Northern Irish rally star Kris Meeke has given the thumbs up to the Mini Countryman World Rally car after being told to drive it to its breaking point.

Factory Mini team Prodrive was in fontjoncouse in the south of France for the car’s first durability test, with Meeke and team-mate Dani Sordo driving. The duo each completed a day and a half of running, totaling approximately 310 miles on the roughest terrain the car has been subjected to so far.

Prodrive business development director Richard Taylor said: “Prior to this weekend we didn’t manage to break anything in the car”

“Yes, there had been some Small things, but nothing that Stopped the drivers bringing the Car back to service. Last weekend Was about driving the car to break it.We’re well aware of How rough some of the drives Can be in the WRC and we need To test the car’s durability.”

Meeke added that he was impressed With the way the Mini handled in the test. “It was one of the toughest places to go in Europe for testing and was done in extreme wheathers” he said.

Taylor also confirmed that Mini has requested specific competition numbers for the two factory World Rally Cars this year. It is hoped that 37and 52can be used, in deference to Paddy Hopkirk’s 1964 Monte Carlo Rally win and Timo Makinen’s subsequent success on the same event 12 months on.

The cars will be painted in the traditional red with a white roof.

On the other hand

The new MINI John Cooper Works Super 2000 car was unveiled on the MINI stand at the Geneva motorshow today as the team confirmed that it would make its debut at Rally Italy at the beginning of May.

Rally Italy will take place on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia from 5-8 May with Britain’s Kris Meeke and Spain’s Dani Sordo debuting the MINI John Cooper Works WRC.   The MINI WRC Team will then go on to compete in five further World Rally Championship events in 2011 at Finland, Germany, France, Spain and Great Britain, before completing a full season in 2012.

While the MINI WRC Team will not compete until May, the MINI John Cooper Works Super 2000 car will make its debut at Rally Portugal at the end of March with Daniel Oliveira driving for the Brazil World Rally Team and reigning PWRC champion Armindo Araujo.

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