After a season of 'exceeding everyone's expectations' the MINI WRC Team look to end the WRC season in a similar fashion at Wales Rally GB.
With such an iconic name returning to debut its new generation outfit through the forest stages of Wales, sense of history and occasion is leading MINI's homecoming with high expectations of a strong result.
Team principal David Richards however concedes a podium result would be a 'surprise finish' but given the performances the MINI has shown in the hands of Dani Sordo, who has already scored an impressive two podiums earlier in the season in Germany and France and Kris Meeke, who has constantly displayed the Mini's potential, nothing is impossible this weekend, especially on a rally renowned for being predictably unpredictable.
“We have already enjoyed a far better year than anyone could ever have expected but as our focus over the last few months has been on tarmac development, another podium result would be a surprise finish to a year that has far exceeded everyone's expectation," said Richards. "Yet, I'm certain that both drivers are looking forward to a strong performance on the MINI WRC Team's British debut in front of our home fans.”
Sordo enters the event with two previous podiums under his belt and remains 'happy' after finding a good balance in pre-event testing.
“I like the rally a lot even though it is really difficult," he said. "It is usually wet and so the roads are very muddy. Even though I do remember some good weather, there is still the mud. There are a lot of new stages for me so it will be difficult to get the pace notes right, but this is something I shall work on with Carlos.
"The car should be okay there. We have done some testing which has been good, so I am happy going into the event."
For team-mate Meeke, Rally GB is as close to a home event as the Irishman will get at the moment and understandably 'feels at home' after competing on these type of stages previously in his career. Meeke will hope to build on his fifth position last time out in Spain after a run of bad luck left him pointless prior to the event.
"Without a rally in Ireland, this is as near to a home event as it gets for me," he said. "I did my first ever rally in Wales and grew up doing British championships, so feel very much at home there as it is terrain I felt quite comfortable on.
"We have to keep our expectations in check, even though I am sure we will have a lot of local support. The good thing is we have a level playing field in Wales, as there are lots of new stages this year and they are even new for the championship regulars.
"The conditions should be consistent for everyone and this will allow us to assess our car on the event. I would certainly like to finish the season on a high."
by Simon Evans