Local hero Armindo Araújo was hoping for a top ten finish in Rally Portugal, but he finished fifteenth. Trouble began early for Araújo and his Mini WRC co-driver Miguel Ramalho as they went off the road on a rainy Thursday night stage. They ran well on Friday, moving up from 32nd to 11th despite treacherous conditions; the heavy rain led to cancellation of the day’s final stages.
On Saturday, Araújo’s fortunes took another turn for the worse as a broken suspension arm forced his retirement for the day. He returned Sunday under the World Rally Championship’s Rally 2 rule, which allows a car to resume competition after retiring, and finished sixteenth.
The rally ended very early for WRC Team Mini Portugal’s other car; the Mini of Paulo Nobre crashed out of the event in qualifying.
The Prodrive team was also in Portugal. While Team Mini Portugal has replaced them as the factory team, they still do the development work on the cars and enter selected events. Their two cars had problems in Portugal as well. Patrick Sandell retired after damaging his car’s suspension on Saturday, while Dani Sordo finished twelfth after experiencing electrical and exhaust problems along with a puncture. Sordo finished eleventh.
The conditions in Portugal took their toll on many of the front runners, so the Minis were in good company. Defending world champion Sébastien Loeb crashed out, and Ford’s Petter Solberg went off in the rain on Friday and could not get back on the road. He returned under Rally 2 rules, and eventually finished third.
The win on the circuit went to the Citroen of Mikko Hirvonen, but he was excluded after a post-race technical inspection. Ford’s Mads Ostberg was promoted from second to take the win.
The Minis were quick; Araújo ran third on one of Friday’s stages, and Sordo won the final rally’s final stage. The cars had been upgraded for Portugal, with a three percent power increase, a revised front bumper to improve cooling and aerodynamics, improved shocks, and weight savings from a switch to a lithium ion battery.
WRC Team Mini Portugal’s press releases say that the team is scheduled to run next at Rally Argentina in late May.—Brian S. Morgan, motorsports editor, bmwcca.orgBack to News