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‘Hi everyone, And we’re back – Max and Marco again reporting to you about the first proper day of competition here at Neste Oil Rally Finland. The rally schedule kicks off a daily earlier than other WRC events so the action’s already started with three stages completed.

‘Although the competition only started this afternoon, this morning Armindo and Paulo were busy doing PR activities with the other WRC drivers. They both attended the ‘WRC Drivers Meet the Kids’ event where the stars of the WRC showed the children how important road safety is. The drivers endorsed two of the FIA Action for Road Safety’s Golden Rules – Belt Up and Wear a Helmet – and showed the children the importance of those road safety rules and how to perform those two actions properly.

‘The kid driving with Armindo was the next rally driver-to-be. He was taking shortcuts, shooting round and Armindo had to try to give tips and stay balanced on the back of the car as the kid rocketed away. Then he slammed the brakes on and Armindo nearly flew over the bonnet – fortunately he’d helped the kid to fasten his seatbelt properly! 🙂 Meanwhile the little boy paired with Paulo drove straight into the back of Chris ‘Atko’ Atkinson, which really highlighted the importance of him wearing his helmet!!

‘Armindo and Paulo also signed autographs for the children and took photos with them. At the end of the event everyone gathered for a group photo. Oh and of course Armindo made sure his hair looked perfect in every photo. 😉

‘After a busy morning of PR activities and some time to relax it was back to business for Armindo and Paulo as they took off in their MINIs: direction Lahti – 170km from Jyväskylä – where the Ceremonial Start and Rally Show awaited them.

‘What happened next is all to be revealed…

‘I don’t really understand much about the PR things Armindo and Paulo did today, they’re a bit alien to me but I’m really happy to take you into ‘my world’ and behind-the-scenes of our MINI family.

‘We started the day quickly checking a few small things on the MINI after yesterday’s Qualifying Stage, just to be sure everything was OK to start the rally. When Armindo and Miguel left for Lahti they had a positive attitude even though they knew it was going to be a tough task. Miguel is an excellent co-driver, he’s very calm and good influence in the car and he and Armindo have a great relationship.

‘Marco and I drove to Lahti too, to meet the drivers. It was a very nice trip – there were so many people on the street waiting for the rally cars, it was pretty emotional. And when we arrived in Lahti the atmosphere was crazy, thousands of fans came to the harbour to see the WRC – I had never seen so many people, not even in Argentina were the fans are also mega enthusiastic.

‘We fitted the lamppod to the car before the last stage of the day even though it wasn’t really necessary. Here in Finland during summer it’s daylight until very late and it never gets completely dark even during the night like in South Europe that’s why they call it ‘the land of the midnight sun’.

‘Armindo did a great job keeping his MINI in fine shape and didn’t do any damage which is always good news. The roads here are like a motorway but on gravel ;-), which is very good for the cars. We didn’t have much work to do in flexiservice and we can go back to the hotel now and relax (it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that!!)

‘That’s all from my side, back to you Marco!’

‘To relax a bit and take the tension of the rally away this morning the boys and I decided to give Olympic style scores to the very (very) attractive promo girls who were sashaying around the Service Park. They were all very pretty and to be fair we gave a ten to all of them!! 😉

‘After making the final touches to Paulo’s MINI and after he and Armindo left for Lahti, Max and I took one of WRC Team MINI Portugal’s road car MINIs and we started our journey to Lahti where we met the drivers before they set-off on the stages.

‘Paulo did a good job on the stages. As always, he enjoyed himself a lot – and for him that’s the most important thing. These stages are not at all what Paulo is used to, so I think that as he doesn’t have much experience he is doing a pretty good job so far. I hope he won’t fly too high in his MINI though – after all he is only a ‘Flying Brazilian’ not yet a ‘Flying Finn’. 😉

‘Tonight we checked everything on Paulo’s MINI during flexiservice, everything looked good and we’re ready to get going again tomorrow, which will be a long, long day!

‘One last thing – I mentioned before that last night Bruno and I went on the WRC stage with Paulo and he introduced us to the crowd. It was hilarious! Paulo called our Team Manager Bruno “Escorpião” – which means ‘scorpion’ in Portuguese – because he runs a very tight ship and he’s always keeps a tight rein on the team and money to make sure everything runs according to plan. He’ll always laugh and joke with the rest of us, but when we need to get down to business, nothing gets past him!

‘Paulo then told the crowd that with my new haircut I look a little like a criminal (personally I liked it! ;-)) but in reality I’m a nice guy. That Paulo – always joking! I love working with him, I can’t imagine working in a team where everyone wasn’t friends and ready for a joke as well as ‘hard yakka’.

‘Anyway that’s all from our side for today, let’s hope the WRC Team MINI Portugal boys will make us proud tomorrow.

‘Talk to you tomorrow.’

Max & Marco

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