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.
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 road to Rally Victoria was quite bumpy and the bumps would continue during the event testing.
Before we get to that, lets go back two weeks.
The team decided to do some pre-event testing at a local rally, The Blue Range RallySprint, the goal was to test suspension changes and a few other new parts that had been added, and generally add more seat time for Mick, little did they know that this event would lead to a chain reaction of events that would see the end of the season for the Repco Rally Team.
The damage caused at the Blue Range RallySprint was repairable, however with just a week to go before the start of Rally Victoria it was going to be tight, so much so that the team was still putting the car together at the 11th hour the night before scheduled testing in Victoria.
The team rallied together and in a short few days managed to repair the damage, replace the damaged bits and got the car and truck to Victoria just in time for testing.
Testing is an important part in the teams preparations for an event, it not only gives the team a chance to drive similar road conditions to stages of the rally, but it also gives them the opportunity to test and put any new parts through their paces before the event begins, effectively pushing parts to their limits to make sure anything that can break will do so before the event.
Rally Victoria has been a successful event for the team in the past, in 2013 the team came 4th and with the recent Rally Australia result the team were optimistic of a good result coming in to the event, “I really enjoy the roads in Victoria and we wanted to better our place from last year’s event” said Mick.
Testing began at lunch time and after 3 or 4 passes it was time to push a little more, little did Mick and Bernie know what was just around the corner, literally.
At about the half way point of the test stage there was a rocky creek, large blue stone rocks needed to be pushed aside to make way for the compacted road underfoot, unfortunately one of these rocks got lodged in between the caliper and the rim of the rear left wheel, in doing so it bounced back and fourth which eventually resulted in the entire brake disc shattering, the result; no rear brakes, as Mick and Bernie made their way through the creek bed and up the hill Mick realised something was wrong when the brake pedal went flat to the floor, the Repco Rally Team Polo headed straight for a tree at 90kmph and that was it, rally over.
The damaged caused by both the impact and the rock was to much for the team to be able to successfully repair in time for the start of competition in 2 days time, and with no testing it could be a disastrous move without knowing full well what other damage may have resulted.
The team made the heartbreaking decision to call it a day and headed home, a fortnight the team would probably like to forget.
And that brought to a close the end of the 2014 season in the Australian Rally Championship, a roller coaster season for the Repco Rally Team, stay tuned for a review of the season in the coming weeks and what is in store for the team in 2015.
As the dust settled from the most successful event for the team since joining the Australian Rally Championship and after an emotional event prior in South Australia the team celebrated as they came in 2nd place at the event that started it all.
A gruelling 3 days of competition with over 350km of competitive stages came to a close on Sunday afternoon in more ways than one, the result had just sunk in when the compulsory post event scrutineers came to the teams tent to do their mandatory checks, unbenounced to the team within minutes the celebrations would turn to heartache, the official ruling:
Car No./Driver: Car #84, Mick Paton Session: Post-event scrutiny Facts: Car #84 was checked by the scrutineers at post-event scrutiny and was found not to have an operational catalytic converter as required by Article 6.1(a) of the Group G2 Technical Regulations. Offence: Breach of NCR 183(i) – participation in a competition of an automobile found to be ineligible therefore; Decision: Car #84 is excluded from the Event.
Fortunately after an appeal process with the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS), the decision has been overturned, and the teams result stands and they have been reinstated with the second place result.
Mick had this to say: “It has been a very difficult process to go through, from the elation of finishing a very tough event in second outright, our best result in an ARC event; to the devastation of being excluded.”
“The appeal process was pretty stressful and it’s a huge relief that CAMS have made the decision to restore us in second place. There was no performance advantage gained from the converter failure, so common sense has prevailed.”
With the final Rally Australia result restored the Repco Rally Team has now moved from eighth to fifth in the Australian Rally Championship.
A positive from the event was the performance of the VW Polo. After a challenging 18 months of development, the car performed well with the service crew only required to fix a few minor issues over the gruelling three day event. “I’d like to thank the many people who helped us through the appeal process and everyone who sent us messages of support. It means a lot to have so much support,” said Patton.
The team has just completed 225 kilometres of testing over the last two weeks, things are looking good as they head toward next week’s Rally Australia, round 5 of the 2014 East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship.
We caught up with Mick after the testing, “Testing was great, did 140km of component testing ie dump pipe, throttle cable and gearbox mount. All 3 things were perfect. Found a few little issues with a power steering oil leak and some damaged bolts. The other 85km was testing with the car set up and tyres. Both went very well and gave us some real confidence in the car.” said Mick.
We also asked about his thoughts on competing at Rally Australia where all this began, “RA is just awesome, the best in the world on our door step. Cant wait”
Make sure you stay tuned to the website and facebook with daily updates from the team as they compete at Rally Australia with the worlds best.
The team made the long drive across Victoria and NSW to the Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills for the ever exciting and very fast Scouts Rally SA which was round 4 of the ARC.
The team had made few changes since Queensland and during testing on Wednesday just a few days prior to the start of the rally disaster struck, after a difficult day the team made the hard decision to withdraw from the event. With a sticking throttle caused by a leaking dump pipe the team thought it was best to be safe, fix the problem under controlled conditions as opposed to risking it happening again during the event on a live stage. The team worked hard to repair the issue, however after a short drive the issue returned. The car returned to Canberra early and the crew have already started work on fixing the issue.
Mick said “It’s a big disappointment for us, as we haven’t missed an ARC event since we started 3 years ago. Thanks to all that helped and we will be back ready for Rally Australia.”
Update: After removing the exhaust the team found the turbo flange was warped, most likely from the dump pipe cracking at the previous round in Queensland. The new turbo, dump pipe and throttle cable have been re fitted and the team is off to Wakefield Park next week for a full day of testing. The car and team will be ready to go for Rally Australia in the coming weeks.
Mick said “We cannot wait till September 8th for a run on the roads around Coffs Harbour.”
Make sure you check back here for updated information on the team from the testing session at Wakefield as well as the lead up to Rally Australia.
Australian Rally and Tarmac Rally Championship Team