Welcome to my exclusive new blog for The Checkered Flag, each month I will be writing about my adventures in the FIA World Rally Championship with the M-Sport team.
As this is my first blog of the year I thought I’d give you a quick run through about the year so far…
The start of season has been a little bit mixed, the accident in Monte-Carlo was far from ideal. I have a new partnership with Scott Martin as my co-driver for 2019.
To start in Monte-Carlo was always going to be difficult, when you head into the first test in dark with icy conditions.
Despite the tough start to the year where I came away with zero points and a big accident, we’ve since proved our pace on every round of the championship, but we haven’t quite fulfilled the results we would have liked.
A couple of little errors in Sweden wasn’t ideal, then we went onto Mexico where we got a podium which was good.
Back-to-back rallies in South America
It was a long time away from home, so we chose to stay out in South America rather than have three or four days at home.
Obviously, it didn’t start too well for us in Argentina with our big crash so it felt like a big week between the events trying to get over that and not go back.
Preparation for Chile was also difficult because it was a new event – for example we had no pacenotes and videos to use, so it all had to be done sort of in a blind way.
There are videos from the organisers available which is what we used to try and prepare as best as possible and spend as much time as possible with them, but in all honesty it’s very difficult to learn the road. It’s more about getting a feel for the stages and looking at how we’d adapt the car.
Learning the stages was near on impossible, so it was a case of using the videos we had available but otherwise we had to tackle it as the recce progressed. As it finished, we then had to try and review it all before the rally started.
Feeling deflated in Corsica
In Corsica we proved to have really good pace and speed to win the rally… unfortunately it wasn’t to be this time as we were caught out.
The puncture happened because of a pothole in the road, for sure had we not gone through it, the puncture would have been avoided, but in reality it’s really difficult to pick out these small little holes in the road.
You probably see many things like that during the recce and you can’t mark down every little thing you see because you won’t be able to compete at the speed you need to win rallies, or even be competitive.
In this particular case I think a lot of cars had been through it before and got a little bit worse every time, and we went right through the middle of it and got the puncture.
So, we could have prevented the puncture, but how you would know is a difficult thing. Obviously you regret it with the circumstances, but ultimately it would have been difficult to do anything different there and then.
Being a team leader a M-Sport
I’m for sure the driver with the most experience, but in all honestly, we’ve worked with Teemu who’s not an inexperienced driver last year.
Yes he’s young – but he’s been driving four wheel drive cars for probably 4/5 seasons, so he’s gaining good knowledge for what he wants from the car.
We’ve been working together to try and improve the car where we can. We knew there was some areas where we wanted to improve from last year and we definitely took some good steps for before Sweden at least, and Mexico as well.
We’re constantly looking to improve that together, we’re not a million miles away from each other in terms of car setup.
Obviously there’s things that I want the car to do that Teemu doesn’t but I think the ‘base car’ is quite similar between the two of us, so that’s handy with developing the car and looking for improvements, especially with the lack of test days we have by regulation.
We have to try and work together as much as possible to keep improving the car andthe relationship we’ve had is pretty good so far this year.
Looking ahead to Portugal
We’re heading to Portugal where we’ve just finished a day and a half each (me and Teemu) of testing as we prepare to head back to Europe.
Portugal and Sardegna are close together and ‘back to back’ in the championship. As with the case in Argentina and Chile, we’re bound by the fact that the rallies are two weeks apart by regulation.
Several components are sealed, which we have to carry forward from one rally to the next. Everything from the transmission and all this kind of spec has to be sealed between the two rallies so we’re limited to what we can change between events.
We’re coming off the back of our test where we’ve made some further changes from South America to the car which have hopefully put us in the right direction. Only time will tell.
We were both quite strong in Portugal last year so I hope with the improvements to the car we can both be very strong there this year and why not? We’d really like to start winning rallies now.
We were really close in Corsica and we were in contention on many rallies for podiums, so I’d like to see if we can win in Portugal. For the rest of the season the aim is to keep fighting for podiums and hopefully wins really.
That’s all that’s sort of left to do. I think you have to go to every rally individually and just concentrate on doing as well as you can on that event before doing the same for the next one.
There’s no real end goal for me this year really, it’s just about doing the best we can on every rally possible – the aim will always be to try and win rallies. We’re working as hard as we can and hopefully it’ll pay off for us!
Until next time…