The trip of Martynas Samsonas and Ervinas Snitkas to Northern Portugal, where the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX of Group N and the roads used in the World Rally Championship were waiting.
How was your weekend?
It went well enough. Ervinas and I flew to Madrid, rented a car, and drove to Vieira do Minho, near Porto. The next morning we met with the Domingos Competition team, who are our representatives in Portugal. A very warm, professional, and rally dedicated team. We adjusted the seats, belts, steering wheel. And in the afternoon we drove to test the machine. The first run surprised me with very little grip. But for half a day we worked, adjusted the suspension, played with the programs of the center diff.
The rally had two separate standings. Ours had 6 stages – 2 different stages run for 3 times each. Also, the cars here are all non-R class FIA. More specifically, the good old N groups 😊 The other group was all R5, R4, R2, and so on. And 5 stages. The reece was fun, the nature unrealistically beautiful, the stages were also from the field of fiction used in the WRC competition. The eyes were big for sure. Already after the tests, we were warned not to try to cut corners, because the stones are sharp, not everything can be seen, although we made sure of ourselves by 2 punctures during the tests. Everything is very narrow, neither to release the machine nor to hook it somewhere possible.
In the first stages we were determined to start aggressively, we did not know the level of the opponents, but the goal was to push – not to sleep. Well, the first 3 or 4 turns were unpleasantly surprising, the grip is very poor. I don’t know if the surface is dusty, sandy, or something, but I had to lean on the mountain walls a couple of times, then I was already trying to stick more to the road. The times for the first 2 stages were not bad and we thought the road would clear and we would be able to push even more. But it turns out it was the other way around, the more cars pass, the slippery. I had to calm down again and follow the road 😊 In addition, after 4 stages, we realized that we had not added water for air cooling. For the last 2 stages, we fitted tires with a larger pattern spacing. We poured water and the feeling improved, we could really push.
And we are already at the RMC headquarters in Spain, where we are preparing for the rally that will take place this Saturday – Rallye Tierras Altas de Lorca 2021. We will drive a Ford Fiesta N5 and there will be a total of 7 N5 cars in the class.
Tell us about the specifics of the Portuguese speed sections
Well, the configuration is something like as I mentioned. We have already toured a lot of rallies in different countries, but Portugal is No. 1 for me so far. Twisted, jumps, hills, uphills, downhills, narrow, etc. You can’t drive wide or cut. You need a high concentration, a good pacenotes, not to improvise, but to do everything we have written down. After the Italian rallies, where the grip only improved every time I rode the same stage, we thought it would be similar here, because the mountains and everything is quite similar, but as I mentioned, I was very surprised by the lack of grip.
What is the atmosphere and order of the rally in this country? Similar to Italy?
Well quite different than in Italy. Of course, I have said many times that it is very far from the Baltic level. But there are already a lot of English speakers here, and there was plenty of information. There were, of course, some nuances. In the south, there is a kind of relaxation 😊 But the audience itself is really a rally fanatic, and everyone jumps and waves in the stages and road sections. Fun.
The first starts of the car you were driving were with stars like J.Hanninen or X.Pons. Is the rally car just a tool for you to achieve the result or do you give it some deeper meaning?
Well, we go with cars that are given to us 😊 If we have our gearbox and shock absorbers, we can drive even with the Lada 😊 As I mentioned earlier, we visit our representatives, work together, test products, and participate in competitions. In this case, our representative has a lot of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution cars and successfully competes with them, rents. It also produces interesting prototypes. There are separate classes for each of these cars. Therefore, it is both interesting for us and our job to help the representatives, both with tests, with competitions, advertising, support.
What impression do MRF tires make?
It’s hard to say much. The point I think is that everyone rides with the same tires – MRF and Kumho. Similar tires. The price is 2 times different from Pirelli or Michelin. Not everyone can afford R5 and expensive tires. Not everyone wants to. While driving this N-Group Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, I remembered the times when there were almost 10 same-level Evolution cars in Lithuania, when we could all fight. I think the situation is similar here. There is a group of participants for whom participation is important and an expensive machine is not necessary. In that sense, it is super when there are all the FIA classes, it is super that there are lower-level classes as well.
You haven’t raced a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution car in a while. Is it easy to get back to it after the N5 and M3X technique?
Well not really hard. You adapt and drive. It would be foolish to compare machines or expect something to squeeze more than possible. The Evolution IX is a classic boat, as we call it in Lithuania 😊 The N5 is some kind of middle ground between Evolution IX and R5, maybe a little closer to R5. N5 lighter, more agile, brakes much better when with the Evolution IX you need to brake and turn from a distance 😊 And the BMW M3X is nothing to compare to. Well maybe the closest Evolution IX is the same poor braking boat, with a different, more interesting engine 😊
Say Thank you and become part of Rally Week:
Nuotraukos – Ze Miguel, Nuno Dias, Luis Filipe Ferreira, M.Samsonas