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.