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.
In what can only be described a fairytale start for the team, Mick and Bernie have successfully won their home rally, the National Capital Rally and thus capitalising on their win in Western Australia, QUIT Forest Rally last month.
A frosty Canberra morning greeted the team early on Saturday, however Mick and Bernie turned up the Heat quite quickly, claiming 4 of the 6 stages to hold a 39sec lead of Justin Dowel in his Hyundai i20 at the end of Heat 1.
RRT: What were the stages like during Heat 1, you took 4 from 6 stages, confidence must have been super high, do you like the canberra roads in particular the Kowen Forest?
Mick: Day 1 suited the car more, stages a Bit more open, I tend not to favour some roads over others as I generally like all roads I drive on.
RRT: Did you struggle with the car during Heat 2? you only took 2 stage wins, were you holding on to your lead and driving cautiously?
Mick: Heat 2 started slowly, I got up to speed after the morning stages. On SS11 in the afternoon we hit a large rock which slowed us down and we lost about 10 secs, my confidence was dented but I was still determined to gain back my rhythm, I managed to make a small change for the last stage and brought the car home without any incidence and held on to my lead.
RRT: 2 from 2, I know your confidence was high after winning WA, now to Win your home event with friends, family and colleagues there to cheer you on how does it feel? Teams were falling by the wayside, you won stages and showed real pace, what do you think is the contributing factor to your new found success?
Mick: It’s an amazing feeling to win a Rally Round first and foremost, but to win in front of people I live with or see and speak to daily, it is hard to put into words, over the moon perhaps.
Having a strong car and team behind me lets me concentrate on just driving, I rarely get much sleep during an event, I even managed about 7 hours sleep a night during the event. I’m a lot more relaxed and can just focus on the roads and notes.
RRT: The new car is clearly performing at its best, a small issue during the Power Stage but that’s it. Going in to the 3rd round is there anything you can improve on? we definitely saw the relaxed mick during the event, that is a definite catalyst to your success at the moment.
Mick: I’m not sure I can be any more relaxed at this stage, as far as improving, I need to commit more to the notes and visualize the road more, I tend to wait and see what’s over a crest or a brow then accelerate, I need to paint the picture with notes and drive it.
RRT: Now that you have two wins under your belt is it time to start pushing that little bit more to try and capitalise on your lead and make a run for the championship?
Mick: I’m not going to change a winning formula at this stage, I will stick to what I know, and what has always worked,
Mick and Bernie won 5 of the 12 stages on offer and came 2nd on 3 of the other 7 by less than 2 seconds, come the rally end the team held on to a 1min 13sec lead to win the National Capital Rally.
Round 3 of the Championship moves to the Sunshine Coast for the International Rally of Queensland, stay tuned to the RRT Website for a mid year review and image gallery from the National Capital Rally.
A memorable year for the Repco Rally Team, in many ways amazing, in many ways not so, with a few rounds everyone would care to forget, needless to say its all character building, and as they say ‘Thats Rallying’.
A year in which the team would see its greatest success and that would see the Highest of Highs and also the lowest of lows, a year where a small Rally Team from Canberra would band together to compete at the highest level of rallying in Australia in a professional and enthusiastic manner no matter the outcome, a team that would work tirelessly to present and a deliver a car that would not only present well but perform at its best.
Coming in to the 2014 season Mick had high expectations, the team had worked together in 2013 to develop the VW Polo, a year that also had its ups and downs but overall a year which would give the team a good stepping stone to work off to leap into 2014. “Coming in to the early stages of 2014 our expectations were to essentially see what the new engine package would achieve with the start of our development process, we wanted to take good results from each event, finish every stage, and bring the car home in one piece bagging as many championship points along the way” said Mick
The first round of the ARC was held in Canberra, the National Capital Rally, the teams home event, there were new teams in the mix now so the competition around the team was very even.
The team had spent considerable time in the off season developing the new engine package for the VW Polo, however due to time constraints the new engine had not been tested, this however was not going to be the test for the weekend. Canberra is known for its varying conditions resulting from the ever changing weather which have been known to cause chaos, the 2014 National Capital Rally was no different.
Heat 1 was wet, it did not stop all day and on stage 2 Mick had an unfortunate encounter with a post which resulted in damage to the rear of the car and in effect having to drop 2 stages to fix the damage.
Heat 2 was much better, not only had the weather settled, the roads were more consistent and differ greatly to heat 1, Mick and Bernie were able to maintain the flow of the car, it was just a matter of finishing the event and gaining as many points for the season.
