Former IndyCar and Formula 1 racer Eliseo Salazar will face a baptism of fire when he starts next week's Rally Argentina, according to Prodrive chief Richard Taylor, but he is sure the Chilean is up to the task.
The Villa Carlos Paz-based event will be Salazar's first World Rally Championship outing in a Prodrive-run Mini John Cooper Works WRC and Taylor says the season's longest and toughest round could suit the 57-year-old veteran, given his recent experience in cross-country rallying.
"There's no doubt Rally Argentina is going to be a massively tough event," said Taylor. "But Eliseo has done Dakar a couple of times and I think that kind of experience is really going to help him on the rally.
"The conditions in Argentina, as we've seen down the years, can change quite quickly and the terrain will be extremely challenging. It's going to be a tough one, but he's shown himself to be professional enough to cope with that."
Taylor said Salazar's professional approach had impressed the team.
"He came to the last [WRC] round in Portugal to see the way the team operates and to look at the car," said Taylor. "He also did two days of testing in Portugal and, as you'd expect, he was very professional in the way he went about everything."
Taylor declined to be drawn on what kind of result the one-time IndyCar race winner might manage.
"He'll be aiming for an event with no problems and a good finish," said Taylor. "What sort of result is possible, we'll have to wait and see. It's great to have him out in a Prodrive Mini and great to work with somebody of his standing in South America."
Ahead of the event, Salazar will be driving his Mini WRC down a dried-up river bed in the centre of Santiago for a promotional event, before he crosses the border and heads down to the province of Cordoba for the fifth round of this year's WRC.
Salazar raced in F1 from 1981-'83, before switching to sports cars. He made an open-wheel comeback in IndyCars in the '90s, running for two years in CART before switching to the Indy Racing League, where he won at Las Vegas in 1997. Salazar also has competed in ALMS and Grand-Am sports car races in addition to Dakar Rally outings, but in recent years has focused on national rallying in his native Chile.