The Prodrive WRC Team will make its debut at Rally Portugal next week running two MINI John Cooper Works WRCs for DaniSordo #37 and PatrikSandell #52.
DaniSordo’s MINI will feature more than 100 modifications compared to the car that competed at Rally Sweden. The enhancements have all been homologated under FIA regulations. The major developments are a three percent increase in power from the engine; a revised front bumper to improve cooling and the aerodynamic performance; improved Ohlins gravel dampers; and some significant weight savings primarily thanks to the use of a lithium ion battery for the first time.
The new MINI John Cooper Works rally car made its debut at Rally Portugal a year ago in Super Production specification. 2012 will be the debut of the World Rally Car on this event, which will see an extended partnership with BP.
Team principal, Dave Wilcock, believes the team should be targeting a podium finish on this rally. He said: “The newly homologated parts make a significant improvement to the car and should we run error free, I would certainly hope that Dani could be up there fighting for a podium. However, the competition does have the significant advantage of having already competed on gravel this year in Mexico, but Dani certainly knows the Portuguese event well and has achieved podium finishes here on his last three outings.”
Since Rally Sweden, DaniSordo has extensively tested the new car and will get further time in the MINI WRC in the run up to the event. Sordo said: “I am really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the MINI. We did our first test in the new car and it felt really really good. The team at Prodrive have done a great job. The new car feels like a big step forward and I could immediately feel the difference. I have been on the podium the last three times I have been at Portugal and I will be fighting hard to get MINI’s first podium on a gravel event.”
PatrikSandell is competing in the MINI WRC for the second time after his excellent debut at Rally Sweden, where he finished eighth beaten only by more experienced WRC drivers. Sandell said: “Eighth place was a great result for me in Sweden. As the rally went on I got more and more confident in the car and my speed increased. I would like to continue in Portugal where I left off in Sweden and keep improving my pace. I think we can definitely finish in a higher position than before and I will be aiming for a top five finish.”
Former Chilean Formula One driver, Eliseo Salazar, who is competing at Rally Argentina in a MINI WRC, is conducting a two day test in Portugal next week and will then be joining the team for Rally Portugal.
In addition to the two Prodrive WRC Team MINIs, Prodrive will, as normal, also be providing engineering support for the MINI WRCs of ArmindoAraujo and Paulo Nobre running with WRC Team MINI Portugal. Armindo debuted the MINI John Cooper Works rally car on his home event last year.