Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chapter 13: Running order fables

So you want to run first on the road, or don't you?  Good question, sometimes being first can be very helpful and even more than you think. 

Back in the years 2003 to 2005, the system in place was to run in championship order on the first leg, then reverse the top 15 (priority 1 & 2 drivers, P1 and P2) on the following 2 legs.  It did not always happen that way.  Sometimes there were less than 15 P1's and P2's so they just reversed whatever the amount was.

I often found myself opening the road on various rallies, especially in 2003 and it went from being pure heaven, to total nightmare.

Tarmac was cool.  Being first on tarmac stages is a definite plus, especially on stages where you need to cut corners a lot.  The 1st guy has the benefit to choose his own lines, deciding if he wants to take that extra deep cut or not.  He also has a clean road, which in a rally like Deutschland makes a big difference.  Running behind can be tricky because, eventually, somebody who is a bit crazy will take these rough cuts and you will have no choice but to follow.  As corners are often blind, you may have "don't cut" in your notes and you'd come, commited, around the bend and suddenly see a bunch of crap across the tarmac, leaving you no choice but to dive in the ditch. 

Catalunya rally, with it's big cuts, was a special rally.  I noticed that I managed better times when the road did not allow cutting.  I am not sure why.  I believe the reason laid in the fact that our car was very low and when you cut corners, the car was literally skidding and bouncing off the tarmac edge in such a rough way that I just hadn't gotten used to it yet.  Many times, you would approach the corner, dive into the ditch with well over half the car width and the whole bottom would scrape on the tar.  Then, as you would exit the ditch and climb back on the tar, the speed would bounce the inner tires and half the car upwards.  This bump was sometimes throwing you across to the other edge.  At high speeds, as most of the stages are, trusting your suspension and judging that bounce was difficult.  I think I had work to do on that aspect.  Another phenomenon from this cut and bump was that the inner sidewall of the tires was scrapping on the tarmac edge and getting damaged.  A scary thing, to have a tire blow at those speeds was not something I looked forward to, so as I was a bit paranoid about that I paid particular attention to the inner sidewalls, something that was easy to forget about. 

Finland did not matter as much as rallies like Acropolis or Mexico, for example.  Since the big wide roads are usually rather clean and the little ones just tend to dig up, running first could only be a problem if you relied on seeing other people's lines and brake points.  Being second or third can be extremely useful, especially if the first guy is a very fast local driver. 

Following other people's lines and seeing where they brake, or don't brake, can be a real insight.  I benefitted from that on a number of occasions and once in an unconventional way.  I am not sure on which rally, but I remember I was running first and Marcus was second.  I asked him if he could check my lines and let me know, later, what he thought.  So, he was happy to help me out and when I went up to see him he had some nice pointers to give.  He said the lines were good but sometimes I was tapping the brakes and it was not necessary.  In a place like Finland, and especially if you come the first time, not tapping the brakes before blind crests followed by corners can be very hard.  I had an interesting experience when, back in 2005, I was second on the road, behind Kresta, on leg 3 and we had similar speeds on the first stage.  Then we came to the second one, a rather sandy and fast road which I had done before a couple of times.  I could tell, however, that he had not.  It was amazing to see how much different his driving style was.  I could see all his lines and braking points which were completely different from the previous one and very hesitant.  Anyway, I suddenly remembered my first time on this stage and it was very interesting for me to witness the differences from a driver's point of view.

I don't know who to credit for this pic, perhaps he or she will let me know...Anyway I think this was taken on Laukka just after a crest and down to a 3rd gear left corner.  I took the crest flat out, thinking I could brake after.  A bit too cheeky, I came much too quick, flicked the car sideways way before the corner and hoped for the best...  It turned out we just missed the apex and no harm done.  We had a few of those in Finland... until we ended down a ditch in Moksi Leustu.  Oops.
Lankamaa, for some reason, this being the first stage of the rally, I could never get it going there.  This was taken on the first junction by someone I would love to credit for and especially for the irony of the 40kph speed limit sign...Tricky stage.


Did you know that back in rally NZ 2003, the team used the America's Cup sailing race hangars to prep the cars for the rally? 

I took some pics of the 2003 car launch as well as some close ups of the rear suspension, which had amazing travel and contributed greatly to the car's immediate success. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

POLL RESULTS: The craziest rally fans

The Greeks have won the poll with 27% of the votes.

I am happy to say that the blog gets a diversified international audience.  Thanks to everyone for the high interest.  more to come very soon.

RSI: Fast privateers

A question from Anders in the comments section which deserves special attention:

"When 2011 WRC season started in Sweden this year a bunch of companies (including mine) helped PG Andersson to rent a Fiesta. Now when the regulations was changed and the WRC teams did not have the same ability to change stuff and give privateers different stuff than the works cars we all felt that this could be a big chance to upset the big works tema drivers. Antony, do you think PG and Mads Ostberg was given the "exact" same cars as Mikko and Jari-Matti ? Or maybe I should ask, what big differeces were there?"

Obviously, as I am no longer involved at all in the sport, I cannot answer this.  

Nevertheless, I have seen from the results that the performances of Östberg and Andersson were very, very good. I would say they were unusually fast for privateers, and Sweden was a perfect place to see this because both Östberg and Andersson have pretty much equal experience of this type of rally as the two factory drivers.  I believe that their raw speed came as a surprise to the management.  

From what I have seen in the past, surprise performances like Östberg's are not taken as a good thing by the team management.  In front of the camera it's all smiles but behind closed doors the tone is something else.  The team has committed itself to it's official drivers for the long run and are most likely not happy if a privateer comes and takes points away from their lead drivers, who have the objective of fighting for the driver's Championship.  Not mentioning the diverted media attention and all the difficult questions the boss has to answer regarding his lead drivers suddenly having trouble against lesser ones as far as status is concerned.  

The subsequent lack of reliability and performance seen from privateers in the later events is a clear indication to me that things have already been adjusted.  I would not be surprised if Sweden was the first and last time we'd see a privateer drive consistently faster than officials this season.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chapter 12: Nit-picking

A recent comment on the blog grabbed my attention:

"Doesn't sound too flash Antony. However as a privateer surely you would not expect all the very latest gear as per the Works cars. Having said that was there any discussion of equipment vs $$ eg if you pay $X you get this old pus bucket, if "you pay $XX you get this slightly better car, if you want one level behind the works you pay $XXXXXXX?"

