the day set on reclaiming eighth and getting back past him!
We had quite a good feeling today. I think this is partially due to how we prepared for the rally. After gaining vital gravel experience in Mexico, we had the chance to do our first gravel test in the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman this Monday. It was a good test. We drove around 150km and really made a step forward in our understanding of the car.
On the recce we discovered that the test road was also very representative of the Rally de Portugal stages. Michal and I have done this event together five times before and had some good results: in 2009 we won the Junior WRC class here and in 2010 we finished on the podium in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship. However, the pace is totally different in a WRC car and on a demanding rally like this you have to be totally confident in your pace notes due to the blind crest corners.
We're doing our best to find a good rhythm and as I said we were happy with our Day One progress. Let's hope tomorrow's another good day.