After four days of tough competition and 434.77km of treacherous special stages, WRC Team MINI Portugal’s No.1 driver Armindo Araújo – alongside co-driver Miguel Ramalho – safely brought his MINI John Cooper Works WRC to the finish of Rally de Portugal, round four of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship and Araújo’s home event.
The Portuguese driver’s adventure in Portugal started last Saturday with the WRC Fafe Rally Sprint, where – close to his hometown Santo Tirso – he wowed the cheering crowds and finished the event in fourth overall. After preparing for the main event both physically and mentally in the best way possible and with a 100km test held on the Sunday before the rally, Araújo had a sole objective in his mind, repeating the Top 10 finish he got at Guanajuato Rally Mexico last month.
Rally de Portugal got underway last Thursday with the traditional Lisbon Super Special Stages where thousands of fans applauded their own champion. However, Araújo’s hopes for glory were prematurely curtailed 1km into SS2 – the first gravel night stage of the event – when due to an incorrect pace note he slid off the road losing over five minutes before he could rejoin the road. However, the Portuguese driver wasn’t ready to give up easily. He put in a strong performance – topped by a third time overall on SS6 – despite the challenging weather conditions encountered on Day Two and with his MINI John Cooper Works WRC in good shape, he made a tremendous recovery from 32nd overall to finish the day in 11th.
However, a wrong set-up choice for Saturday’s morning loop, meant a time loss for the twice FIA Production car World Rally Champion before a broken suspension arm on SS15 forced him to retire for the day.
Focused not on sheep speed but on getting to the finish unperturbed, Araújo navigated the stages of the last day of Rally de Portugal otherwise untroubled until SS21 where he picked a puncture which cost him over 4 minutes 30 seconds. He eventually finished Rally de Portugal in 16th overall with his mind already focused on Rally Argentina, a new event for the Portuguese driver where he hopes to get his luck back and bring home a strong result.
Armindo Araújo – “It was a difficult weekend but I’m quite happy to get to the finish Rally the Portugal, my home event. I’ve still finished the rally as best Portuguese driver, of course it wasn’t the result I was hoping for but considering all that’s happened during the rally I’m quite pleased. I know that these things happen in rallying, you have to be prepared for everything and fight until the finish. I’m satisfied with the performance of my MINI, it’s a great car and I think it has a lot of potential for the future. I’m already looking forward for Rally Argentina, it will be my first time there but my objective will be once again to get as many points as possible.”
Bruno de Pianto – “It’s been a mixed event for WRC Team MINI Portugal. We were delighted to come to Portugal and to kick the week off with a fourth place in Fafe. The Portuguese fans have been fantastic and as supportive as ever. However, the changing conditions were challenging to say the least and a few problems along the way meant that we didn’t get theresult we’d hoped for. On the positive side, I’m very pleased that neither of our MINIs had any mechanical difficulties. Of course, Paulo’s retirement on the Qualifying Stage was unfortunate and Armindo’s troubles both Thursday night and Saturday afternoon meant he didn’t get the Top 10 finish we all know he’s capable of. We were happy to finish the event though, continuing Armindo’s great track record of no retirements so far this season. Now we’re heading to Argentina. It’ll be Armindo, Paulo and WRC Team MINI Portugal’s first time at Rally Argentina – and as always we’ll be looking for the best possible result.”