I can understand where the question comes from.  It could be easy to think: "Boy, was this guy stupid or what?"  The answer is not so simple.  There are facts that have to be taken into account:

First of all it's important to understand that, as a privateer, you don't know what the works cars have.  They don't tell you, period.  There is a politic of silence, aimed at keeping their secrets safe.  We were not dealing with a production class Mitsubishi, here, with over the shelf parts put together by a random tuner.  A WRC team like Ford runs a "military style confidentiality" operation.  Nobody tells you what is really on the works cars.  I mean, lets face it, these guys have been spending millions on developing all their technology with the objective of winning the World Championship. They are not going to have a sit down with a potential customer and lay down all the differences between the works and private cars.    

When I asked questions like : "hey do the works cars have more power?" the answer was: "the engines are the same"  Then if I said :"ok...what about the maps?"  you would get: silence, and "let me get back to you on this one", or "...ah...yes, now that I remember...they just developed's brand wonder no one told you..."  Eventually there was always some good and believable answer, explaining why there was a difference, if you managed to notice it first.    

You also need to remember that back in 2003, I was their first customer ever to make a deal like that with them.  Nobody had ever done a multiple rally season, under their supervision, where they manage the car.  There were no precedents to look at and perhaps conclude from : "hey wait a minute, these previous privateers got crap cars and complained about it... let's look elsewhere."    

In fact it was like an endless "three or four steps behind race" to keep up with it.  Except they played it so that I thought every time : "Ok, now I have the same car."  

Their approach was a simple marketing strategy.  They sold off their old technology one little bit at a time, to maximize the profits, never selling away their latest developments so as to keep something at hand for the next deal.  Many of you would think that's ok, sure, me too.  Except in my case there is one big difference:  We told the boss very clearly, right from the very first meeting, that our intentions were serious.  

We wanted to pay for the opportunity to get proper results and have a fair shot at the top.  We asked him if that was possible, he said yes, did not object and spoke about the "three year plan".  He clearly told me that I would need to learn the stages on the first year, acquire some experience, consolidate it on the second year and go for it on the third.  The ambiance of the discussion was friendly and we felt invited to trust him as an "old fellow rally driver who had been there before".  We sincerely felt that a gentleman's agreement in all trust was good enough.  Big mistake to trust that and very naive, looking back at it now.   

The third year of the plan was for being fast and reliable.  Therefore he integrated me as part of the official four car team (we were usually four and I was supposed to be third or fourth driver).  Our car harboured the official Ford colours.  It turns out, as I see it now, his plan was simply to squeeze us dry over three years until we could not fund anymore, then move on to someone else.

Great system for his enterprise.

So how should I have done it?  

I should have showed up for the deal with a nit-picking, technical, public relations and judicial expert.  Someone with up to date knowledge of the technical, business and political aspects of the sport.  Someone able to discuss and have every possible relevant detail written down on paper.  A gentleman's agreement is a thing of the past, old school material that holds little ethical value in today's world.  The world I plunged in was just a pool of sharks waiting for the next victim, regardless of the spirit of sport.  The fair play notion, is but a long gone memory whispered by fools in the shadows.  So don't be like me and think people will give you a fair chance if you simply ask and pay for it.

Once all the basics taken care of, we would need to make sure the team holds their side of the deal.  Tricky part.  Sure, sometimes parts can break.  How do you know if the stuff on your car is really new?  How do you know if your engine map or diff map is really the same?  I don't have a sure answer to that. 

Or maybe I do... Another strategy:  Tell them if the car is good there will be more business to come, lots more.  By more business I mean more drivers to be funded.  Tell them if you get a hint of being screwed with, you'll take your millions elsewhere and make it public.  There is competition in the customer car business, new business emerging even as you are reading this... Only thing is you really need deep pockets, on a whole other scale.  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cyprus, Cyprus, Cyrpus

Here we were, in Cyprus 2003.  First time for me and I have to say this was the most twisty roads I had ever seen.  This rally was about survival and nothing else.  You think Acropolis is rough?  Think again.  Acropolis is a walk in the park next to Cyprus.  And to add on top of this, it actually got worse every year!!

I mean, the organisers usually repair roads after rallies, right? Wrong!  Not in Cyprus.  Don't ask me why cause I don't know.  I was sitting at the start of a stage, during recce, just minding my own business and listening to what others had to say... Then I hear Marcus complaining "...this is ridiculous, they did nothing since last year!"  And he was right, they did absolutely nothing.  This was the main talk of all drivers.  Ruts were getting deeper, from year to year... and our cars were getting higher.  This was funny because that year, the drivers complained so much, the next day of recce we saw a half dozen guys with shovels and wheel barrels filling the ruts with stuff... The top guys main job was now going to be digging this stuff right back out and lose time in the process... oops (keep the mouth shut next time, I guess huh?).  You can't repair ruts one day before the rally starts!  It needs to be fixed immediately after the rally, for the next year, so it has a year to harden...  Oh boy.  So, anyway you get the idea. 

I also had a little adventure with the fuel pumps.  We drove a stage and suddenly the engine started to misfire.  It was running out of fuel!  Bloody hell.  How is that possible?  The tank was still nicely loaded!  There I was driving down the mountain, on the phone with the car chief, the engine was going off in the straights and coming back on in corners!  Mysterious, huh?  No, simple.  In that car the fuel tank had a horse shoe shape.  I don't know exactly how it worked but basically there was two parts that hung around the tunnel (tunnel is for prop shaft and exhaust) and there was what they called "lift" pumps to get the fuel to the engine.  Apparently one pump was not working, and every time I turned, inertia made the fuel flow to the other side, over the middle ridge, so the other pump could pick it up...

So now the only thought was: are we actually going to make it back?  The problem was there was one more stage to do.  We presented ourselves to the time control and I thought: no way in heck this will work.  This stage had a steep uphill start and I had a real bad feeling about it.  We had to retire.  Better stop there than stop 2 km into the stage and block everyone, cause the stages are very narrow in Cyprus...

We had nothing else to do but return to service and drive another day.  Then, I got another call, somebody figured that, as the engine was now running on fumes, all I had to do was jack the car's right rear side up and let the fuel flow...wait a few minutes, fire it up and go.  So we did, we drove about 8 km until it stopped, jacked the car, waited 10 minutes, drove 8km until it stopped, jacked the car up, ok you get the point.  Nice exercise.  That was exactly what I had come to Cyprus for.

