The MINI Rally Car is currently being tested near Sevilla. MINI WRC Team Engineering Planning Manager Nigel Riddle explains what the final tests for the upcoming MINI WRC Team season debut are all about.
Nigel, the team has three more tests before the first event of the season. What will these tests focus on?
Nigel Riddle: “It is all about continuing to fine tune the car ahead of its first outing under race conditions at the Rally d’Italia Sardegna . When we tested the car for the first time in September, everything was new to us. During the early tests, we were basically just finding out how the car would react to all the different driving situations and how it responds to the changes made by the engineers.
The drivers and technicians must have a feel for the character of the car. Then we carry out the endurance tests, where we find out how long certain parts of the car can hold up to the respective loads and strains they will be subjected to. After that it is a matter of going back fine tuning for specific events. That is the phase we are in now.”
You mentioned the character of the car . Can you please describe it?
Riddle:” In one word – Tough! So far the MINI WRC Test Car has proven to have a very reliable and strong character that has not yet shown any difficult qualities. It has been very reliable and has done a very professional job. We had this impression right from the beginning, and it has been confirmed at all the tests so far.”
Sounds like a perfect car. Does such a thing really exist?
Riddle: “We all strive for perfection, but of course never get there. It goes without saying that the tests always throw up something surprising or something that we did not anticipate. But that is what tests are for: We are testing the car, and the car is testing us. So far we are very happy with what we have achieved. However, only the first outing of the season will really show where we are compared to the opposition.”
Now is the phase for fine tuning. What happens in this period?
Riddle: “It is all about finding the balance between reliability and speed. You can set a car up so that it runs very reliably, and you can also make a car quick. Each of these tasks is quite simple. However, the trick is combining the two. This is where you need experience, intuition and good feedback from the drivers . Every rally has different conditions, so the car must be set up differently for each rally. To fine tune and achieve exactly the correct set-up might just give you a crucial advantage.”
We are just a few weeks away from the first start of the season. Can you feel that in the team?
Riddle: “Yes, the anticipation is rising. We noticed that last December the start of the WRC season seemed a long way off. However, since the start of the year you could really feel the clock ticking and everyone going about their work with a little more purpose. That is the increasing focus on the competition, which is present in every sport and is essential in order to be successful. In the meantime, we have reached the point where everyone is itching to get started in Sardinia.”[Source: MINI Motorsport ]