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This weekend at Rally Australia, born and bred Coffs Coaster Nathan Quinn will drive a Motorsport Italia-run MINI John Cooper Works WRC sporting the latest generation 01C engine, only ever used twice before in anger on WRC events.

Quinn’s first run in his MINI was this afternoon. He managed to squeeze in a 40 kilometre test before he faces the other WRC drivers on Thursday’s Qualifying Stage. The young Aussie’s first impressions of the MINI were positive: “The test today was interesting. I drove perhaps the 40 most valuable kilometres I’ve ever done in a rally car. There aren’t any words to describe the feeling.

"It was unreal. I’ll reflect tonight and really savour the moment – it was pretty special! At the start, I was driving more aggressively, then as I got to know the MINI, I became more comfortable and in control, which meant I was able to relax more. By the end of my runs we’d found a good set-up, which was a bit more forgiving than at the start. That’s important for me on this rally – especially on Day One.”

Quinn was flanked for the first time by experienced co-driver Glenn MacNeall – who sat with Chris Atkinson in the MINI on two WRC events last season. The rapport was there from the start: “Glenn and I immediately had a good feeling and his experience was essential in helping me to decipher the car’s behaviour and how we could fine tune the set-up to suit my driving style.”

Venezuelan drier Alex Gelvez will also take to the Australian roads in a MINI for the rally. However, his MINI will be RRC specification, qualifying him for the WRC 2 category. Gelvez joined Motorsport Italia’s sister team Ralliart Italy in Finland in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X and finished third in the WRC 2 Production Cup.

Now he returns in the higher performance MINI, confidant he’s ready to make the next step, but in no hurry to push too hard: “My feeling in the MINI is good. It’s a great car and very nice to drive. However, this is my first time using an RRC car. I’m very lucky to have both Venezuela and its Ministry of Sport behind me. Their support is fantastic and they have given me the confidence and stability to be able to take my rallying journey one step at a time!”

Gelvez’s focus is on finishing the event and completing all the stages successfully as he gets a feel for his new car: “I want to use Rally Australia to learn the car a little bit and do as many kilometres as possible. I won’t push immediately, because I know the most important thing at this point is to gain experience.” Alongside Gelvez for the first time will be Spanish navigator Borja Rozada, winner of the 2012 FIA Production car World Championship for Co-drivers.

Motorsport Italia Team Manager Bruno De Pianto is delighted to have two MINIs taking to the stages this weekend at Rally Australia: “The event will be important for both our drivers this weekend. Nathan knows the stages well. Rally Australia isn’t just his home event – these are the roads he grew up driving on! Based on his performance today, I’m confident that he can aim for a Top 10 finish. Meanwhile, Alex is just starting a journey in the MINI and will focus on getting experience. The unique roads here in Coffs Harbour will provide a great learning curve for him and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.”
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