For us, our first experience of Cyprus shall be remembered as the "pump the jack" rally.  All that for a fuel pump worth a few hundred Euros. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chapter 11: The Yeti comes and goes

As I said in Chapter 1, I eventually got a taste of the high compression, or "Yeti", engine.  We found out late in 2003, that at least a couple cars other than the works 2002 version Focus(es), were benefitting from it.  I had some more doubt about something being fishy with engines, on a superspecial in some rally, when confronted to the "third" works car on a parrallel start.  When we reached the end of the long opening straight, he had already pulled away. 

We specifically asked for the Yeti engine in our 2004 deal.  2004 was a bit of a difficult year, logistically speaking.  Unlike 2003, where one rally car sufficed to go from event to event, we needed two.  So we bought a second car for that year.  Their plates were: Y6 FMC and Y3 FMC.  The Y6 car was to be used on European events and Y3 for all the long haul, overseas stuff.  The problem was that, apparently, they had only one Yeti engine to spare for me.  So we decided that it would be fitted on the Y6 car.  They were apparently also short of titanium parts and low ride cross members as well, so the kit would be fitted on the Y6 car and carried by luggage by the guys (kudos for that, guys) to the long haul rallies, to be fitted on the Y3 car on location.  Both cars were built around the old spec roll cage.

A good view of the right side of the workshop, with a peek of the works machines down on the left.

Ok I know this was a bit complicated.  Hope everyone followed.  Don't worry it gets easier now.   

So we drove our season, had our ups and downs.  The low ride height and better revving engine car was really nice.  I liked it a lot, especially on fast rallies.  It's main advantage, over what I had driven before, was the increased precision and stability at high speed.  I wish we would have had more time to work on the diff maps as well, to improve stability and traction some more.  As a customer, we did not have access to any worthwhile maps.  Looking back at it now with much more knowledge acquired, especially during my 2005 season, when I finally got access to some official diff maps, if there is one wish I could have it would be for that knowledge.  In those days, a good diff map resulted from thousands of kilometers of testing, and therefore 100's of thousands of Euros in budget, impossible for us.  It was really difficult to figure out what to do without this capablity or access to the maps.  2005 was a real eye opener on that respect....Anyway, back to our topic....Sorry, I get carried away about diff maps easily.  Perhaps I should make a separate chapter on that story.  So, as I was saying, that 2002 Focus with special parts was a big boost, for sure.  It's hard to say how much better exactly, but for a guy like me, maybe 1,5sec/km better than the old one in some places. 

Around the end of 2004, time came for me to part with both cars, because the 2005 deal required me to rent the car.  So they were taken back to England, rebuilt, and put on sale. 

At some point in time I got a phone call from Juuso Pykälistö, who was interested in one of the cars.  He asked a couple questions about them, I told him:  "...just a moment...need to make a phone call...I call you right back."

So I dialed for my usual contact over at the Manor and got the business manager on the line, told him Juuso wants the car and will run it in the Finnish Championship.  I asked him if I could tell Juuso about the special parts and the Yeti engine.  Answer was:

"no, don't..."

So I told him anyway. 

Called him back and said he could have it, but there are these other parts and engine that....well, you know....don't exist.

It was ok for him, deal done.



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TRIVIA WINNER is: Joost Huvenaars. Congrats!!

Damn, I have to start making tougher questions. 

The answer was, from left to right: Joachim Warmbold, Timo Salonen, Seppo Harjanne and "Biche".

Chapter 10: Mea culpa

I have had questions about what my mistakes were, over the years, from people on  Here it goes:

  • The mental side of things.  I had a big problem getting into it right from the start.  I went and lost a half a minute on the first stage because I was asleep...Which made me angry, and therefore awake for the second one.  The thing is that if you lose, like me, right from the start it's usually downhill from there on.  I play competition table tennis these days.  For this sport, which is super fast and on/off all the time, you need to be focused on every point.  So now at 32 years of age I got this finally covered... 
  • Ever heard of the 3 year plan?  I have...back in december of 2002.  This was my first mistake, to listen to that pile of garbage about "taking it slow the first year, blah blah blah..."  Taking it slow, for me, meant that I did not crash much, sure, but it also meant that I wasn't trying to look for the limit, which in turn meant that I was not able to determine the right setups for the car, was not able to take correct notes, etc.  Oh yes, all these things like setup and notes work specifically if you attack, otherwise forget it.
  • Jumping too quickly into a WRC car.  I should have spent a couple seasons with a Saxo kit car, out of the spotlight, or something like that in local championships.  Learn all the basics before jumping in the big pot.  I was too impatient.  Ok if you have an open check book, and can afford 5 or 6 seasons in a WRC car then who knows...  What Ogier did is the way to go, in my opinion.  The problem with the "3 year plan" or whatever you want to call it is: if and when you actually start going quick one day...nobody cares anymore.  You are already old news.  I have personal experience of this when, back in Sweden 2005, on leg 3,  I was 2nd on the road behind Duval.  There was fresh snow and we both had this little competition going on.  He had fallen back and was trying to overhaul me, meanwhile I had a thing going on with Ekström for 10th place or 11th place, I don't remember exactly, which I missed out on by one tenth, by the way...  Well, it turns out I could actually keep up with Duval.  We did the "Rammen" stage and just before the next one, which I think was "Malta", his co-driver comes up to me, laughing, and says: "...we got this call from Frequelin and he yelled at us because we are going slow..." So here we have this boss who, seeing his driver having equal stage times as me, automatically assumes it's Duval who is slow and nothing else.  I can't blame him, really.  The reason is that I had already been there too long, without results.  Ridiculous and big mistake.  
  • Consistency.  My main problem.  When I did find some speed, it was difficult to keep going trouble free.  I don't know if I could have gone past this problem.  
  • Keeping my mouth shut.  I was a bit of a "speak your mind, think later, kinda guy"... Doesn't go well with the politics of the sport.


Here is today's question: 

There are 2 drivers and 2 co-drivers on this picture, taken during the 1000 Lakes Rally in 1988.  The winner will be the first one who comes up with all their names.  Coming up with the lady's nickname will be sufficient.  A clue is they have all won at least one WRC event.

copyright: Martin Holmes

Good luck!

RSI: First racing experience

My first ever experience with a racing car was during a two day course with the Skip Barber Racing School in Sebring, Florida.  We used a short version of the racing track.  The track was so rough, the tip of the nose sometimes hit the bumps, when it was dipping down, on braking.  The track is built of concrete slabs, which are jointed together. 

