Debriefing – Portugal

« The automatic reflexes are still there! »

For the fifth time during the launch of this enthralling 2019 season, Thierry and I climbed onto the podium. The moment after we cut the contact of our Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC following the finish of the Power Stage, I must admit that we had a small pang of emotion. Similar to me Thierry is a ‘fighter’, a winner … So, to finish in second spot boils down to being…the first loser! But thinking about it, this silver medal is actually timely and represents an excellent result. Allow me to explain.

In the first case we needed to deal with the post-Chili. Even though Thierry and I are well prepared and well trained, in a small corner of one’s mind one always questions whether after such a misadventure will everything function as before.  Will all the automatic reflexes still be there? If on the one had we set off on a false rhythm in SS1, once the set-up had been refined, there was total harmony. As proof the five scratches we clocked up over the weekend. And this gap of less than 16 seconds separates us from the top place. So, we were quickly reassured.

As Ott Tänak stated, this Rally of Portugal was an extremely difficult event. Which once again demonstrated that this season the pace is incredibly high, meaning that the slightest error is costlier than ever before. On top of that it was very hot inside the cockpit throughout the weekend. But once again, the experience which Thierry and I benefit from, made all the difference. The Portuguese course, with its damaging surfaces, especially during the second passage in the special stages, we know well. Better still, we have the impression of mastering them … In the highly tricky sections it was impressive to observe how Thierry is truly able to read the terrain, retaining a high rhythm in certain places, and easing off in others. This allowed us to retain a solid pace throughout the event. Admittedly we have the feeling that Tänak has a certain safety margin up his sleeve which allows him to respond in the event we put in an attack. But he’s not free from the odd mistake, and he never profited from a comfortable lead …

After this gruelling Portuguese episode, we will only enjoy a few days rest prior to tackling Sardinia. Where the heat will also be pretty important, not forgetting that the course boasts a fair amount of similarities with Portugal. It is an event that Thierry and I really appreciate, and which we have won in the past. We are really fired up, and more than ever ready to do battle for overall victory. This 2019 championship will remain undecided through to the end, so we have no other choice than to grab everything that comes our way!

Once again, many thanks for all your encouraging remarks, during and after the Portuguese event. Such support has allowed us to take off on a high note, and in the end, to produce a good deal in the championship. Speak soon!

Nicolas Gilsoul