« Preparation for the Rally of Portugal has already started … »
After two victories in Corsica and Argentina, with Thierry, once again we wanted to be the talk of the town in Chili. It’s done… but not in the way we had hoped, unfortunately! First and foremost, I wish to salute and thank all those who in one way or another showed their support following our spectacular accident in SS8 on Saturday morning. Despite the violence of the shock we were not injured, even though several days of rest are necessary to allow the body to recover from the centrifugal force we experienced during that series of barrel rolls.
It’s in such instances as that one that physical training takes on its full meaning. And that the safety inside a rally car’s cockpit has enormously evolved. Without a physical training worthy of its name, and state of the art technology, be it the Hyundai’s survival cell, which perfectly played its part, the bucket seat, the helmet or the HANS system straps, the consequences could have been pretty unpleasant. Hauling ourselves out of the wreck, we were pretty shocked, but we were standing upright, unscathed. That’s the essential …
As explained here and there, our off-road was the result of a bend we rather ‘surmounted’. There was hardly anything in it, some twenty odd centimetres at most. In a nutshell, a small error with major consequences. During a part of our recceing there was a great deal of fog, which added to the difficulty in discovering and trying to understand a demanding course, and with a road profile, very undulating, with loads of drops and peaks, somewhat similar to Finland. Chili boasts a large number of bends and curves where one needs to set the car up without seeing the exit.
On Friday the special stages were narrower and slower, which best suited the Toyota, whereas on Saturday it was wider and faster, and the Hyundai performed well! This was later confirmed after our retirement by several scratches for Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena. The nine times world champion quickly worked out how to handle the ’i20 Coupé WRC in these conditions, in such a manner that for Hyundai, the points he scored together with those of Andreas Mikkelsen, means that this Rally of Chili did not turn into a disaster. Quite clearly the car has progressed, and it was shown. In Saturday’s first special stage, we had in fact notched up a scratch time, which says a lot about our level of performance as from the moment we were no longer the first on the road.
Remaining positive, this void result in Chili will allow us to tackle the Rally of Portugal in a more ‘comfortable’ manner, not having to open the first day. Which overall is not bad. We noticed event after event, that the three Ogier-Tänak-Neuville competitors systematically are to be found playing up front, the result varying depending on the weather conditions, the state of the roads, etc.. And the one taking the lead in the championship knows that he will be at a disadvantage in the following event. In other words, it’s still a long season …
After twenty-four days far away from home, I’m looking forward to playing the role of father again and taking a few days off until the end of the week. Which has not prevented me from starting to attack the preparations for the Rally of Portugal from an administrative point of view during my trip home.
A question of curtailing all rumours, I can confirm that at the end of the week Hyundai Motorsport will be carrying out tests with a view to Portugal. It had been foreseen a long time ago that I would not be involved, and that Julien Vial will be the one, accompanying Bruno Thiry in the role of opener, and who would be next to Thierry. Julien, with whom I work a lot, knows our pace notes system, and it goes without saying that the day I am not able to compete in an event in the righthand bucket seat, it would be him who would replace me. So for Julien Vial it is interesting to clock up kilometres in the Hyundai cockpit, with a view to becoming aware of the speed at which the countryside flies past. During these tests it is also foreseen that Thierry would not get behind the wheel before the third day. So, no worries then…
More adventures on the horizon, and a few souvenirs that will serve as a preface to the Rally of Portugal!