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‘Hello again ladies and gents, Katie here and ready to report back on what WRC Team MINI Portugal’s been getting up to so far at Rally d’Italia.

‘Lesson 1: Finding something to say about what you’ve been doing that’s interesting enough for a press release is harder than it looks.

‘But… I’ll give it a go. Sunday and Monday we went testing with Chris and Paulo. Sunday – very successful. Chris found a good set-up and pace based on some evolutions Motorsport Italia has made to non-homologated parts of the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman WRC. It was warm and dry (which are – fingers-crossed – the predicted conditions for the rally). The test location was picturesque, absolutely spectacular (yes that is an irrelevant detail in terms of performance!) Paulo was happy too and ready for Day Two.

‘Monday – not so stellar. Torrential rain and continually changing conditions meant set-up changes made based on one run weren’t necessarily relevant by the time the crews tested them on the following run. Even worse for a communications person – terrible mobile phone signal! That was a shorter day. However, all data is always useful to the engineers and the conditions Monday have given the crews a feeling for how the Spanish gravel stages will be if the heavens open over Salou. We just hope that our Monday test won’t be representative of Rally d’Italia’s conditions!

‘Zoom through Tuesday and Wednesday – recce: check; car prep: check; scrutineering: check; hundreds of other miscellaneous jobs: check. And onto the action.

‘Thursday – this morning offered clear skies and dry conditions (big sigh of relief!) and Atko hopped into his MINI and out onto the Qualifying Stage for Free Practice. He finished eighth on the Qualifying Stage despite starting tenth on the gravel, not bad, not bad. Unfortunately, Paulo had a run-in with a tree and was unable to register a time. Next for Atko – quick round of media activities – filming with WRC TV, start order selection in the town hall, FIA Pre-event Press Conference, quick movie for the Clark-Atko outrageous-dos collection (for more, see youtube.com/motorsportita and then…ALL SYSTEMS ARE GO.

‘Things didn’t go quite right for Chris when he took to this afternoon’s stages. There was a loss of grip and car control, which didn’t give him the same confidence he’d had this morning on the Qualifying Stage. Even so, he came home a strong eighth and the boys are trying to source and fix the problem as I write. Let’s hope that tomorrow he can get a good rhythm. Fingers-crossed!

‘Meanwhile, the mechanics did a super job fixing Porquinho Verde for SS1. Paulo bounced back from his accident this morning ready to give today’s two stages his best shot. And that he did. He’s never competed in Rally d’Italia before and found the two stages this afternoon complex and challenging, especially SS2 as the dark set in fast! But he made it safely through and back to service.

‘And… breathe, that’s all for now. 🙂
More tomorrow!’
Katie

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