Mini team principal Dave Wilcock came within a place of winning the Monte Carlo Rally with Mini on his first event in his new job. He tells AUTOSPORT how it happened.
Q: What does the Monte Carlo Result mean for the future?
Dave Wilcock: We'd like to think it helps for the future. It's already announced that we will run a seven-event, two-car programme and we're working hard to make sure we have two competitive cars for those events we've agreed to enter. But obviously, we want to compete in as many events as possible on top of the seven. At the moment, it's our full intention to run Dani [Sordo] in all but New Zealand. It's hoped this event will go some way to securing further investment for the programme and some engagement from [BMW Motorsport] in Germany.
Q: There wasn't a huge amount of lead time for your Monte Carlo Rally entry, was there?
DW: Our preparation for this event was short, to say the least. Literally, days before we broke for Christmas we agreed to run two cars for Christmas. We essentially turned the programme on January 2. It was a huge challenge and the biggest challenge was getting ready for the test. With our limited funds, we had to justify a three-day test for the event; we've only got a certain amount of budget aside for testing across the whole year, so we have to work out where we apportion that - and Monte being so specific, it was a difficult one. Having said that, it's critical to understand the tyres and all the different conditions. And then there were five different tyre combinations, but then we were never going to be able to test all tyres in all conditions in the time frame. All in all, we had an excellent test and the team did an excellent job in understanding all the connotations before the event.
Q: So you were ready for the event?
DW: When we arrived at the start, we had a reasonable tyre matrix available to us. What we didn't have was an army of people in the stages checking weather and road conditions and everything else, so we relied heavily on the gravel crew.
Q: That must have made things difficult. How did it work?
DW: It worked pretty well, providing they were aligned in describing the conditions in the stages. By the time it came to making our decisions, it made it all the easier. We probably had one choice on Friday morning, which was the most critical choice to get right. We knew at the time, it was probably the stud and we had that as one of our options, but we felt we took a more middle of the road approach to try and preserve second place; we took a stud-less winter tyre in the end and Dani was really happy with that. What we have come away with is extra confidence from the drivers in our decision-making and our approach.
Q: Were you surprised with the result?
DW: We expected to be strong here and on the first stage Dani was second fastest, a second behind [Sebastien] Loeb on a 36-kilometre stage - maybe we were a little bit surprised at that. But then on the next stage Dani had a small off. He didn't lose much time, but it just dented his confidence a little bit and he backed off. Dani was pretty clever there, he backed off and drove safely and then, with making the right tyre choices, he was able to drive away from Petter [Solberg] to secure a decent gap to third. Realistically, we were not going to catch Loeb.
Q: In your first event as a team principal, you were one place away from winning the Monte Carlo Rally with Mini. How does that feel?
DW: It's a excellent feeling. What I'm really proud of is that the small team that we've got, every single one of those puts 110 per cent effort in. They go well beyond the call of duty to make sure everything is where it needs to be. They are the most conscientious bunch that I've ever worked with, and that makes my life much easier. The team is all extremely dedicated and hard-working and that makes the result even more sweet.