It was intricate. We failed to set high speed at the qualification – the surface is very soft and loose here, so you feel that the car is… heavy I would say – we finished with the fourth result. We chose a good starting position, started right after the fastest guys, but became hostages to the fact that we chose too hard tires for such wet, slippery conditions. For the entire first section we lost 30 seconds to the leaders, I think, 29 of them – due to the wrong choice of tires. We had a good speed on the dry surface of one special stage, and at the previous three stages we were “nowhere”.
During the second section of the rally it started raining, confirmed by all forecasts – it was expected, but the road got so wet that in some places there was solid liquid mud, as soon as you left the rut you slipped like on ice. We survived. The second half of the first leg was ok. The guys ahead of us got punctures, and by the end of the day Mikkelsen and I were 4 seconds away, as if we had not covered 113 km.
Sunday started well, the tires were weather-friendly; we had a good pace at three special stages as it was expected. For the fourth special stage the tires did not fit, and it was also clear from the beginning, we lost 7 seconds there. Before the final section, Mikkelsen and I had a difference of 9 seconds. But it didn’t work out a bit in technical terms – we usually do weird things, but here the team didn’t manage to do what they needed during the service. Everyone can be wrong, we had to go and overcome some issues – it happens.
I felt that the steering wheel twitched a little bit in corners, but, unfortunately, my experience was not enough to understand that CV joint was out of order. And it was not found out during the service. I realized that it finally broke down during the tire warming up before the SS-13. Our car has become three-wheel drive – the torque has ceased to flow to one of the wheels. We asked the team whether to continue participating further, but the team said, “Come on!”. We started at the fourth section. At the special stage we were turned around once and lost about 40 seconds, probably. I thought that it would be difficult to stay on the podium from that point, although there was a fairly large gap behind. We decided not to give up and push hard. It was possible to drive somehow without turning around, and we didn’t lose all the advantage that we had over the third place – we secured the second position.
The feeling from the rally as a whole is that we just reached the finish line, although we had good results at the special stages (we won one of them). I can’t say that we can be very proud of the speed, but so far everything was good with the car and the tires, we were driving quite close to the top drivers. The road conditions are special here, the surface is specific, we are still learning something – it’s interesting. Andreas Mikkelsen is great, of course, Dani Sordo is also in the TOP, they know these roads and can set a high pace. In general, we were incredibly lucky that we finished the second, but the impression is twofold. There is no feeling that we earned this place, as if we just drove and at the same time became the second. There are no bright emotions, but, of course, it’s nice to be on the podium!