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.
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