The rally is over, the fans are on their way home, and the next event is a few weeks away: so, what happens to the MINI WRC between WRC rounds?
When Armindo Araujo and Paulo Nobre’s work is over for the day, the majority of those in WRC Team MINI Portugal are just getting started. The MINI John Cooper Works WRC must be stripped down into individual parts, a seemingly endless stream of data from the car is to be analysed, and the MINI WRC must then be reassembled for the next event. “The goal is to improve the MINI WRC ahead of every appearance,” says Bruno di Pianto, Team Manager of WRC Team MINI Portugal. “Everyone in our team works phenomenally hard to give Armindo and Paulo the best car possible.” But what exactly happens to the MINI WRC after a rally?
At the rallies in Europe, it first takes two to four days to get the cars back to the team headquarters. In the case of the overseas rounds of the WRC, it can take as much as eight days. Time to kick back and relax? Not at all. Even during a rally, the cars gather huge amounts of data. This is then sent directly to the team engineers’ computers, where some of the data is immediately analysed on site. This allows the team to directly improve the set-up of the MINI. The overall technical analysis of each WRC race takes place once the cars have returned to headquarters.
However, the car’s electronic data is not all that interests the WRC Team MINI Portugal engineers. Conclusions regarding the performance of the MINI WRC can also be drawn from the car’s mechanics. Every part is examined carefully and the cars are reassembled for every event. “We completely strip the car down,” says Bruno. “We check the chassis, replace damaged parts and then put the car back together.” Only a few parts, like the engine and gearbox, remain untouched. The car is then put through a test roll-out, in order to ensure that it is running without any problems again. Once it has been given a new shell, the car is ready for its next outing.
The human factor always plays an important role. “The information that comes directly from the drivers is important to every team,” says Bruno di Pianto of WRC Team MINI Portugal. This feedback allows the mechanics to tighten the right screws in order to improve the car’s performance. For example, the shock absorbers, seat and functions like the electronic control of the accelerator pedal are tuned to the requirements of each driver. And just how secret is the work that MINI WRC Team Portugal performs on Armindo and Paulo’s cars? “Not at all,” says Bruno. “Fans can pop in and take a look if they like.” Only the development phase is top secret, not normal operations.
For WRC Team MINI Portugal and the Prodrive WRC Team, these normal operations continue in the last week in June, when the seventh round of the WRC takes place in New Zealand from 22nd to 24th June. The MINI WRCs for Armindo, Paulo and Dani Sordo will soon be flawless and ready for action.
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