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‘Hi everyone, once again – and for the last time – Max and Marco live from Neste Oil Rally Finland reporting you about the third and last day of the WRC Team MINI Portugal squad’s MINI adventure here.

‘Armindo, Miguel, Paulo and Edu already left the last ten minute service and they’re waiting to go over the ramp. It’s always a good feeling when a car successfully leaves service – especially the last one in a rally. When everyone’s has been totally focused and working flat out and then the car starts up, pulls away and everything’s gone OK. Here in Finland it was even better because we had some blaring music over the tanoy next to our service area. We’re now listening to Finnish rock while we pack our big structure and wait for the cars to be released from Parc Fermé.

‘After a full week of hard work we’re really pleased that both crews finished such a difficult rally! Here’s a bit more about our last day here in Finland.’

‘Today was a pretty straightforward day. The aim for Armindo was to finish the rally without major delays and get as much experience at Rally Finland as possible.

‘The only hiccough in an otherwise positive day happened on SS16 when Armindo was pushing to try and catch Sebastian Lindholm – who was just in front of him in the overall standings – when he damaged a tyre on his MINI after skidding over to the opposite side of the road and sliding into a ditch. He had to run the rest of the stage with a puncture and lost some time. It’s a shame because he was doing a good job on the first half of the stage and he was pulling back some seconds.

‘I’m really proud of Armindo this weekend. He doesn’t find Rally Finland easy but he got through the whole event without making any major mistakes! Finland’s always a tough rally, because you have to take jumps you’ve recced at under 18kmph at over 180kmph! This means you have no idea how far you’ll fly or where you land. We really hoped that coming back to Rally Finland this year in the same car would make it easier for Armindo, but still with the ‘flying Finns’ careering through the stages, he had to keep to his own pace. It’s a huge challenge here and the terrain is really alien for a Portuguese driver, so it was an event of endurance and survival for us and we did it! Germany is one of Armindo’s strongest events, so we now can hope to be back inside the top 10 as we his Trier – can’t wait! 😉

‘The rally is now finished but the team still has the big job of packing everything up to be ready to leave tomorrow. When we go back to in Italy we have a couple of busy weeks waiting for us. We have to prepare the new MINI for Rallye Deutschland and before that we have a four day test with Armindo to make sure everything is spot on for the first Tarmac rally of the season and his first event in an 01B.

‘Some of my Portuguese colleagues will join us in the workshop to help out as there’s a lot of work to do. It’s nice for me to work in a mixed nationality team – I have the maximum respect for all my colleagues. I try to get along with everyone as long as they work properly. We have to stay together for 10 days per event on 13 rallies a year, that plus tests means almost half the year – we almost see each other more than we see our families!

‘I’m quite satisfied with what I have achieved so far in my career but there are still a few dreams that I would like to realize before I retire (I know I still have many years ahead). I would love to have worked on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, because that’s one of the most important races in the world. Interms of rallying, I’d like to win Rallye Monte-Carlo. There are three or four races which are the most prestigious in the world and those are among them!

‘Even if we’ll be pretty busy I’ll try to take some time to relax as well – I like to go out on my motorbike, go cycling or taking a boat tour. I also love old cars, especially I have a passion for Lancias. I built an old Lancia Fulvia and I’m very proud of it.’

‘Ha, the first time I saw Max’s Lancia, the only thing I could say was, “Wow!” It’s seriously impressive – the boys and I reckon it’s better now than it would have been when it was new!!

‘That said, back to Rally Finland. Last night we – the other mechanics on Paulo’s car and I – had our hands pretty full. After our trip to retrieve him, we took the MINI back to service and started working to get it fixed and ready to go this morning. After three hours it was as good as new. 🙂

‘When Paulo set off this morning he was smiling again and I love it when my driver is happy and in a good mood – it keeps the morale of the team high. He loved the stages and he even said he was going to try and be a bit more aggressive as he had a good feeling about today’s stages. However, he was very careful on the second passes through the stages as the roads were more worn away and stones were coming to the surface. Meanwhile he says the Ouninpohja stage is like doing the Col de Turini in Monte-Carlo – you have to respect the stage otherwise you won’t see the end of it. However, on the second pass in Ouninpohja he really went at his limit, the fastest he could ever imagine going and he says it was ‘amazing, amazing, amazing!!!!’

‘Seeing Paulo reach the end of the rally is always great, for him each rally completed is a big achievement and boy does he know how to celebrate. 😉 For us, as we pack up the trucks to go back home our heads are already on the next round ADAC Rallye Deutschland, where we head later this month. We have to prepare Paulo’s car for Tarmac – surely it’s not his favourite surface but I hope he’ll enjoy it.

‘Tomorrow I go back to Portugal to spend a few days with my kids and beloved wife. I really want to spend more time with them but I have a pretty busy life and it’s not always easy. I don’t think too much about the future. I live day-to-day, ‘carpe diem’ is what I say. I don’t make long-term plans often, but I’d like to start! One plan of course is to be at home (or away!) with my family more. For the rest, I do what I like and I like what I do. :-)’

‘Well we’d better get back to work now, we still have a lot of work to finish and our colleagues will start complaining soon.

‘Thank you for following us throughout the weekend, it was a pleasure to be your hosts and to tell you all the behind-the-scenes live from the WRC Team MINI Portugal service area. I hope you enjoyed our columns.

‘WRC Team MINI Portugal will be back later this month when we compete in ADAC Rallye Deutschland and your host there will be a special guest – watch this space…

‘Stay tuned and thank you for the support,’

Max & Marco

Final Overall Classification – Rally Finland

1.S. Loeb (FRA)/ D. Elena (MCO) Citroen 2:28:11.4
2.Hirvonen (FIN)/ J. Lehtinen (FIN) Citroen +6.1
3.J.M Latvala (FIN)/ M. Anttila (FIN) Ford +35.0

4.P. Solberg (NOR)/ C. Patterson (GBR) Ford +56.1
5.M. Ostberg (NOR)/ J. Andersson (SWE) Ford +2:32.1
6.O. Tanak (EST)/ K. Sikk (EST) Ford +2:47.6
7.M. Rantanen (FIN)/ M. Lukka (FIN) Ford +4:51.7
8.J. Ketomaa (FIN)/ M. Stenberg (FIN) +6:01.9
9.M. Prokop (CZE)/ Z. Hruza (CZE) Ford +6:04.3
10.S. Ogier (FRA)/ J. Ingrassia (FRA) Skoda +8:46.0

15.A. Araújo (PRT)/ M. Ramalho (PRT) MINI +12:43.7

38.P. Nobre (BRA)/ E.Paula (BRA) MINI +36:28.6

2012 FIA Drivers’ Championship Standings
S. Loeb 171/ M. Hirvonen 128/ P. Solberg 104/ M. Ostberg 90/ J.M. Latvala 69/ E. Novikov 55 / M. Prokop 38/ T.Neuville 32/ D. Sordo 29/ O.Tanak 26/ N. Al-Attyiah 23/ S. Ogier 23/ … A. Araújo 11…M. Stohl 1

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