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The Easter break has been a handy time for the Pirtek Rally Team to re-group and look ahead to another challenging round of the NEC Australian Rally Championship, the Quit Forest Rally outside Busselton in Western Australia on 27-29 April.
The event might be some two weeks away, but with the team having to traverse the country from its Melbourne base, there is just a handful of working days to prepare the Super 2000 Ford Fiestas before the transporter hits the road.
Designed and built in just 18 weeks, the world debut of the Super 2000 version of the Ford Fiesta at the Coates Rally Queensland was considered a success, with the highlight being fifth place overall for Darren Windus / Jon Mortimer on leg #2. Michael Guest / Mark Stacey were on-course for a fourth place finish in the opening leg before a broken drive-belt hindered their challenge.
A thorough debrief since the Sunshine Coast event has focused on further improving the reliability of the Pirtek Rally Team Fiestas.
"There is a long list of things we would like to improve, but we will focus on the must-do list for WA," said Chief Engineer Glenn Rees.
"We are very pleased with our engine package, but we do need to improve some issues with the cooling system - primarily a more effective method of bleeding the radiator. We are confident that a change to our radiator set-up will greatly improve our temperature challenges.
"Likewise we have given the clutch some extra attention. These cars have a very tall first gear and that places plenty of strain on the clutch. Again some adjustments ahead of WA will rectify this issue.
"Finally, there are some very minor updates that we need to make to the front end geometry. This will alleviate a clash condition that we suffered, which ultimately resulted in a broken drivebelt.
"Importantly we understand all these issues and they can be rectified."
After completing the Rally Queensland, driver Darren Windus is in no doubt that the Pirtek Rally Team has a bright future.
"Just talking about the car has me very excited," said Windus.
"Considering we had not turned a wheel before the Thursday of the Rally Queensland, it's an awesome achievement to have the Fiesta in such a strong position already.
"It must be remembered that we decided to develop the Fiesta Super 2000 in competition, rather than away in private testing.
"By mid year that approach will start to pay off as we can then improve the speed of the Fiesta.
"At that point I can then start to fully make use of the car and think about setting fast stage times and even chase an outright result. Until then we must get as many competitive kilometres as possible on both cars."
Michael Guest is fully aware that his role is not just as a driver. He must continue to supply information to the rally engineers on all aspects of the Fiesta.
"When you are developing a car like this you must fully understand what is required to improve the package," said Guest.
"We have the technical group of the Pirtek Rally Team, but we also have engine experts from Mountune, Sadev on the transmissions, Drummond Motor Sport on the suspension and Michelin for tyres. All areas have to work cohesively to get this car to the front.
"I have to say the commitment by all these groups, plus a range of other suppliers has been outstanding. They all understand the challenge, but are fully aware that we can achieve a great deal with the Fiesta.
"Importantly we are not too far off, but our competition is not waiting for us to catch-up, they are working just as hard to maintain their position at the front."
The Pirtek Rally Team will fully evaluate the changes on a full day test near Busselton on Tuesday 24 April.
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