Prodrive's Richard Taylor says next week's Rally of Portugal will give the Mini team a solid indication of where the John Cooper Works WRC will be on its debut in Italy later in the year.
Prodrive is in the unusual situation where customers Daniel Oliveira and Armindo Araujo will give the Countryman-based Mini rally car its competitive debut in the World Rally Championship, but their cars will be running in Super 2000 rather than World Rally Car form. The underpinnings of the two cars are largely identical, with the aerodynamics of the WRC being the biggest difference.
"There's not such a huge difference between the two cars," said Taylor, "and Portugal will be our first representation to show what could be expected from the Mini. Of course, there's going to be a great deal of interest in what the car does next week, but it's Italy [and the factory car's debut] that we're focused on. That said, mechanically, the Super 2000 and the World Rally Car are very similar, so we will be looking for an indication of where we are [from Portugal]."
Taylor added that the WRC's pace was the most important attribute in Sardinia.
"I'll refer you to what David [Lapworth] always says in these situations: 'It's easier to make a fast car more reliable than it is to make a reliable car faster.' The pace of the car is what we're going to be looking for in Italy; we can work on the durability and build that into the car, but we want a fast car – and we think we've got one."
The Mini John Cooper Works WRC is testing in Spain again this week, with Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo driving the car for two days each. The emphasis of this test is on speed and a base event setup for Italy.
"We did the durability running last month and we were really pleased with that," added Taylor. "We're now getting very close to that base setup for the event. A lot of the development testing has been done, we're fine-tuning things now – and that includes the engine, we're very close to the final specification. And, I have to say, we're very pleased with the way everything is looking."