Stunning WRC debut for long-awaited new MINI
MINI, one of the most iconic names in rallying, made a sensational return to the global stage this month with a superb top six finish in the latest round of the World Rally Championship – the Rally d’Italia Sardegna.
Finally making its much anticipated appearance with a pair of MINI John Cooper Works cars for Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke and Spain’s Dani Sordo, the Prodrive-led team starred on the gravel stages of Sardinia.
Such was the strength of feeling as to how well the squad performed on its maiden outing, the MINI WRC Team was presented with the Abu Dhabi Spirit of Rally Award to round off a highly successful, headline-grabbing debut.
Sordo, and co-driver Carlos del Barrio, were consistently strong throughout the rally and enjoyed a largely problem-free outing to finish a superb sixth, only 45 seconds adrift of Mads Ostberg’s Stobart Ford Focus.
For Meeke, and co-driver Paul Nagle, outstanding promise early on was halted due to an issue with their car’s fly-by-wire throttle. Leading to an unfortunate excursion on the third stage, while running an outstanding fourth at the time, the decision was taken to sit-out the remainder of the rally as the problem couldn’t be fully resolved on event at the beginning of day two.
Prodrive chairman and MINI WRC Team principal Dave Richards has spoken of his delight at the way the new team performed on its WRC debut and is confident of continued progress when the Banbury-based squad next appears in the championship in late July on Rally Finland – the second of six planned outings in WRC this year ahead of a full assault in 2012.
He said: “I think we have shown the performance of the car, we have proved what we can do and I think it has set the mark and set the standard. All signs are really encouraging and we have no real reliability problems at all that we are concerned about. We have to take a lot of positives from the event."