MINI WRC team principal and Prodrive boss David Richards has said the outfit is taking 'nothing for granted' as its gears up for Sardinia and the debut in the World Rally Championship of the MINI John Cooper Works WRC car.

The new programme for the brand was announced last July and since then the team has covered thousands of kilometres of testing, confirming first Kris Meeke and then Dani Sordo as its two pilots.

Sardinia will mark the first of six outings in this year's WRC for MINI - ahead of a full assault in 2012 - and while the squad is confident and has been pleased with testing, Richards insists it will be 'historic' whatever the final outcome next weekend.

"The comeback of the MINI has created a real sense of anticipation within the team and yet, at the same time, an acute awareness of the enormous responsibility that rests on our shoulders," Richards said ahead of what is the fifth round in the 2011 World Rally Championship.

"We've undertaken over two years of intensive development and testing and it will be an historic moment for everyone involved when we finally put those famous numbers 37 and 52 on the doors of the cars and start competing.

"The MINI has performed better than we dared hope in testing and the S2000 car's debut in Portugal was very encouraging.

"However, we are all too aware of the challenges ahead of us and take nothing for granted. But whatever the outcome, Sardinia will be an historic event for the entire team and everyone who has supported us to get this far."

Dirk Hollweg, Head of MINI Motorsport, meanwhile concurs that Rally Italia Sardegna will be special: "This has been an enormously exciting project for MINI and a lot of hard work has been put in by everyone involved," he added.

"Since our initial announcement that MINI was returning to the world rallying stage, interest in what has been happening from both fans of our cars and the rallying community has been exceptional. It is a very important venture for the brand.

"It will be a very proud moment when the cars leave the starting ramp in Sardinia," he concluded.