Steve English and Matt Beer, Autosport, 14th January, 2011
Prodrive boss David Richards thinks his company’s ‘no compromise’ approach with the MINI it has produced for this year’s World Rally Championship will prove extremely successful.
The company lost the Subaru works team deal following the Japanese company’s pull-out at the end of 2008 and chose to first design what Richards described as a “generic [WRC] car” and then find a suitable manufacturer with a product that fitted it, rather than seeking a new partner and then adapting one of their road car designs to WRC rules.
“When you go production car racing or rallying, you take the car, you look at the regulations and you adapt the car,” Richards explained on the main stage at AUTOSPORT International. “You inevitably go through compromises because the car is not quite right here and there.
“I said why don’t we flip the thing upside down and do it completely differently. Let’s design a car that would be the ultimate car by the regulations, then when we take the cars, every time you make a compromise you’ll know what level of compromise you’re having to make there and find ways round it.
“It’s actually proven to be a great way of producing a car. The car, the chassis, everything, it’s sensational.”
The works MINIs will be driven by ex-Citroen number two Dani Sordo and 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Kris Meeke this season. Richards expects Sordo’s experience at Citroen to be invaluable to MINI.
“He’s got immediate relevance, information and knowledge of how the World Championship-winning teams been operating for last five years,” said Richards. “He will be a great contributor to the team.”
Richards also believes Meeke will prove that he was unfairly overlooked by WRC teams in the 2000s. The former Junior WRC regular revitalised his career by taking the IRC title with Peugeot UK.
“He’s a great driver, he’s to my mind never had the opportunities he’s deserved,” said Richards. “Colin McRae was his mentor which obviously has great affection within Prodrive as well.”
[Editor’s Note: Any AROnline readers wishing to watch the video of Prodrive Chairman David Richards’ on stage interview at AUTOSPORT International can do so by clicking on the link above.]
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