A podium position on the ADAC Rally Germany was the reward for the MINI WRC Team after Dani Sordo and co-driver Carlos del Barrio produced a flawless drive in the #37 entry.
The Spaniard enjoyed an event-long battle with the Ford of Mikko Hirvonen and, after 19 stages and 359.59km of competition, finished 48.1secs clear of the multiple WRC winner. It was only eleven months ago - on 15 September 2010 - that the MINI rally car first turned a wheel in testing in Portugal and, in that time, the Prodrive-run team has competed on only three full championship events, making it to the podium on its first tarmac outing.
“I don't know where to start to thank all the people who have made this possible," team principal David Richards admitted, "If I look at the long list of everyone who has had faith in this project from the very first day we started, it's a long one, and I would like to thank everyone of them as without them none of this would be possible."
While it was the team's first appearance on the WRC podium, its performance ensured that it was awarded the Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally Award for the second time this season.
“We knew what we had to do," technical director Dave Wilcock commented, "Kris [Meeke] was up for getting in front of Petter Solberg, while Dani just had to keep his nose clean and keep the gap to Mikko Hirvonen.
"The morning stages were dry and we took a bit of a gamble. All the competitors took soft tyres, but we did a split and took the safe option for Dani and Kris went for hard. It was absolutely the right choice, as we could see after ten kilometres into the first stage the hard tyres had warmed up and I was confident we were on for our first fastest stage. Unfortunately, he picked up a puncture just before the end. Then, at the lunchtime service, the heavens opened for the afternoon stages and soft was the obvious choice for everyone. However, Dani was matching Hirvonen, and picked up the pace when he had to and drove a stunning finish."
Sordo, formerly team-mate to multiple Rally Germany winner Sebastian Loeb at Citroen, was naturally delighted to return to the podium with his new employer.
“I am really, really happy for me and the team," he confirmed, "For the first rally of the car on tarmac, this is very good. This is a surprise and the times were so close to Ford and Citroen that we have a lot of confidence for the next rally.
"The car is really good on tarmac. We have a good set-up and the suspension is perfect. I tried to push hard on the power stage and it was great to be third, but I didn't want to take any risks. Obviously, we can improve and get the car better and better, but this weekend it was okay. We shall now work a lot to try and beat Citroen as well."