Odds on a MINI upset in France?

Prodrive has declared that Dani Sordo’s non-works MINI Countryman WRC is ready to rain on what many are predicting will be Sébastien Loeb’s championship-winning parade this weekend, when the Rallye de France-Alsace effectively runs around the eight-time champion’s back garden.

Such confidence from Prodrive is based on the fact that new engine software and a faster-shifting gearbox have been added to the car… which probably won’t be featuring on the works-backed Countryman WRCs of Chris Atkinson or Paulo Nobre.

With Sordo at the wheel, the Prodrive effort does indeed look like a strong proposition. Among the Spaniard’s 32 podium finishes on the WRC is a second place finish on the event last year, while he underlined the pace of the Countryman on asphalt earlier this year by winning the Tour de Corse – albeit in S2000 trim.

A further tweak to the regs has also bouyed optimism at the Banbury squad because they will also be allowed to use a gravel note car despite its non-works status. Last time out on the Rallye Deutschland in August, Sordo felt considerably disadvantaged by the lack of information available, finishing ninth after suffering a puncture and then losing an argument with a concrete block on the famous Panzerplatte.

While Sordo bids for glory, the second Prodrive car this weekend will be pedalled by none other than former BTCC, WTCC and ice racing champion, Yvan Muller. Another native of the Alsace region, Muller has run the event twice previously and hopes for a Top 10 result in what could well be an intriguing battle between S2000 and WRC machinery away from the overall honours.

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