Mini WRC driver Kris Meeke has been busy testing on asphalt in preparation for the car's World Rally Championship debut on the surface on Rally Deutschland in August.
AUTOSPORT sat down for a chat with the former Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion to see what the team has learned from testing.
AUTOSPORT: Where was the test?
Kris Meeke: Close to Sanremo. We did two days on three different roads, it was really good - we had a bit of everything in there, some smooth and abrasive asphalt; wide and fast roads and some really tight and twisty.
AS: Why was this the first significant asphalt test?
KM: The team has focused on the gravel set-up of the car before now. That was understandable because of the first event being in Sardinia, but three of the next four rallies we're doing will be on asphalt, which is why we're working on this side of things now.
AS: In Italy you were having some trouble with the throttle. Is that fixed now?
KM: Absolutely. The new part is totally tried and tested; the issues we had in Sardinia have been put to bed. It's great the way the team worked so quickly to get those things sorted out. I have no concerns about that at all now. Fixing that problem has helped the car as well.
AS: How do you mean?
KM: The changes to the throttle motor have made the car more driveable. Ultimately, what you want is the car to respond precisely to your input on the throttle and it feels like we're getting more of that now. What happened in Sardinia was pretty extreme and we're not about to see that happen again.
AS: What did you work on during the test?
KM: We were exploring the car. We took the car all the way in one direction with the set-up for the suspension, then we changed it and came back to see how the car would react. Or, if we did this to the car then what would happen; if we changed the roll-bar settings what would it do here, things like that. I really enjoyed it.
AS: You certainly turned some heads on the first morning in Italy. Will you do the same in Germany when the car runs on an asphalt World Rally Championship event for the first time?
KM: The chassis feels very, very good. The car is strong and we've had two very good days of testing, but I would say the same as I said before Sardinia: We've got to wait and see. There's nowhere to hide for a car on asphalt, not that this car needs anywhere to hide, but we just don't know where we are against the competition. We know what we've got from the test, but when it comes to getting from A to B across three days on full throttle, we'll just have to wait and see.
AS: Isn't Germany quite a tough place for the car's asphalt debut?
KM: It's a tough rally, but so was Sardinia. There are plenty of junctions in Germany, a lot of stop-start [areas]. You need a very strong engine to go well there, if you're down on horsepower a little bit, you'll be found out. Then again, you'll never find a driver who doesn't sit in the post-event debrief and tell the team he needs more power!
AS: Are you ready for Germany now?
KM: We're ready for the Germany test. We ran the car in the sort of configuration we would think of for Germany, so when we get to the test, we can focus on the car's set-up for the event. We did some running on abrasive roads, similar to those in Germany and we learned a lot about the car there, so the guys can go back to Prodrive and do their analysis and translate that into optimal settings for the ride height, roll bars and things like that. Everything was really positive from the test.
AS: Were there any problems in the 280 miles of testing?
KM: We had no problems at all, the car was great - I didn't want to get out of it!