Chapter 9: Power to the People

An interesting comment by "rally driver" from the blog comments section lately: 

"Also, in the last sector of the Jordan power stage the works cars gained around 12 seconds on the customer cars in the last sector, which was a minute or so long, BUT it was compiled of a bunch of full throttle sections. Add a new engine formula for this year. Henning Solberg did not seem at all surprised. Coincidence? "

I haven't followed that last stage so I can't really comment on that specifically but from my personal experience I can say that I would not be surprised at all.  Back in Mexico 2005 I was quickest Ford on shakedown, and then I put some competitive speed on the first loop of stages, compared to the official Fords.  A little too competitive I think because first, during service I got lectured by the business manager for about a half an hour about how I had to take it easy, wait for my turn and god knows what else, I can't remember, but I remember one thing: from that point afterwards I was 1 sec/km behind the leading Ford guy all the way until Japan.  

Japan was very interesting in itself because I suddenly had a rocket tied to my arse.  The car went like hell.  It was such a difference I had to rethink all my braking points on shakedown.  This was the first rally in a long while where I could challenge the best Ford again....

Funny, isn't it?  Especially since the usual engine laptop guy was gone...  No sign of him over there.  I know cause back in service there was this dude plugged in my car ECU and I had never seen him before so I asked: "hey, who are you and what are you doing in my car?" (In a polite way, of course)  He said he was the engine guy for the rally.... Oh, ok.  Turns out the car had never been so fast.  

Coincidence?  Maybe. 

So the guy was new and unaware that I should have a "different" engine map?  

I don't know, impossible to prove.  All I know is the car was fast like hell and I liked it.  

My deal for 2005 specifically mentioned I would have the factory car engine from Mexico onwards.  But how in heaven's name do you want to check if your engine map is the same as others?  Send a bailiff to seize ECU's and check them?  

In my opinion it can only be a trust issue.  I trusted them. 

So, I don’t know what is happening to others.  I can only imagine…

Bottom line is I think all WRC drivers should have equal machinery, within their respective teams.  Let the drivers make the difference.  Seems to me that if you hire a driver because you think he is the best for the job, why be afraid of others?  On the contrary, it would only re-enforce his position as a factory driver.   The sport would be subsequently much more interesting.   

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rise up

Did you know that in 2005 the team actually did a little development, intended for official cars only.  Apart from the new bumpers that I already mentionned there was also a suspension ride height control system.  By pushing a button, on his steering wheel, the driver could lift or lower the car instantly thanks to a hydraulic system installed on the shocks.  In our 2005 deal it was mentionned that we would "possibly" have it on our car but unfortunately it turned out we did not. 

The system was quite useful.  Example:

Everybody knows that Neste Rally Finland is like "racing on gravel", right?  But many can't believe that parts of the Finnish stages can get very, very rough. 

Which parts?

Simple, the Finnish stages have two types of roads: fast gravel main roads, rather wide and with very hard surface because there is traffic on them all year round.  Then, there are narrower, more sandy surfaced roads, which don't have much traffic on them at all.  On the second pass through the stages, these sections can get deeply rutted, all the way to the bedrock that was used to lay the road during construction...  So, since rally cars are set up with very low ride heights for precision driving at high speeds, once you turn off the nice road onto that rough one, you will be hitting the sump guard, bumping through the shocks...all that, at very high speeds.  This makes it sometimes very difficult to handle the car.  In these situations, being able to instantly lift your car 2 or 3 cm can help. 

For us, the idea was to run low on the first pass, 160mm on front, then raise the car a couple cm's for the second pass...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chapter 8 : The Big Bluff

The 2005 Rally of Italy in Sardinia was fantastic! 

This was the rally where I learned something from my Finnish team buddy Toni:  "Go absolutely flat out until first corner, almost go off, after that slow down just little bit and continue stage....for sure time will be good..."  I first thought he was kidding.  He wasn't, and soon I was doing the same, or at least trying to... 

This was the rally where we were parked up a hill with the handbrake on, before a stage.  The brake fluid cooled, released the pressure in the calipers...then suddenly the car rolled down the hill... Good thing many other drivers were there to help hold my car.  Scary!

This was the rally where, on some stage, we were stuck in Gigi's dust for a while. He had just ripped a wheel off.  Oh well.

This was also the rally where we played a poker game on the last leg, which paid off.

The rally was extremely difficult, there was a hell of a lot of competition from all over.  Stakes were high and the pressure was on.  Everybody had their share of ups and downs.  After 2 days of hard driving on the narrow, dusty and tricky Sardinia stages, the classification looked like this: 

I had a bunch of guys breathing down my neck and I knew it wasn't gonna be simple, I had to keep some speed.  Just cruising to the finish was not an option.  I wanted to get up to eighth, I thought it was possible, if I drove steady and if somebody eventually had a problem.  I had lots to think about, on saturday night.  What could I do?

Then I had an idea. 

First thing in the morning, I went over to have a chat with the Ford tire specialist: 

"Morning, how are you...etc, etc...listen I have this question.....I was wondering if I could run..."

"I know what you're gonna say!"  He said  "You want to put some 8 compound!"

8 compound tire was the softest rubber we had.  Something you would only use in the rain, or in cold weather like maybe at night.  It was dry, but the night had been fresh...We were starting early, the stages were all short.  I thought the fresh temps plus the short stages would help keep the tire temps under control.  They would have time to cool down between stages.  I thought that maybe it could work.  Worst case scenario would be I don't make it back, cause I'd run out of rubber someplace in the hills.  The tires needed to hold for 66.3km.  But if it worked points were possible.  I had to get to 8th for the 1st point.

"mmmh....yes...waddaya think about it?" I said.

"If you were Francois Duval I'd tell you it's a very bad idea...but I think you could try it..." I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but I knew Duval was rather rough on his tires and brakes. 

So, why not, I asked to fit some 8's on my car. 

So out we went to do the 6 stages.  The softer rubber helped put in some very useful speed in the first 3.  The bet was working.  The idea was to hit hard on the first 3, climb up the leaderboard, hope that others would give up trying for the second half. 

Sorry I forgot to mention the little detail, about others giving up, which was crucial because after the first half my tires were already almost gone.  I was not going to be able to keep up the speed to the end.  Cruising on the last stages was a must.  Luckily, the guys with whom I was in competition did not know that (especially Juuso Pykälistö)!  They could have had me in the last stages.  As far as we knew they were on 9's. 

