Prodrive MINI man Dani Sordo was left lamenting what might have been after retiring from Rally Sweden on Friday.
Sordo had been running strongly and was up to fifth place overall in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC car, just 8.7 seconds behind Ford's Petter Solberg post-SS7. However the Spaniard hit a snow bank in the next stage - Finnskogen 2 - and while he was able to continue, it appears the impact led to the drive belt coming off the engine. Without the water pump, the engine began to overheat and the car went into a safe mode, but with no cooling Sordo eventually had to stop.
“I had a very good feeling this morning and the car was running really well,” Sordo commented. “We were setting some good times and this afternoon I felt we could continue to fight for a top five place.
“I hit a snow bank and got some snow on the car and thought this was the problem with the engine getting hot, but it wasn't and the belt driving the water pump had come off and we had to stop. It is a real shame because I think we could have been challenging for a good position here.
“The car and Michelin tyres were working well and we could have pushed a little more tomorrow.”
The team later inspected the car and it was announced that Sordo would not be able to restart: “Dani was driving very well this morning and setting some really good times particularly considering he missed this event last year,” added team principal, Dave Wilcock. “He was very happy with the car and was feeling very confident. When I spoke to him at lunchtime, he was really looking forward to the afternoon stages.
“Unfortunately he went off into a snow bank on stage eight and this knocked off the drive belt for the water pump and ultimately led to him having to stop on the stage.”
Sordo's exit leaves Patrik Sandell as the sole representative for the ex-works MINI team. Sandell ended the day in eighth: “We have had a good day. We were in a fight with Henning (Solberg) for much of the day, but I lost time over the last two stages as my tyres began to wear,” Sandell reflected.
“We decided to only take one spare this afternoon and this ended up costing me time on the final stage.
“Still, the car has been fantastic and great fun to drive. I have not been driving anywhere near my maximum pace and we will continue to build our speed through tomorrow and Sunday.”