The debut of the MINI WRC Team in Rally Italy, Sardinia was encouraging with both Mini John Cooper Works WRCs showing a good pace on day one. Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) finished the opening eight stages of the rally in sixth, but unfortunately Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR) had to retire on stage three due to a throttle problem that caused their car to go off the road.
Despite the disappointment, the team was encouraged by the performance of Meeke’s number 52 car, because he had moved up to fourth overall. Sordo in car number 37 had a trouble-free day. The engineers will now study the data to find the cause of Meeke’s retirement as he will be able to re-start the rally in the morning, although he will be out of contention for a top placing.
Dave Wilcock, Technical Director:
“We had a meeting this morning with both drivers and they were incredibly relaxed about today. We had a plan to just go out and feel ourselves in, just warm ourselves up gently and let’s see what the car can do. That was the approach. On the run out this morning Kris thought the throttle was not quite following his pedal very well. He felt the engine was just hanging on a little bit. That progressively got worse as the day went on. It wasn’t affecting him too much until stage three when the actual problem began to get a little bit worse. It just caught him out on a high speed braking area. The engine braking didn’t give him quite the retardation he was expecting. It put him off line a little bit, he got onto the loose and just ended up dropping off the road and damaging the suspension so we were unable to continue. Until we get the car back and have a good look at it to understand what the problem is there is nothing to report.
“As for Dani, he started conservatively and has just been building up confidence as the day has gone on. The second loop of stages was much better for him and he is now really beginning to gel with the car and his co-driver. He is very positive about the car in all areas. He has no problems, and the general handling and stability was better than he hoped, so for him it is just business as normal and he finds himself in a good position tonight.”
“We have finished today’s stages without any problems so this is a very good point. At the end the car got better and better and I am really happy with it, but we started really carefully. The first stage of the day was a little bit different to the others as it was like those in New Zealand. The others were really slippery and narrow. The plan is to continue tomorrow the same way to learn more about the car, push a bit and change just a few small things.”
“We have a lot of positives to take out of a short period of time this morning. The car was straight out of the box and we were able to set good times. We were up to fourth, and one second behind third. We know the car is fast. We now have to see what happens as it was a problem with the throttle that eventually put me off the road. The engineers will look at the data. The rules say we are able to start the event again tomorrow, so we are eager to get going as we are here to learn and get lots of kilometres. Unfortunately we didn’t get too many today, but those we did were very, very positive. ”