Motorsport Italia team engineer, Richard Thompson reflects on leg one of Rally Argentina where Michal Kosciuszko was forced out in SS5 - the final test of the day - in his Lotos Team WRC-run MINI John Cooper Works WRC car...
Hello everyone - Tomo here again after a tough day at Rally Argentina.
This morning Michal started third on the road. The Start Selection process was interesting, because [Evgeny] Novikov picked first on the road. Although that went against the trend for positions later down the Starting Order, he was concerned about rocks being pulled onto the stage and hoped for a clean run this morning. We knew that if it rained that would be a really intelligent decision!
After all, Sebastien Loeb won from first on the road in 2006 when the rally was run at the same time of year as now in very similar weather conditions. To my mind, Michal being third was quite a good compromise.
We used the 6km SSS1 last night to try an new set-up. We wanted to evaluate a damper with more traction at the expense of body control and precision. Michal made a good time, but preferred the set-up from Free Practice and the Qualifying Stage, so the boys were busy at first service this morning swapping back to the original set-up! (This information has also enabled us to put in our damper order for Greece, the next rally on the calendar. A lot of the time is spent planning for the forthcoming events. We've already been discussing test roads for Rally Finland in August!).
So for Day One proper we ran two stages twice, 27km and 50km respectively. Today I drove up to refuel twice after the first stage in each pass with team manager Bruno [di Pianto] primarily to ensure the refuels go smoothly but also to discuss set-up with the crew and try and improve the car for the long stage. Santa Catalina and Aschochinga are a real challenge for the cars and crews, but were slightly easier than last year. It was damp, wet and muddy especially off the racing line in 2012.
This morning the crew started with a strong time on SS2. We didn't make any changes to the MINI John Cooper Works WRC, Michal and [co-driver] Maciek [Szczepaniak] did have to bleed the front brakes on the road section, because the brake pedal had become a little soft towards the end of the stage. After that they were back on track, until they started to lose time approximately halfway through SS3 due to the rough stages breaking a rear anti-roll bar arm. We changed this at lunchtime along with the anti-roll bar as a precaution and lifted the car slightly ready for the rougher conditions expected on the second loop.
SS4 went pretty well - with Michal putting in competitive times against his main rivals [Martin] Prokop and the local [Gabriel] Pozzo. But unfortunately Michal retired 17km into the long SS5. We are now still waiting for the car to arrive at the service park so that we can prepare it to restart tomorrow under Rally 2 regulations. We'll again make a couple of changes to help Michal do as well as he can here.
That's all for now,