The eagerly-anticipated car had an initial shakedown test at the British firm’s proving ground in Warwick this week, but the forthcoming Portugal test marks the first serious running that the Mini will carry out on gravel.
Having met with Prodrive last month to discuss the project, the 42-year-old Gronholm agreed to drive the car for its initial tests before taking any long-term decisions about his future.
Since retiring at the end of 2007 after two titles with Peugeot and two seasons with Ford, Gronholm has constantly debated whether or not he should return to the sport full-time. In 2009 he drove a Subaru Impreza WRC run by Prodrive in a one-off outing on the Rally of Portugal, having come close to agreeing terms to complete a full season before Subaru unexpectedly pulled the plug on rallying at the end of 2008.
This year, he drove a privately-run Ford Focus WRC in Sweden, posting competitive times before an electrical problem dropped him down the order.
Mini will not be in a position to commit to a full programme next year and is unlikely to start its campaign until April or May at the earliest. This could appeal to Gronholm, who has previously said that he misses the driving in the World Rally Championship but not the hectic schedule of a full calendar.
The aim of the Portugal test next week is simply to put more kilometres on the car and assess basic durability, rather than looking at any specific set-up work.
'Since retiring at the end of 2007 after two titles with Peugeot and two seasons with Ford, Gronholm has constantly debated whether or not he should return to the sport full-time.'