Valence (FR), 18th January 2012. At the end of a challenging day one of the Monte Carlo Rally the MINI WRC Team crews of Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) and Pierre Campana (FR) and Sabrina de Castelli (FR) were second and eighth respectively after 134.70 kilometres of competition over four stages. The weather was cold and dry with a little snow and some icy patches on the stages.
The story of the rally was always going to be about tyre choice and so there was a lot of interest in which rubber was being favoured. The MINI John Cooper Works WRC cars both used soft tyres, while some used the super soft. On stage one this proved the perfect choice of Michelin tyre as Sordo was second quickest – just a second behind eight times world champion and five times Monte Carlo Rally winner – Sébastien Loeb (FR), while Campana was sixth. With snow and ice on half of the second stage there was the question of how to use the two studded tyres. Sordo went for both on the left of the car, Campana both on the right, while some of the competition used them diagonally.
Unfortunately both Sordo and Campana had incidents in the second stage, which was 30.48 kilometres over Burzet – Saint Martial. Sordo came round a left corner and, despite braking for a bridge the left rear of the car hit it. As he was recovering from this the car went straight on into a snow bank, and so the driver had to back out of here. For Campana it was the snow with very little grip that caused him to spin and stall the car, but thankfully with no damage. Both drivers reckoned they lost in the region of 15 seconds. At service the damage to Sordo’s car was quite obvious, and in the 30 minutes available the team changed some links to the left rear and front right suspension, the front bumper, the support bar for the front bumper and sump guard, the sump guard and the radiator and intercooler, although this was because of damage to the ducts.
In the afternoon the conditions on stage four (the re-run of stage two) had improved so both Sordo and Campana opted for four soft tyres. Despite spins on both of these stages for Campana, he continued with his steep learning curve and was feeling much more confident in the tricky conditions by the time the crews returned to Valence.
Tomorrow the first car leaves Valence at 07.55 and the crews will face six stages, which account for 131.76 kilometres in the overall route for the day of 441.96 kilometres. The cars will have a lunch time service in Valence and then return there for another one before the overnight halt at around 18.00.
Dave Wilcock, Team Principal:
“This has been a satisfying first day of Monte Carlo for us, especially as we have got both our cars back to Valence after covering a third of the rally. We have seen a few issues today with Jari-Matti Latvala dropping out after a roll, and Mikko Hirvonen taking a corner off his car and dropping some significant time. However, Dani could have been added to that list of victims after his accident on stage two when he clipped a left rear after braking hard on a left hand corner. This did serious damage to the left rear, and then when he went off into the snow the right front also took a heavy hit. The team has done a great job to get the car all straight again, and you wouldn’t even know it has had an accident. If we can keep our noses clean for the next few days and can get to Monaco in a similar position we shall be extremely happy. Our weather forecasts for towards the end of the week predict more snow, and obviously that will bring its own challenges. We have to be careful with our tyre allocations to make sure we have enough snow tyres in good condition for those final stages, so right now it is a bit of a balancing act.”
Dani Sordo (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 37):
“This is a very special rally and today the conditions were really, really tricky. It was very easy to make a mistake in the snow with the slick tyres. I made a small mistake on the second stage and broke the rear wheel. I lost a little bit of time, but am lucky I didn’t break a lot more things on the car. I keep being asked if I can challenge Sébastien Loeb for the win, but after the last stage I am not sure I can as his time was incredible. When I arrived at the end of the stage and saw his time I thought wow! Now I know why he is an eight times world champion.”
Pierre Campana (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 52):
“For the first day of the rally I am very happy. The car feels very good and I enjoy driving it. I have lost some time because of a couple of small mistakes in the third and fourth stages. However, this isn’t a bad position to be in after the first day as we still have a long way to go in this rally. I am confident that I shall have an even better day tomorrow.”