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‘G’Day everyone, how you going? Atko here, live from WRC Team MINI Portugal’s Service Area here at Rally de España. We’re at the end of Day Two – the first day on Tarmac – and I’m really glad that both Paulo and I made it through without any dramas.

‘After one day on gravel, today we switched to Tarmac for the longest day of the rally with 161.30km of Special Stages. Today’s itinerary included three stages run twice. The second stage of each loop was the massive 45km El Priorat – one of the longest of the season.

‘It has been a few years since I competed here the last time in 2008 when the rally used to be only on Tarmac. These are fantastic stages – I really enjoy them. The Tarmac here is almost like a race track in places and it can be really good fun to drive on if you can find a good rhythm.

‘Yesterday was an eventful day! The bad weather made the gravel stages unbelievably tricky – they were conditions that no test could prepare you for! Both Paulo and I made mistakes on the afternoon loop and we had to retire for the day. Luckily we didn’t do any big damage and the guys did an awesome job during Rally 2 service. They changed the broken parts on the MINIs as well as the entire set-up to make the cars ready for the Tarmac today. They worked until 1am to make sure we could both restart.

‘It was a shame to retire because we were lying in a comfortable sixth position with big gaps in front and behind us. But… That’s rally! The only thing Glenn and I could do was sleep it off and go for a fresh start with a clear mind this morning.

‘When you change surface from one day to the other your driving style also has to adjust. On Tarmac the grip levels are completely different. You can brake a lot later than on gravel and you have to be a lot smoother, not sliding too much. Here in Spain it is almost like circuit racing as there aren’t many surface changes. The stages are usually quite clean and there’s not much broken Tarmac. You have to be aggressive and carry much more speed into the corners. Glenn’s pace note rhythm had to change as well to adapt to the different level of speed that you have on Tarmac.

‘The first loop this morning was tough because it’s difficult to take the same level of risk and find a good rhythm from the beginning after retiring on the previous day. We probably lost a bit more time than we wanted, but we had a clean and steady run.

‘After midday service things worked better and our times definitely improved compared to the morning. I felt more confident with the MINI and I found a better rhythm. We finished today in 11th position and I’m happy to be closing in on the points positions again. Tomorrow we’ll wait and see what happens and do everything we can to try and score at least one WRC point.

‘Paulo had a solid day. He started with a smile on his face and came back to service tonight still smiling, which is the most important thing. He had a small issue with his MINI, Porquinho Verde’s, water temperature. It started to raise after the second stage this morning but he managed to reach service and the boys easily solved the problem.

‘I’ve been giving him some advice and have seen him progressing a lot on Tarmac rally-on-rally. I think his confidence is really building. He had a power steering problem this afternoon. When I caught up with him he said that he had a good workout on his arms without having to go to the gym! 😉

‘Before I go I’d like to thank to everyone in the team. They’ve been great and made me feel welcome from day one. It has been a pleasure working with Motorsport Italia this year and I really hope that we can continue to work together in the future. A special thanks goes to my mechanics – real professionals – who have always worked very hard to make sure my MINI was in good shape every time!

‘See ya,
Atko’

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