Prodrive has committed to an increased test programme for its new Mini Countryman for the remainder of 2010.
Technical director David Lapworth talked to AUTOSPORT.com about the running conducted so far and plans for the future.
Q. How was the first significant test of the Mini in Portugal?
David Lapworth: Good. It went very well. That was the first genuine test of the car. We'd done some systems checks in Britain the week before, but Portugal was the first real running. The test was about confirming the car had a good base platform without any engineering faults. It was about making sure the steering worked, the brakes worked - we were making sure there were no obvious shortcomings with the car; and we're happy to report there weren't any.
Q. You tested a few drivers, though...
DL: I'm not going to discuss drivers.
Q. You've run Mads Ostberg, Marcus Gronholm, Kris Meeke, Markko Martin and Ott Tanak in the car. Isn't that a bit much for a one-week test?
DL: As I said, I'm not going to discuss drivers at all. As far as we're concerned, we had three people in the car last week - and we were very pleased with the feedback from them.
Q. Would it have been better to have one driver, to give more consistent feedback?
DL: Not really, no. I can see the argument for that, but this is such an early stage for the car that it really didn't make any difference. Actually, it was really good to get the feedback from three different people. It's not like we were into a set-up or performance test.
Q. How many roads did you use?
DL: We used four different venues and they were a bit rougher than we'd expected, which was a bonus as the car ran through them with no problems at all.
Q. What's the next step?
DL: We continue testing. We've got plenty to do. So far we've run the car on one surface and four roads, so we've still got to look at mud, asphalt and slippery surfaces: snow and ice.
Q. Given that you're missing Sweden, snow and ice are not the priority?
DL: No, they're not our top priority, but we need to do it. We don't anticipate running the WRC on snow and ice, but that doesn't mean we might not have a partner who wants to do a winter rally.