Funny thing was that in the middle of the loop, we found ourselves in this little village, just before a regroup, we were swapping tires front to rear and rotating our spare when I had a word with Duval's co-driver who said: " have 8's!!! Are you crazy..." I thought perhaps quoting Ford's tire guy as a response to him would not have been clever, comment.  Even funnier was, a little later before the day's 4th stage, I suddenly hear Loeb saying to me "...ils marchent bien tes 8, hein?" (they work well, your 8's, huh?).  I guess at Citroën, news travel fast.  Good thing Juuso didn't hear about that... Remember always keep your mouth shut!

After all we finished 7th, scored 2 points.  All this thanks in great part to soft rubber.  The final result looked like this:

Tough rally.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chapter 7: The dust incident

I have been asked repeatedly on to give my view of the following video, which relates an incident between myself and another driver:

This is what happened:

We start the stage "Waipu Gorge".  After some few kilometers, the engine shuts off by itself.  No way to restart.  Free rolling, I park up on the side.  We did not have radio system, so, on the phone with the engine specialist...  We determine quickly that the throttle motor has packed up. 

Gemma and I proceeded to make a bypass, disconnecting the throttle motor from the engine and connecting an emergency throttle cable instead.  We then sat back into the car and did a special procedure to re-start the car with manual throttle, no fly-by-wire system. 

Then the engine fired up, 10 minutes or something like that, after we had stopped.  I hung up the phone, looked over my shoulder, saw no-one and left. 

At some point later, maybe 4 or 5 km from the finish, the phone started ringing again.  I thought it was the engine guy wanting to know if everything was ok, thinking we might be out of the stage by now, but we were not yet.  I was just focused on getting to the end, having just lost a huge amount of time.  I was really annoyed with that throttle failure.  Such a stupid thing to break.  1.000Euro and a whole race thrown away. 

I realised my mistake after the finish.  We had held up an official Ford.  I was very sorry for them.  The other co-driver came to our car, furious, looked at our computer screen...for a strange reason, and yelled at us.  We did not know what to tell him. 

Back at service, the now "not so furious" co-driver comes back to me to apologise.  You see, he thought we had a radio.  With a radio the team can send you written messages, that appear on the screen.  So ignoring such a message would be really bad.  He thought we had a radio and when someone updated his thoughts on that, well, that changed things a little. 

I talked to the boss, and the other driver, apologised for the mistake.  Everyone understood that these things can happen, in stressful situations.  No hard feelings.  I have been in similar situations as well with opposed roles.  What can I say.  Sh*t happens. 

Not a single person from the press has ever asked me about my version of this incident.  No interview, nothing.   

Always a pleasure to serve the press.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Our TRIVIA Winner is: A5-kit !!! Congratulations. The answer was Janne Tuohino!


Did you know that sometimes we shared technicians with another driver?  Can you guess who?  Be the first to post a comment with the right answer!

Hint: He's from Finland.  Oh dear I've said too much.    

RSI: The accidents

Back in 2005 rally Mexico, I ran over a small dog as I was driving a stage, by accident.  Being an animal lover, I was rather shocked so the guys decided to put this little reminder for me in the car:

Then a bit later, during the Deutschland recce, I was accidentaly harpooned by a motorcycle.  Everybody survived, luckily.  being rather shocked by that accident, the guys decided I should also keep a little reminder in the car:

Chapter 6: Analysis, paralysis

In rally, and generally in motorsport, you are surrounded by lots of people.  There is the family, the sponsors, the team members, the technicians, tire specialists, engineers, etc.  If everything goes well, nobody breaks your balls.  If everything does not go well, for whatever reason, then out of all this bunch of people, there just has to be someone who just can't avoid trying to teach you how to drive. 

If Marcus Grönholm comes up to me, between stages, and tells me my lines were nice but I was braking a bit early in places, you can bet I'm gonna listen to him.  If a laptop engineer, on the other hand, comes up to me and says: "Antony, I was looking at your data are driving too fast into brake too brake too are too much on/off on the're steering too much...change gear earlier..." you can bet I'm going to take it a bit differently.  As I see it, everybody has his specialty.  In a team, a driver drives, it's his business.  An engineer, well, doesn't drive.

When you are having some trouble, like in the example I am about to describe, it is very important that you trust what your gut tells you.  You and your co-driver are the ones out there, driving.  If there is somebody you can turn to, it's your co-driver and no one else.  He is the only one you can trust to give you some feedback of what he/she sees you doing in the car.

Back in some rally, which I believe was New Zealand 2004, a few kilometers into some special stage the brake pedal started to become soft.  There was nothing particular about it, just that the first couple cm of pedal travel were soft...then, little by little, the pedal became softer and softer until it reached the floor.  Soon I had to pump the pedal with my left foot in every straight, just so that I could build up enough pressure in the system for braking in the next corner.  A freaking nightmare.  This was such a effort I almost collapsed at the stage finish.  Somehow, the brakes were overheating.  Luckily I had had the exact same experience with the Corolla WRC a couple years back. 

On the phone with my chief car technician:  "I am losing the brakes 8 km into the stage...It's the same like I had before with probably need to change the master cylinder...."

My Toyota had had the exact same thing in the rallye du Var, back in 2001.  We changed pads, discs, bled the brakes, again and again, till we were out of spares....without any luck.  It was only once the car got back to the workshop, when the technician took the master cylinder apart that he noticed there was some damage which prevented the piston from returning to it's original position, not letting any new fluid in the system.  I did the whole rallye du Var with this problem and there was no way this was happening again!

Of course it did not take long before the first people tried to convince me it was something else.  Changing the master cylinder, to be fair, is a pain in the arse job.  So every possibility will be explored before that one.

"We have to bleed the brakes...probably some air in the system..."


"The pads are worn...we need new pads..."


"Change his discs!"

And finally, my personal favorite:

"You are braking too much...we can see it on the data!"

I believed it.  So I went back out.  Tried to brake how they told me... A bloody joke.  Did a complete other loop without brakes.  So then I got angry, and demanded the master cylinder be changed.  My lead car technician, very good guy, decided to take it upon himself and did the job in 20 minutes, a tough job on this car. 

Problem solved.  Had my brakes back.  Thank you.

My gut was telling me all along that it wasn't me.  Fact is in today's WRC car, the brakes are very, very hard to overheat.  Our DS3000 FERODO pads were pre-heated by the factory, so unless your discs were brand new, no need to do any pre-heating at all on the road-section.  I remember stages like the Bastellica stage in Corsica, 40 km of which the 15 last were steep downhill, without even a hint of a brake problem. 

