The final round of the Australian Rally Championships 4WD National Series, Scouts Rally South Australia is upon us and Mick and Bernie are on the cusp of being crowned the 4WD National Series Winners.
Lets look back at how the year has gone so far.
The Repco Rally Team have completed yet another successful Rally Australia and have come away with not only a 2nd place podium position but have also increased their championship lead to 68 points2.
The event began well for Mick and Bernie with a solid performance in the Power Stage on the Thursday morning, however the true test would come on the Friday when teams set out to tackle the fast flowing shire roads near Macksville, 80km south of Coffs Harbour.
The first 3 stages of the morning loop were completely new stages, many likened them to the fast flowing roads that are the Nambucca stage which is run on Saturday, after the morning loop Mick and Bernie were performing well and in 3rd place overall against a strong 4WD field.
The team needed to perform well in the afternoon to keep the momentum going into a shortened Saturday program, and that they did, they improving their times considerably to the morning’s loop and ended the day in 3rd place overall with almost a minute gap to 4th position.
As mentioned the Saturday program was shortened due to the full WRC program and only one pass of the TV stage Valla would be completed.
Heat 2 saw Justin Dowel DNF from the event, this gave the team a little more breathing room in terms of the championship standings, the day was long however, with two passes of the long Nambucca stage and back to back anything could happen and the overall lead changed, Mick and Bernie put in yet another solid drive and with no car dramas to report they moved up into 2nd position going into the final day and only a minute behind leaders Marcus and Scott Walkem in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.
Going into the final day the team had a total of 5 stages to complete, with just over a minute gap to 1st anything could happen, a strong performance could see a Rally Australia win, all were it began in 2009. The team performed at its best, reduced the gap to first place and came away with a Heat win, however the championship points race was just as important so held their ground to equal last years Rally Australia result coming in 2nd place overall to the Walkem brothers who took the overall win.
We asked Mick how his week was.
Q: So another Rally Australia, another solid strong performance, and another 2nd place result, how was the weekend overall?
MP: We had a very clear “championship” focused event, we wanted to win however increasing our championship lead in the Australian 4WD Rally Series was our main priority. Apart from losing some time on Saturday morning, it all went smoothly.
Q: Dust was becoming a major issue with 4 minute gaps being applied how was the dust for you especially on stages like Newry Long? And Nambucca?
MP: We didn’t have any dust issues throughout the event to speak of.
Q: With a 2nd overall the car must have performed well, any issues to speak of?
MP: The Evo 10 was amazing, the team at RaceTorque prepared a very strong, fast and reliable car for us. We could have done 2 more days rallying without any issues.
Q: Coming in to the round we asked if you made any changes, how do you think the changes went? Improvement?
MP: The rear diff change before the event worked well, we swapped the original diff back on Saturday night as the Sunday stages were very different. We won leg 3 after the diff change was made, so we were very happy with that.
Q: With your nearest rivals both receiving DNF’s from the event your lead going in to the final round means you are on the cusp of winning the Australian 4WD Rally Series, how are you feeling about this? We know you are known as Mr Cool but there must be some excitement building at what could possibly lie ahead?
MP: It will come down to the last event to decide the winner, I’m super keen to get to SA and attack the stages. We rolled in 2013 and came home after testing with car issues last year. So this year we going for gold. I’ll be excited once the job is done.
Q: Will you be doing any private testing prior to RallySA in October?
MP: We will be focusing on SA only at this stage, the car will receive some more RaceTorque TLC. Bernie and I will be reviewing last years incar and analyse Rally Australia footage.
Now with just 1 round remaining the teams focus is on South Australia, an event where they have not had much luck in the past, however a series win has not been on the cards, only 19 points are whats needed to secure the win, time will tell.
Make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and here for all the latest news as the Repco Rally Team goes for the Win.
With Rally Australia just around the corner lets look back to the 2014 round where the RRT had arguably the best result in the Polo up until that point, but at the same time riding the up and down roller coaster that was to follow.
The 2014 event was one of both the highest of highs and lowest of lows, from the highs of coming 2nd to then being excluded all in less than 24hrs, then having their position reinstated after an appeal process, it was a difficult time for the team and in particular team principal and driver Mick.
Q: It was well publicised about what happened last year, coming 2d then excluded then an appeal process and being reinstated, what were your throughs at the time? Looking back some people might say you learn from times like these, do you agree?
A: It was a massive disappointment after last years event, I really questioned why I do this sport, in saying that the question was quickly answered with an amazing amount of support from my family, the rally community and my peers. With a lot of hard work we got the outcome that was deserved. It made me realise how complex behind the scenes is and I actually appreciate it a lot more now.
Q: Now almost 12 months on how are you feeling coming in to the event after having quite alot of success in the first two rounds and now leading the championship?
A: After re assessing where the team and championship was heading we have enjoyed the success this year. A lot comes from an attitude change and working with a class outfit like RaceTorque.
Q: Justin Dowell and Mark Pedder are arguably the two competitors the team and you are competing against, Justin in his i20 and Mark in his Peugeot, both not having much seat time in their cars how do you think you will fair against them at Rally Australia where endurance is the key?
A: We only ever focus on our outcomes as that’s all we can control. JD and mark have been competing at this level for many years and have a lot of experience, this only makes me more determined to do well.
Q: With such a long break between rounds have you done any testing? have you made any changes to the car? or have you simply put rallying to the side till the week prior?
A: We have had day day in our Subaru, as the evo is in Perth being prepared after a rough IROQ. We have also been watching last years in-car and the Jemba footage supplied by the event this year.
Q: How do you think you will fair this year in a new car and with new stages?
A: Really looking forward to getting back in the evo for rally oz, the car is such a pleasure to drive. We have made a few small set up changes after reviewing the season so far.
Q: Is there any pressure on you to perform at a higher level to try and capitalise on your lead and try and extend your lead going in to the last round?
A: We will stick to our formula that has gotten us to this point, once your start thinking about the outcomes first then it make it harder to achieve your goals, it’s a very structured process for us. Have had a few small moments thinking about it, but with Bernie Webb you can never get ahead of yourself.
Q: Have you given much thought to the fact in 2 rounds and 2 months time you could be an Australian Rally Champion?
A: We will be giving it our best shot and if or when we win, it will be a big celebration.
Rally Australia officially gets underway on Thursday the 10th September with the official ceremonial start, make sure you are following the team on facebook, twitter and instagram for all the latest updates.
ARC ECB Round 3 – International Rally of Queensland – 2015 – Gallery
The official Australian Rally Championship website recently interviewed Mick on his new found success and two from two wins in the Championship.
Having self-prepared and run his own cars previously, including the past two seasons at the wheel of a front drive Volkswagen Polo, Patton made the decision this season to have the experienced Race Torque operation take care of things both between and on rallies. And it’s a decision, he says, that’s transformed his mindset.
“I don’t even worry about things, the cars good and ready to go,” explained Patton of his fresh approach this year. “I know I have a great team behind me, a truck full of spares if required, and it means I can worry about the important stuff as a driver like getting out there and focusing on the stages.”
“It’s made a huge difference! In the past I’d probably spend the night before a rally working on the car and hoping it’s right for tomorrow. Where as now I can work with Bernie (Webb, co-driver) on the pace notes and watching incar footage of the stages ahead.”
“I just love the Evo X, and I love working with Race Torque, it’s a winning combination. It’s the best decision I ever made with my rallying!” Mick added.
You can read the rest of the article on the Australian Rally Championship Website.
Be sure to check back over the next week as the team countdowns to the International Rally of Queensland.
National Capital Rally – 2015 – gallery