Mick commented on the team’s performance after the event, “The car is handling extremely well, the best it ever has, after a full season last year we have finally come to understand the car and are able to make changes on the fly at various events, this brings confidence to both Bernie and I, we made minimal changes to the car over the weekend, we tweaked dampener adjustments as opposed to previous events where we were always trying to get close to the sweet spots, we feel we have found it now, so its a real positive for us as a team moving forward.” said Mick.
The final results saw the team finish in 5th position outright, bagging a healthy 42 points going into Round 2 the QUIT Forest Rally
Coming in to the second round and arguably the favourite for all teams the QUIT Forest rally in Western Australia would see the Repco Rally Team Polo with improvements from canberra with re the restrictor so the top speed limitations where no more.
After a successful start at the Trade Hire Busselton Super Special Stage at the opening of the rally on the Friday night, Mick and Bernie were excited going in to the forest stages of Heat 1, however disaster struck, on the second stage of the day (Ferndale) an apparent electrical fire caused major damage resulting in the teams forced withdrawal from the remainder of the event.
The result was a major disappointment for the team, however they did manage to get out on stage and watch their rivals tear through the forests, Mick even managed to grab our team photographers camera, lets just say we don’t think Michael has much to worry about :).
The team had a long break before the next round of the championship where they headed to Queensland for the International Rally of Queensland.
After the fire in the last round and the 2nd fire in as many years the team needed to dig deep for the 3rd round and the International Rally of Queensland (IROQ).
“The fire in WA really put us behind where we wanted to be, to lose an entire weekend was so frustrating. So coming into Queensland we really wanted to pick up where we left off.” said Mick
The team enjoyed their first relatively disaster free event, an issue late into the first day was the only setback. The turbo dump pipe cracked blowing exhaust heat on to the firewall, this melted paint and resulted in smoke in the cabin, after the disaster that was Western Australia the team took no chances and skipped the last two stages of the day to source the problem and fix it, the heat also managed to melt a gearbox mount, both easy fixes during service and the team was back on the road for Heat 2.
The team however identified a key area in which their VW Polo was struggling, the gearbox. While it is the same six-speed sequential gearbox the car was fitted with last season, the change from the two-litre, normally aspirated engine to this year’s turbo-charged engine has significantly affected the gear ratios.
“We always knew that was something we needed to change, but in order of priorities we always knew that there were other areas of the car that needed to be worked on first.” Mick said.
At the Power Stage, which featured an incredibly long straight, the TV crew reported that Scott Pedder clocked the top speed at approximately 185km/h, in comparison the Repco Rally Team Polo reached a top speed all weekend of 162km/h.
“We knew we had some work to do on our gear ratios.” Mick said. “Unfortunately with what we currently have we’re limited to a top speed of about 160 kilometres an hour.”
“It’s all about the power and the torque of the turbo engine compared to the old engine last year. I think last year we had good top speed, but now that the engine is producing power in different places effectively we’ve lost 1st gear, in fact we start most stages now in 2nd gear!”
Heading to the next Round in South Australia, an event renowned for its super fast shire roads, the team is determined to overcome the gearbox hurdle to unleash some top end speed from his VW.
“With the help of Neal Bates Automotive, they are helping us work out the internals of the gearbox and what ratios we will put into it which will help us get that top end speed.”
“The aim will be to have that sorted by the time we get to those fast roads in South Australia but it will all depend on just how quickly parts can be sourced out of Sadev in France. But that’s definitely the plan!”
The team finished round 3 in 5th overall, but more importantly the car came back to their Canberra HQ in one piece.
Stay tuned for the rest of the season in review next week.
The Australian based online Rally Magazine RallySportMag has interviewed Mick about the lessons he is learning competing in the ARC.
Below is a small excerpt from the article.
Patton, based out of Canberra, acquired his South African built Volkswagen at the start of the 2013 season and campaigned it last year fitted with a high-revving normally-aspirated engine.
Unfortunately he found the going tough, with engine problems sidelining him at different stages during the year as he battled to extract the right mix of performance and reliability to suit the local conditions.
At the end of the season Patton petitioned the Australian Rally Commission (ARCom) to permit a change of engine to a factory standard 1.8 litre turbo-charged unit as fitted to the Polo GTi delivered in Australia. ARCom agreed on the condition a turbo restrictor was installed similar to the requirements imposed on the FIA-spec R3T cars.
Going in to the National Capital Rally which was the first round of the Australian Rally Championship for 2014, the team had spent considerable time in the off season developing a new engine package for the VW Polo, however due to time constraints the new engine had not been tested, this however was not going to be the test for the weekend, Canberra is known for its varying conditions resulting from the ever changing weather which have been known to cause chaos, the 2014 National Capital Rally was no different.