Trust your first gut feeling.  There is a saying, that I believe in, which goes like: "analysis, paralysis".

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A driver's guide on pace notes

One of the pillars of the sport, pace notes, are to a driver like the bible to a priest.  Many underestimate their importance. 
A WRC event comprises of roughly 350 km of special stages with, on average, close to 2.000 different corners, of which a large bunch are blind.  A top driver knows and will take every single one of those corners on the edge as if he had driven it a hundred times before.  The catch is he maybe hasn't done it before, or chances are he doesn't remember what's behind a given bend. 

He trusts his notes, and floors it.  If the notes are "300 crest flat, on right, for drift L6".  He will present his car on the right edge of the crest, flick the car in a drift as he comes, and be pointing the right way for that flat out bend in 6th gear.  All that without seeing it, remembering it, without lifting, without fear, and no doubts, ever.

Here are some universal things that you must think of as you make your notes:

1.  Know your car. 
You must know exactly what your rally car can do, or can't do.  It is very difficult to imagine how your car will react on the terrain, as the recce speeds are always limited to speeds varying from 60 to 90kph.  There are jumps, ditches, compressions, rocks and all sorts of things that can come into play at or over certain speeds that you can't see on recce.  So know your car and learn the ability to project yourself at speed on the stage as you recce it.  For this point alone, a pre-event test with the rally car is crucial and it is one of the main problems of privateers.  Official drivers have the advantage of systematically getting pre-event time, somewhere, on similar terrain to the upcoming rally.  The pre-event test helps, especially after a different surface event.

2. Accuracy.
A mistake in the notes, even if it doesn't throw you off the road, can have catastrophic consequences to your confidence.  In top level rallying, you need to be "balls to the wall" from 1st corner to last corner.  If a mistake in your notes makes you doubt their accuracy as you're driving, your confidence can quickly fade and so will your stage time.

3. Consistency.
Don't start improvising in the middle of a recce.  Get your system sorted out, then start recceing.  Don't start calling similar corners differently as the stage changes it's character.  Your system must be consistent and must work on any rallies of the championship.  Your confidence depends on it.

4. Focus. 
Focus on the important stuff.  The recce speed can give you a false sense to add a lot of unnecessary detail.  Remember that you will be flying through it with the rally car.

5. Mark every corner.
Don't think: "I can see it so no need to mention it".  Your co-driver needs to follow, he is not looking out like you are, he is feeling the road through his bottoms.  Oh, you need to be sure you don't get confused as well.  Your gravel crew, as well, need to follow as they work often in the dark.  Just mark the corners and avoid any possibility of confusion.  At the speeds you're going, one hesitation and you're out.

6. Get the flow.
Ok this is a difficult one but some stages have a flow in them and I found out that, with care, I could get my notes to represent this flow and keep me in it better.  Up to you to see if that's relevant for you or not.

7. Make notes with rythm.
Stages have rythms, that change all the time.  A good co-driver will "sing" the notes to you and give a feel for that rythm.  You, as a driver, will feel this rythm and react to it.  It will also prevent you from falling "asleep".  You don't want to lose your attention to the co-driver's speech.

8. Make seperate fog notes.
If you feel the need, make separate fog notes for long straights where there is a high probability of fog for the rally.  Your co-driver will read them only if foggy.  I made seperate fog notes for the Rhondda stage in 2003.  Every time there was an open, no forest stretch, instead of, for example,"1.000 meters" I marked every little thing one could spot.  It looked like this:  "100 into fence on left into 200 stick on right into 100 big bush on left....into big fence on left immediate hard braking and 150 turn short left 93...."
I was in a fight with a Swede driving a Corolla WRC that year.  We came to that stage first thing in the morning and, of course, it was foggy.  The fog notes were used and we took a bunch of time out of him in that one.  The notes definitely helped me there.

9. Take your time.
Many young drivers show up on WRC recces, see the top drivers blitz through the stages in no time, and try to keep up with them!!!  I don't know about others but as far as I am concerned the race is after the recce, not during it.  Take your time, doing the stages 20 kph faster and missing important information cause you didn't notice it won't help you.  Don't forget other drivers have probably driven those stages before. 

10. Use video.
I did not.  It was a mistake.  Video can help you correct notes you missed and visualize the stage better.

11. Make stage descriptions.
Make a stage description for every stage.  This will be read by the co-driver prior to the start and help you focus on, for example, particular dangers.

12. Pay attention to surface changes.
This will help you with managing your tires, and adjusting your driving style.  Some stages need to be driven a certain way so as not to wear your rubber out excessively.  If some sections need particular care, make note of that in your stage description.   

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Chapter 5: The year the team stood still

2005 was going to be a transition year for them, the prophet said.  Should have listened to him, and not only me. 

With a new car in gestation, new hopes, and a new big time driver in the mist for 2006, what we did not know was the extent to which this "transition" was going to be pushed to.  Fact is, apart for a new bumper, there came nothing significant into this car that I knew about.  I was present on tests in Monte Carlo, Sweden, Sardinia and Finland.  Only thing I heard of was playing around with clicks on the dampers and changing springs from 30kg/25kg front/rear bias, to 30/21 and back to 30/25.  As I saw it those tests were no development tests but just mileage for the drivers.  Oh, yeah, just to give you an example of the sort of work I saw them do, on the Swedish test, which I attended.  As the Czech driver was driving, the main thought of the laptop guy was setting up the launch control in 2nd gear or 1st gear....2nd gear.....1st gear...  And it went on for hours as I stood there.  You decide if that is relevant for winning a rally.   

Another glimpse of the standstill came in Monte Carlo.  I was better integrated in the official team, so I got to sit in for briefings and other meetings.  I received word the boss had called for a pre-event meeting in the HQ bus.  We found ourselves, drivers, co-drivers, engineers and other coordinators, up there. Different things were discussed, from radio talk procedures, parc-fermé procedures to being made aware of any new changes in rules or oranisation.  Then, it was time for the boss to speak.  He told us that, this year, he would not tolerate any engine failures (engine numbers were limited).  Ok.  So he said that if and whenever we get the red "no oil pressure" light, he would give us 10 seconds to stop and shut off the engine...  The feeling I got, from him, was that if you didn't stop in 10 seconds, not showing back into service would probably be wise!

I came bloody close to getting a taste of his wrath, in Cyprus.

