Strasbourg, 30th September, 2011. The MINI WRC Team is leading Rally France-Alsace at the end of day one after Dani Sordo (ES) proved just how fast he is with his MINI John Cooper Works WRC on tarmac stages. After taking 1hour 23 minutes to complete the 148.38 kilometres over eight stages Sordo and Carlos del Barrio (ES) were a second ahead of Petter Solberg (NO) in his Citroen. It was also a good day for Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR) on their debut in this event as they were fourth overall in the number 52 MINI.
The rally has not been without its dramas as on the third stage, which at 36 kilometres is the longest on the rally, World Champion and local hero, Sebastian Loeb (FR), retired his Citroen. Also on this stage the Fords of Mikko Hirvonen (FI) and Jari-Matti Latvala (FI) also encountered problems. However, the MINIs ran like clockwork and both survived moments when hitting marker poles put there to stop drivers cutting corners that had come lose.
The story of the day was Sordo and Meeke seventh and eighth after stage one, fifth and seventh after stage two, third and fourth after stage three, and then with his second fastest stage time Sordo took the lead on the last stage of the day. Ahead of the crews on day two are another nine stages over 148.39 kilometres, but this time they will have a remote service in Colmar and only return to Strasbourg in the evening.
Dave Wilcock, Technical Director: “What a day. We came here on a high after Germany. We managed a day of testing between then and here, which was half a day with each driver, so to be here at the end of day one in first and fourth is great. This is our testing year, and if it continues this way with the rate of development then hopefully it won’t be long before the MINI gets its first win. There is still an awful long way to go on this rally, but we shall enjoy this for now as these positions far exceed our expectations. Dani is in a fantastic position and mentally is taking it all in his stride. He really knows how to pace and control himself. Kris is performing really well and is a star in the making. This is only his second WRC tarmac event and he is improving all the time.”
It is good to be leading, but to be honest I am really happy today as for the whole time we have been fighting with the leaders.
Dani Sordo: “It is good to be leading, but to be honest I am really happy today as for the whole time we have been fighting with the leaders. It is really incredible to be fighting with the Fords and Citroens. Tomorrow we shall try to do the same. It is another big day so we need to do a big push, drive flat and perhaps take some risks to keep this position. However, we have to remember that this is just day one and there are still two days of rallying to go. I enjoy these stages and the MINI has been really good to drive and reliable.”
Kris Meeke: “I think from the team’s point of view it is very, very good that Dani is leading the rally. We haven’t done much testing since Germany, but certainly the car is working very well, which has shown in our times. Dani has the experience on this rally and in the WRC, but all credit to him for leading the rally with the car in its first year, as that’s something really special. For me I have to be quite happy, although I was a bit disappointed in the last stage as I had a big spin and lost about ten to 15 seconds. To be holding my own in fourth place first time here is good. We are comfortably on the pace of Mikko Hirvonen, if not a little bit faster, but after our mistake it has now let Jari-Matti Latvala within about twenty seconds of us. ”