The MINI WRC Team’s drivers were fighting to the very end of Wales Rally GB to give the team a great result on the last event of its first year in the World Rally Championship. Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR) finished the event in fourth, while Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) set the second fastest time in the final test of the day, the Power Stage at Monument, ending up finishing 20th overall.
That may not sound too impressive, but when you look at the 2011 FIA Drivers’ Championship Standings, we find Sordo in 8th, Meeke in 11th. Co-drivers Carlos del Barrio took 7th and Paul Nagle 15th, not too shabby out of 32 eh?
Let’s not forget Brazil’s entry this year – the Brazil World Rally Team (BWRT) ran 11 events using a Prodrive-developed Super 2000-version of MINI’s Countryman-based World Rally Car, then switching to a MINI WRC on Rally d’Italia Sardegna in May. We don’t know why BMW’s press sites have barely (if any) mention of this or other MINI/Mini rally teams and events, perhaps it was just too much news to cover in one sitting, who knows? Just to be fair, let us recognize MINI Motorsport is still covering the MINI Challenge events along with endurance, Dakar, and some other news, though I didn’t see any info on Brazil’s MINI there, so we had to go direct to the WRC site for that. Yeah okay, they did retire 5 out of the 11 events and finished half of the remaining runs without a top 10 placement, but, I do like to give props that they were driving a beautiful MINI instead of another one of those Citroen eyesores 😉
Meeke left Cardiff in the early hours of the morning 45 seconds behind the third placed Ford of Henning Solberg (NO). From the first stage of the day Meeke was determined to do everything he could to snatch a podium on his home event, and by the start of the final stage of the day the gap was down to 1.8 seconds. Unfortunately (sigh!!!!) he hit a rut, did a half spin, and that was that …
Team Principal David Richards remained optimistic for next year, and said, “This event, like so many others, has had its ups and downs. Kris I am sure will reflect on that half spin on the last stage and what might have been, but there have been so many other occasions on the event when we could have also done a little bit better or had a bit better luck. At the end of the day when I look back on this rally and think where we have come in six months – Dani and Kris have achieved five top five positions in only six events – quite honestly the team has come of age and this is only just the beginning for the MINI WRC Team.”
Head of MINI Motorsport Dirk Hollweg was also pleased by this year’s trial runs, stating, “We are overwhelmed by the success of the team, which is much better than expected. We are very happy with the performance of the whole team and the drivers and we have a great spirit. This is of great benefit to the MINI and the John Cooper Works brand. This is exactly what we wanted.”
Technical Director Dave Wilcock summed up day four’s happenings by saying, “It has been a good day. Kris had a big challenge to make up the ground between himself and Henning Solberg , with 45 seconds to find which averaged to just over half a second a kilometre. He was completely on track with that until the Power Stage when he had to find 1.8secs to match Henning’s time and take a podium..”
( yeh, and we know how that went.. but we still love Kris anyway.. )
“..Still we are very happy with fourth and Kris’ performance on the event. Dani’s very uncharacteristic mistake on Friday meant he was in the SupeRally. We wanted to build his confidence for the future in these conditions and did this, as he was setting competitive times and second on the Power Stage is something we are very pleased with. We got both cars to the finish, they are in reasonable shape, and we have learnt an awful lot. For the drivers it was difficult physically, as there were some very long road sections to contend with, but they came through it very well. It was a tough rally for the car and we are very pleased with its general reliability. This has been a testing year for us, it has been a good rally to finish on and overall we are very happy with the result as the team has worked extremely hard. Also important to what has happened this year has been our partnership with Michelin. It is a very good relationship and we work together very well. We share all our information with them in order to maximise the performance of our tyre, and the results have proven that the partnership is working very well.”
Dani Sordo (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 37) said, “I was pushing a little bit on the Power Stage but Sébastien Ogier was going really fast. I enjoyed the second run through the stages today. However, after the first day it is difficult to push when you have nothing to fight for. Despite what happened on Friday, I am happy and now I have a lot more confidence in the car, in the conditions we have had here in Wales. Although the sun was shining, today many parts on the tarmac with gravel tyres were slippery. The season has been interesting because the car has become better and better. Obviously we now need to develop it more.”
Kris Meeke (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 52) agreed, saying “All in all we had a pretty good weekend. We had a few issues during the rally, which perhaps cost us about three minutes. Still I am very disappointed with the Power Stage, as when it came to producing the goods we didn’t, made a mistake and paid the price, but that is the way it goes. Hopefully there is a bigger future for us than fighting for third overall, as in a year’s time we want to be able to fight for a win. I feel very positive about the season, as for a new car and a new team, to be in there challenging for podiums is fantastic.”
We couldn’t agree more, and hope you’ve been enjoying Miniology’s continuous coverage of MINI WRC this year.
[Source: BMW Group PressClub Sport, Wales, Wales,13th November 2011.]