We were having a good rally.  A steady drive pushed us into 5th place at the end of day 1.  Day 2 was going to be some other story cause behind us stood Toni, Francois and others I can't recall.  I was going to have to get out of my comfort zone, tread the fine line, if I wanted any chance of keeping my position.  Then came the moment, somewhere in the forest, when suddenly the spoiler sunk in the ground and dust kicked up.  Turns out I had been on full throttle and the engine sucked it all in.  Some couple hundred meters later, red light.  The boss's words were echoing in my ears... quickly, I found a place to stop and flipped the switch....Off.  Was it quick enough?  My gut thought it was.

The car was towed back to service.  There, the engine guy was already taking a peek, deep in the cylinders.  Out of the corner of my eye, a glimpse of another car engineer, with a DVD in his hand running to the bus.  Ok, not my problem.

Before I knew it, I was summoned to the bus for an improvised movie séance.  Turns out that DVD was a copy of my in-car, they were going to screen it, stop-watch in hand!!!  They wanted to see if I was going to star in tonight's barbecue.

So they started watching the in-car until the incident came up.  The boss himself, timed it, from the moment the red light showed to the moment I stopped the engine.

1, 2, 3, .........10 seconds.  On the spot.  I sunk down deep into my chair.  I was not going on the grill after all, but straight to the lobby bar.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Bang Bang

Did you know that on the Fords I drove, the better driver you were, the more aggressive response system you could have.  Some say: Bang bang, others: response or anti-lag.  Whatever they say, it's the action of dumping fuel in the exhaust manifold just in front of turbo impeller to keep the boost up.  This action happens when you lift the gas pedal.  Therefore, as soon as you come back on throttle, the turbo is already boosted and the power kicks immediately.

There are various levels of this, adjustable by the engineer.  The engine guy has to find the right amount of anti-lag for each driver.  You see, having a hell of a lot of fuel being dumped in will keep the turbo singing high....But the temperatures are also singing high.  1.000°C was the limit, I was told, and apparently it gets there quickly....  So, funnily enough, the more you are on full gas, the cooler your turbo is.... The more of a braker you are, the hotter it gets.  An engineer can therefore never give the same amount of response to a basic driver as he gives to a throttle pusher. 

So as a paradox, if you are not a fast driver, you don't get any more help from your turbo. 

Engineers liked to have turbo temps running around 800°C

We had our turbo lags adjusted for each rallies as it depended a lot on how fast the stages were.  Finland for example, demanded very aggressive response systems.

Yesterday's funny

Looks like Bosse's car...French sense of humor.  Unfortunately I wasn't there to see his face when he saw that.  My friend Fred took most of these pics I am posting. 

Today's funny

Servicing in Bulgaria:


I was asked on why I went to Ford, to make a deal, and not somebody else like Prodrive.  We did not have any contact with prodrive at all.  There was some contact with Bozian, later, and Peugeot in the end.  Jean Pierre Nicolas had found 1 rally's worth of budget for me from the German importer and was keen to help put me in a private Peugeot for 2006.  It never worked out cause I could not complete the rest of the budget, and his hands were tied.  Peugeot was interested in a German for their marketing.
Back in 2000 my father drove one last rally, Rally GB, in our Corolla WRC.  There, we met the Ford team boss and he said: "you're in the wrong car" implying that we should be in a Ford.  My dad knew him rather well from the years... It was natural to go to him for a deal in driving WRC for 2003.  I think it was a big mistake.  We should have gone to Bozian.  From there, Jean Pierre Nicolas would have been a more "sportsman" person to deal with.

Chapter 4: BOOM, there goes your rally

Remember the drivers handbook, point n°3?
"If no other way, pay for a drive in a professional team."

This point specifically requires your car to be reliable.  Obviously if the professional team you have hired supplies you with something else, think again.

Case and point: Here is my happy list of reliability issues...


Cyprus, retired:
Fuel pump failure.  I could have continued, in a "certain" way.  There will be an RSI on that one.

Deutschland, time lost:
Multiple punctures. Reason: The Baumholder high speeds and extreme compressions provoked the tires to rub against the top of the wheel arch, where there is a hook which is used for hanging the upright when servicing. Why: Because no suspension testing data from works team was communicated to our car engineer (who works for them, by the way).  Seemed at the time like they prefer to let you have your tires blow up rather than share their finds.

Catalunya, retired in last stage:
Monsoon rain, wind screen wiper motor failure.  Got a phone call from the official team boss asking me to stop for safety reasons.  French press RALLYE MAG reported me to be a coward.  Always a nice thing to read.


New Zealand, lost time:
Throttle fly-by-wire motor broke.  Engine subsequently stopped.  Took over 10 minutes to fix it. 

Turkey, lost a lot of time:
Hydraulic system failure. 

Argentina, lost a lot of time:
Hydraulic system failure.

Finland, retired:
Lower suspension arm snapped in two.  After investigation by the technicians, it was concluded I had not hit anything as there was no impact on the part.  Cause was most likely due to stress. 
Editor's note on that one: "Stress???" That's right we got some titanium suspension parts by that time, only problem was I found out later those parts had already had their fair share of kilometers...

Sardinia, lost a lot of time:
Hydraulic system failure.

Corsica, lost a lot of time:
power steering failed on road section to the first stage, and again on second loop!  I drove the complete 1st day, 200km of SS, without power steering.  Least thing the boss could offer me was a massage from team masseur.  So I got my massage.  I was fresh for day 2, but down by 20 minutes.   

Australia, retired: 
5th when turbo blew up.  The turbo was so old, the impeller broke and shot a hole through the turbo, and the bonnet.  I don't know where that impeller ended, but I wish I could have used it for somebody's behind, cause that 5th place would have been the best thing that could have happened to me.
Seriously, good thing nobody got this thing in the face...


New Zealand, lost a lot of time:
Power steering failure on the first stage.  After analysis, the technicians determined there was no impact.  The rack was new, it should not have failed. "New??" Right, it was new to my car...

Cyprus, retired:
Engine inhaled some dust and red light came on.  Nothing anyone could do.  There will be a nice little RSI about the aftermath of this event.

Finland, retired:
Throttle fly-by-wire motor failure.  Stood in the stage for minutes until I managed to limp back to service.  Retired later when I went in the ditch, trying too much.

Japan, lost time:
Front differential electronic problem.  car was snake driving on the road  Nobody believed me.  Had to actually show the official laptop guy, on his own computer, where he could see it in the data.  He looked and said: "Huh......................."
There will be a detailed account of this story I have to tell.  

