Mini officially unveiled its WRC car at the Paris Motor Show on Thursday, also confirming Kris Meek as its lead driver. Prodrive's technical director David Lapworth spoke about Mini's plans for next year.
Q. Overall, how do the new cars like the Mini stack up against the current cars?
David Lapworth: They are 30 kilos lighter and about five percent down on power. They have slightly less sophisticated transmissions and a slightly higher center of gravity. It's certainly not going to be a night and day difference from the current cars.
Q. You're going to be competing against Ford and Citroen next season, but they are still engaged in a current, ongoing World Rally Championship. Does that mean you have an advantage, being able to direct all time and resources toward next season?
DL: It's going to be easier for us to focus on the development of the car in the short-term, but that's balanced by the fact that Citroen and Ford have their team and resources in place. I would say the playing field is pretty level for the manufacturers.
Q. How do you think the engine will compare with the current World Rally Cars?
DL: The only comparison I can make is a generic one with the current cars, but there's going to be less torque from this engine because we have 1.5 bar of [turbo] boost on a 1.6-liter engine; there's not going to be the same low-speed torque that we have from the current cars. Overall, the difference in the performance is not going to be stunningly different for the people watching from the outside. Inside the car, I think the drivers will have to work harder with the gears, but the cars are not going to be that much slower.
Q. How is the engine development coming along?
DL: Very well. Obviously, the engine development is part of the critical path of the whole project and, don't forget, it was only a few months ago that we got the final technical regulations nailed down. Certainly, the engine development is right on track and looking good for the homologation date.
Q. When is the car going to be homologated?
DL: We haven't decided that yet. There are still options.
Q. What's the next stage of engine development?
DL: There's nothing really special to talk about here. We have a plan for the engine, we're following that plan, everything is working as we want it to, everything is on schedule. The engine has worked very well straight away, there are no issues here at all.
Q. Who is supplying the transmission?
DL: Xtrac. We went for them because, obviously, they are one of the suppliers on the FIA's list and we have a working relationship with them. They are a firm with a well-proven track record which is able to adapt to our requirements.
Q. Was it a difficult decision?
DL: It was, really, yes. There are a number of suppliers who could do the job, but, in the end, it's our history [with Xtrac] and its proven product and track record which tipped the balance.
Q. What about the suspension?
DL: That's Ohlins. Again, we've had a good working relationship for a number of years and we are pleased to be working with them again. We definitely don't see Ohlins as a bolt- on part, we see them as a long-term partner in the project. Again, we did speak to other suppliers, but we have worked with Ohlins on other projects and they were the preferred option.
Q. Is Ohlins still the preferred option for the Group N Subaru?
DL: Yes and it has been for a while now.