The driver that’s emulating McRae’s handyman skills

Javier Pardo is a mechanic by trade, but even his efforts on the recent Rally Azores left onlookers impressed


When we look back at Colin McRae’s career, it’s easy to focus on the flat-out driving style. His all-or-nothing approach.

But there’s something else he was also the best at in his heyday: DIY roadside repairs. In some ways a necessity for how often he’d put the car off the road, McRae was a master of fixing battered cars between stages. Straightening out a bent arm by smashing a rock against it was probably the boldest example – but he knew how to finely tinker with his machinery just as well.

In truth, all the current crop of World Rally Championship drivers are handy with the tools too. Elfyn Evans fixed his radiator mid-stage on Rally Sweden last month. Kalle Rovanperä once replaced a broken damper with a spare steering arm secured by a ratchet strap. And there was Thierry Neuville’s tinkering between stages to alleviate a broken damper on the Monte Carlo Rally this year.

How about changing differentials on a road section, with no outside help, in the space of 20 minutes though? An impossible challenge outside of service, surely.


Not for one Javier Pardo. On last week’s Rally Azores, the front differential on his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo packed it in, leaving him with only rear-wheel drive. He slithered from side to side on the damp mud on São Miguel Island, dropping several minutes.

At one point Pardo was caught and passed by Simone Tempestini on the Sete Cidades stage, leading to a very awkward attempt to pull over that nearly sent him down the edge of a volcano.

That was the last straw. Something had to be done. If only two wheels were going to get power, it needed to be the fronts. It would still be slow but at least it would be more drivable.

Pardo had been dropping like a stone down the classification. He needed a way to stem the losses. Getting the differentials swapped around was the only way.


And somehow, he did it. He did lose almost a minute on the final stage of the day – but that was still a big improvement over the two stages that had come before.

Once you find out what he does for a living away from the stages, it all starts to make sense.

“It’s more or less easy because in my work, all day I work with trucks and heavy machinery,” Pardo explains to DirtFish. “So, it’s no problem to change a driveshaft in a car because in these cars, it’s very easy to change a lot of things.

“My family has a transportation enterprise with tractor-trailers. I work as a mechanic, so it’s no problem with this aspect of rallying. I have a lot of knowledge about mechanical parts on the cars.”

It's more or less easy because in my work, all day I work with trucks and heavy machinery Jávier Pardo

Despite his hard graft on the tools he couldn’t save his rally. He’d been fighting European Rally Championship points leader Armindo Araújo for fifth place until his front diff packed in with three stages to go. He ended up 13th.

That outcome was hard to take given Pardo, the reigning ERC Open champion, has established himself as a dark horse for the title. Especially impressive was his second-day performance on the season-opening Rally Serras de Fafe, where he won three stages despite a faulty intercom.

“It was a difficult day in Fafe with this problem with the intercom,” says Pardo. “But obviously I studied the stages of Fafe a lot and I know very well the stages. But the biggest problem is concentration.

“The issue with the intercom is very difficult to manage in those moments because you lose all your focus. It’s very difficult to hear with so many strange noises in the intercom and I can’t focus on the stage.

“It’s difficult but of course, I pushed a lot on the second day of Fafe, did a good job and got a good position.”


Fourth place was a good start to his year and with both Nil Solans and Georg Linnamäe absent, plus Araújo unlikely to contest the full ERC season, he was in a good position to build the foundations of a title challenge. Whenever conditions have been dry and consistent, he’s been right at the sharp end – it’s the extreme wet conditions that have caught him out so far.

But that dream of joining compatriot Efrén Llarena in the title hunt is fading away. Not only because of the bad result in the Azores but also his plans for the season being derailed before they’d begun.

Last year Pardo had won his second-tier ERC title on Hankook tires and had planned to continue that relationship into 2022. But with the arrival of a new championship promoter came a rule change – only ‘approved’ manufacturers could supply tires to ERC competitors registered for points.

Hankook is not one of the three tire makers on the list. His budget suddenly has a big hole in it.

Without support from his long-term tire partner, Pardo is running into difficulty in realizing his full-season ambition.


“With the new rules of the championship, with the tires, it’s very difficult for us because Hankook cannot pay this amount,” says Pardo. “One possibility for this year is, OK, don’t pay this and you can drive with these tires in the championship – but you won’t score points in the final standings.

“But in Fafe, on Friday morning, the scrutineers told us that we couldn’t run with these tires. It’s impossible to drive with these tires because FIA would penalize us financially and also take away our license for a year.

“OK, no problem, I don’t drive with Hankook but of course my target is not easy in this moment, and I can’t say how many rallies I can do this year. I don’t know.”

It’s worth pointing out that Pardo was ERC registered from the outset yet turned up expecting to run Hankooks regardless – so that plan was bound to fail come Friday morning in Fafe. But he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place now regardless.

Either way, it looks like Pardo’s potential to enter the ERC championship fight this year might not materialize into a meaningful title bid.

If he could fix budgets as quickly as his Fabia, he’d be up and running in no time at all, that much is certain.