The Prodrive WRC Team is confident a gravel note crew and tweaks to Dani Sordo's Mini John Cooper Works WRC will be enough to allow him to fight for victory on this week's Rallye de France.
The Spaniard missed out on his and Mini's first WRC win by just six seconds in Strasbourg last year, but he is determined to find the form to fight with Citroen's local hero Sebastien Loeb in the Alsace.
Last week's World Motor Sport Council meeting ratified a decision to allow drivers of non-factory World Rally Cars to have a gravel note crew – a car passing through the stages immediately before the competition to ensure the road condition hasn't changed – which will level the playing field for Sordo, who ran without the crew last time out on Rallye Deutschland.
"In Germany we showed that Dani and the Mini has the pace to compete at the head of the field," team principal Dave Wilcock said. "Dani particularly likes the faster-flowing, high-speed stages we find here around Strasbourg and with the important benefit of now having a gravel notes crew, he will have the extra confidence to really push the car. In Germany it was often difficult for him to really commit without the updated notes."
Since Rally Germany, the team has introduced a new engine software calibration and enhanced the gear cut to improve shift speeds. Sordo says it's a significant upgrade.
"It's the first time I have driven the car with these changes, but it feels much better and stronger," he said. "I am also really pleased the FIA has agreed all WRC cars can have gravel notes. I am sure the times will be close this week, so every little bit of time we can find will help."
This week's French WRC qualifier will be the first time five of the latest-specification Prodrive-prepared 01B have competed in the same event.