It’s really hard to be surprised by anything in World Rally Championship these days. That is especially true when you take some time off, like I did for past few weeks (it was to be due to summer and vacation but it turned into doctors and vets), hoping to return to some good news and hints of brighter future for the sport. One such hint was recent announcement of Chris Atkinson’s return to World Rally Championship under Motorsport Italia Mini banner. Of course, Atkinson’s return meant came at the expense of one of the current Mini drivers, Armindo Araujo.
While the initial report from Italian team suggested Araujo’s exit was something he accepted or even initiated (it was hard to decode anything solid among all the PR crap), it seems he wasn’t really that keen to leave his spot in the team and in the series. Cue another Mini-related drama.
As Autosport reveals, Araujo was in fact put under pressure to declare himself sick and thus unable to compete in Germany, only to make room for Atkinson in the team. I’m pretty sure this is not very rare in the world of top motorsport and there are all sorts of things going on in the backgrounds, but it’s still pretty bad and just adds more bitterness to already pretty sour state of the championship.
Araujo was far from perfect driver for the team and neither him or Paulo Nobre were really a top notch WRC material, but it was not their skills that got them spots in the team, and nobody can argue with that. Is Atkinson bringing skills AND money on board and hence pushing out Araujo from the team?
Either way, team just said they could not care less about all this and about the possible legal actions taken by Araujo to defend his position. I also got an answer to my earlier question – Armindo has in fact denied team to use WRC Team Mini Portugal name for Germany. All this leads me to lose what little interest I had for this team and their constant downs and more downs, carefully wrapped PR stunts, retirements, crashes, green pigs and oh-so-immense love for the sport and so on and so on… ruining perfectly good chance of having a well built car put up a good show on the stages. To me they looked like some charity show right from the start, with funny setup and even funnier PR – let’s see if Atko can turn it around, regardless of the way his
return arrival was handled by the team.
At least they did not force Armindo to do Nelsinho Piquet and crash on testing or something similar!
Full article on Autosport.com.