The Russian pilot didn't manage to finish in the top five in the Rally Spain due to the mistake on the super special stage.
Nikolay Gryazin and Yaroslav Fedorov's WRC 2 program ended at the Spanish round of the championship. Our crew expected the only race with a mixed surface in the schedule of the championship with great interest – its first day is on gravel, and the other two are on asphalt. Our pilots met with such conditions for the first time.
Nikolay and Yaroslav had no tournament tasks before the start of the final stage. The Rally Spain was the last start in WRC 2 for the Russian crew, and it was evident that the rivals, fighting for the title, would go for points to the Australian round.
The gravel section caused the most fears before the start of the rally: the team simply didn't manage to carry out as many tests as they should with the new Škoda Fabia evo on this surface. The last chance to set up the car was a shakedown on Thursday, where Nikolay showed the second time among RC2 drivers. Our crew resisted the rivals exactly on gravel, showing time in the top five for three times and ending the day in the fifth position.
Unfortunately, Nikolay and Yaroslav couldn't show such a pace on the asphalt part of the rally. Despite the two-day test session carried out on this type of surface, the settings were not optimal: Nikolay had to experiment with them, looking for the best solution on Saturday.
On the second day, he showed the third result at SS10 and even managed to climb to the fourth position, but a bitter mistake and the retirement at the super special stage in Salou, at the end of Saturday, cut short everything. Having returned to the race on Sunday by Rally 2, the Russian crew finished eleventh in the WRC 2 standings.
"We planned to spend the gravel day nice and easy and save the car before the asphalt part. I like asphalt surface, and the Rally Spain resembles the Canary Islands round of the ERC, where we showed good results last time.
We thought to be behind on gravel but were impressed that, unlike the Rally Portugal, our gap with the leaders was reduced to half a second per kilometer in Spain. Shakedown helped a lot, which made it possible to find suitable settings quickly. The problems with the settings began on the tarmac, we had to change them, and we did, but not always effectively.
Despite all our problems and a stupid mistake at the beach stage in Salou, the rally left a good impression on us: this is an interesting event with a good atmosphere and a large number of fans – including ours. We were pleased with the race compatibility in particular. Everything is close by, and there is no need to go to another city to get through the starting podium, which gives the crews time for rest and preparation for special stages.
The Rally Spain completed our first season in the WRC. It was interesting and diverse, with its ups and downs. There were victories at special stages, and a podium in Corsica, and bitter retirement on the Rally Italia Sardegna, and the unexpected victory at the Rally Finland, and mistakes with settings, and much more. All this will be collected in our experience box.
At the end of the debut season, we can say that it turned out better than we expected. We planned to gain experience, and for this reason, we selected rounds with high competition among experienced and fast competitors. We knew in advance that we would lose.We are really glad that we managed to draw attention, won one WRC 2 round, and even led the championship for some time in our first year. Now we have knowledge and information that we are to analyze, but we are sure that we'll be faster next year.
Switch to the Fabia R5 evo car was another important moment in the past season. It turned out that, compared to the previous Fabia R5, this one is truly a new car. We carried out other cars tests and cooperated with new engineers and teams. We devoted a lot of time to engineering and sharing experiences, and now we plan to test other R5 cars to discover their capabilities and probably choose a car for the next season.
We would like to thank the SRT team for the past season. We wouldn't have been able to show such inspiring results without it. It's very important in this kind of sport to have a strong support area; I mean the team that will always prepare the perfect car for the rally and quickly restore it in case of malfunctions or other problems. Many thanks to our fans who followed us and came to support us at the WRC rounds – especially the Russian Rally Fans team, which number of participants grows every day.
Arriving at the WRC, we made a lot of new friends in a few months – these are our rivals in WRC 2, and FIA representatives, and staff, and many others. In February at the Rally Sweden we felt helpless like blind kittens and were afraid of everything, today we feel almost at home – and that's great. See you next year!"