David Richards is adamant that in the right environment this year, Prodrive can extract the very best from Dani Sordo and develop him into a multiple World Rally Championship winner – although he advises that the Spaniard will be kept on his toes by MINI team-mate Kris Meeke.
Prodrive is the operation behind the return of MINI to the WRC in 2011, and the car will make its competitive debut at an undisclosed date later on in the campaign [see separate story – click here
]. A WRC regular since 2006, Sordo has 29 podiums to his name – all with Citroën – but no victories, with the French manufacturer seemingly unable to get the best out of him and his confidence ostensibly suffering alongside record-breaking seven-time world champion Sébastien Loeb.
Richards, however, assures that the talent is there and that all Sordo needs is the right atmosphere in which to thrive and really fulfil his potential.
“That I believe is one of the strengths at Prodrive, of actually putting drivers into an environment that they can excel in and deliver the best performance,” the Welshman told Crash.net
at the annual pre-season Autosport International show. “Dani has been in the world championship for a number of years now; he's got 29 podiums to his name, and yet hasn't been on the top step.
“He has partnered the best driver in the world, though, and I think if we take him out of that environment and we put him into a place where we can nurture him properly with the right car – and he's driven the car already and speaks glowingly of it – then I'm convinced that he can challenge for world championship wins very quickly.”
As to Meeke, meanwhile, Richards acknowledged that the Ulsterman – 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) Champion – has impeccable credentials for his big break on the world stage, and suggested that the 31-year-old can go far.
“I expect him to be the equal of Dani,” asserted the former WRC title-winning co-driver. “He might lack a little experience in the World Rally Championship, but he's got great experience himself, he's an engineer in his own right and he's been getting a lot of mileage in the car.”