Corsica, lost a lot of time:
Hydraulic failure.  No diffs and gear change.

Catalunya, lost time:
Broken anti-roll bar. 

So the list is long, but distinguished.  So how come all this stuff keeps on braking?  Here is the key to the mystery: 

Have you ever heard the term "rebuilt car"?  I am sure some have.  In lehman's terms this means the car has been rebuilt with used parts, that have been reconditionned to look like new. 

So you want to rent a rally car, for a WRC event? Good for you.  It looks nice doesn't it? Like new, right? Right!  It is like new but is probably not new, so be careful.  If you rent a WRC car it is highly likely that, except for seats and accesories, all the important (and therefore expensive) stuff is recycled.

It all starts like this:

A works car does a rally with new parts.  Upon arrival back to the workshop, they strip it, completely.  All the critical parts then go to reconditioning where people look at them for cracks etc, etc.  Then, they are cleaned.  The metal parts, like my titanium lower-arm from Finland, go into a machine which works with some sort of oil/sanding combination and washes it.  And this thing, when it comes out, looks like new!  The parts are all numbered and they keep track of the stage kilometers they run.  So they knew exactly that my lower arm, had done x amount of stage kms, so there is no way that that thing would find it's way on the world cars, ever again, or even some privileged privates.

As I see it today the system on most private deals is that a part like my throttle motor, which should normally be new for every rally as a safety precaution, is replaced only when it brakes. 

A throttle motor costs a 1.000Euros.  Who likes to throw away a race costing you 200.000Euros for saving that?  I'd rather keep my money in the bank.



Thursday, April 7, 2011

RSI: Motivation

Motivation for privateers. 

I had issues with that aspect of the sport.  Sometimes it was really difficult to keep motivated.  It is true that I often wondered: "what am I doing in this car ?" 

Back in 2005 when I was going for it, no matter how hard I sunk that throttle pedal, it seemed that there was a barrier at 1 sec/km behind the leader where going faster and staying on the road was Russian roulette.

Back in Japan 2005, Daniel Carlsson and myself were following each other on the motorway.  No traffic, boring drive back to service.  For those of you who have been to Japan then you know what I mean.  Anyway, he drives up along my car and signals me to have a drag race. 

Best idea I had heard all day. 

So, on your marks, get set, go!  we started in 2nd gear, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th.... Then in sixth he slowly but surely started to pull away.  I had heard that the Peugeot engine was the best.  I guess that was true.  So eventually we stopped our mindless, law breaking, street racing.

After seeing that, when you know that if you are up against top class drivers and you don't have at least the same stuff they have, how do you stay motivated?

I managed by convincing myself I could find something in my car setup that would help compensate at least a little bit in the corners.


Chapter 3: The Polish affair

I love Poland.  I went there once and I fell in love.  What is it about Poland? Well the first thing I liked was the people's warmth and welcoming.  I don't know if it's the whole "ex-eastern block" thing or what.  The country is pretty too, at least what I saw of it.  I went there for the 2002 Polski rally that was taking place in the south somewhere close to the border with Czech Republic.   Oh and the roads are interesting too!

When you drive them with a rally car, it's a different story.  This rally is SCARY!  And when I say scary, on a scale of 1 to 10, try 11.  And if it rains, oh my, then you better bring your diapers with you. 

To give you an idea about it, in a nutshell, the stages were covered with an old tarmac, rather worn and slippery.  They are winding, wide, fast roads, lined with trees left and right.  Sometimes you would get a chicane, to slow down the suicide a little bit, and on it went.

So we had just been to the ERC round in Bulgaria and my Corolla WRC had suffered a hydraulic pump failure.  We had some problems to fix the car in time so we made a quick, spur of the moment kinda deal, with the Jolly Club team from Czech Republic.  They were normally running a yellow 99 spec Focus for Janusz Kulig but he changed over to another team for Poland.  So we rented the Jolly Club Focus for the rally. 

Timing was really tight for Jolly Club but they managed to get the car ready just before the start.  So I quickly shook it down behind the hotel up and down some road a couple times.

Apparently, nobody but the official engineers had access to the cars electronics via special software, so the private Fords were all followed by official personel and they sent us a guy for the rally.  This Focus had a front and center active differential, which was news for me cause my Corolla just had a front active diff.

So away we went.  First stage, ok. Second stage, rain.  Here I come, tires hot, flat in 6th gear between the trees to the first chicane...  I hit the brakes, hard.  This is when my life suddenly started flashing in front of my eyes.  Gemma and I found ourselves broadside in a snap.  It happened so fast, the rear wheels locked up, as if I had just pulled the handbrake, at 180 kph.

This really scared the crap out of me.  And it happened again and again.  So I started messing with the brake balance luck.

On the phone with service...."ok, we'll look into it at service"....

Remember the drivers handbook, point n°9 ?

  "Get your manager or a close person to keep an ear open and an eye out for things."

I had my dad asking questions...Soon he came to ask questions to the official engineer, in charge of diffs and electronics. 

Turns out the guy was an electrician, who had no clue about anything regarding programming a car's diff.  I actually saw the computer screen, with zero's across the whole board!  Where pressures are expressed in bars and there should be dozens of numbers ranging from 0 to 20 bars, there was "0" across the whole thing. 


This meant that every time I hit the brakes, the diff was free (I think there was some pressure on throttle cause the problem was only on braking).  The Fords have huge discs on rear wheels, and if your center diff is free as you brake, it's a one way ticket to Disney World that you need, not a racing license.

So eventually we got things sorted, to be fair it wasn't the guy's fault, he just did what he was told.  He was actually nice and we managed to get the car under control.   I climbed back up to second position, behind Kulig. 

Then I puctured on the last stage and dropped back down to fifth. 

Overall I think this rally was an amazing experience.  But the wild brakings in the wet have scared me for life.  I was never able to fully unleash the attack again on wet tarmac.

My question is this:  if the software which controls the car electronics is secret, and can only be used by official personel, what are they trying to achieve? 

I don't know about others but as I see it,  when the guy opens the laptop for the first time and sees this car has zero pressure across the screen he should ring the bell!  "Hello, Antony! You have no map on your center diff, let's do something..."

So my first experience with the Ford was a winner.

Other question is why did we make a deal with them after that for the WRC?  I guess it's all about context.  I see it all clearly now but back then so much was going on.