BMW claims that the John Cooper Works WRC, which was developed by Prodrive and was displayed in April 2011, is the safest rally car ever. BMW believes that it stands for a significant step forward in raising the safety of world rally cars. Recently, BMW revealed details about the car’s safety features, particularly its ground-breaking roll cage design that has a unique side-impact structure.
It has innovative door beams that curve outwards, enabling them to endure higher impact forces. It also means that the deceleration of the car can be started sooner and could last longer. This began with a wide-ranging study of crash data.
Inspiration came from the strength of the MINI Countryman bodyshell. Prodrive sought to assess the performance of various roll cage joints and welds. To do this, it prepared over 50 roll cage joint samples and conducted physical tests on each one.
This led to the total redesign of several of the joints and the use of a different welding process. It also led to the use of a new grade of steel for the cage tubing. What makes its efforts even more impressive is that the car’s performance was not affected. Another safety design that the FIA wants to make mandatory in motorsport roll cages is the unique side impact configuration.
It was back in 2009 when development of the MINI WRC began. The concept version is expected to be exhibited during the Paris Motor Show. Ian Robertson, a member of the BMW AG’s Board of Management responsible for Sales and Marketing, shares that in launching the MINI WRC, the Paris Motor Show is the best setting. When the company revealed that the MINI will once again be joining the world of rally for the next year, he adds, the response was more than positive.
The company is confident considering that the MINI WRC, with its Di turbo-charged 4-cylinder 1.6-liter engine, had passed initial testing in the rally tracks at Prodrive. Robertson reveals that since the height of rallying is the FIA World Rally Championship, this makes it the best platform to show the brand’s competitive spirit. The MINI WRC’s development is on track, he continues, while the preparations for the world championship remain in full swing. In order to create this model, the company used the production model of the MINI Countryman as the basis. Rallying is nothing new for the MINI as this sporting category is the same one that shaped the brand’s image. Take the MINI Cooper S for instance, it became a real legend after many victories at the Rally Monte Carlo. The MINI has had successes as well in the European Rally Championship.
MINI Senior Vice President for Brand Management Dr. Wolfgang Armbrecht says that MINI has a long and successful heritage when it comes to rallying and the interest of many of its present generation customers in motorsport remains to be strong. WRC, he continues, has managed to deliver an amazing communication platform for the Countryman, from which the MINI WRC has been based. For the 2011 World Rally Championship, the MINI WRC will only be participating in 6 of the scheduled 13 rounds though it will contest the full race for the 2012 season. Additionally, Prodrive reveals that it plans to have customer versions available for an independent team to use in the rally.
As a company, Prodrive has a long experience when it comes to motorsport operation and this is why it was selected to be the partner in the MINI’s continued success. Founded in 1984 by David Richards, the company has managed to become one of the top independent teams in motorsport and is well-respected, as well as successful, when it comes to rallying. Based in Banbury in Great Britain, the company has more than 500 employees.
The company has had a number of successes that include five titles for the British Touring Car and six wins during the World Rally Championships. It has even obtained three class victories during the Le Mans 24 Hours in France. Richards shares that this particular project is a good opportunity for Prodrive as the MINI has become a brand that has left a more permanent impact on motorsport campaigns in the past. Prodrive, he continues, is both proud and happy to partner with MINI as it makes a return to rallying.
The goal for 2011 is to make it the preparatory year, meaning that it is during this time that the company will collect the needed experience to make sure that it is fully competitive once the next season starts, he says further. The company knows it will never underestimate this work, even the competition, as it sets it sights on getting the World Championship title again with MINI. Driving the MINI WRC from Prodrive will be Kris Meeke who hails from Dungannon.
Meeke first came to prominence after winning in 2002 the British Junior Rally Championship. After that he won a number of titles and victories. Meeke was able to establish himself in the rallying world with the help of the late Colin McRae, former rally world champion and long-term mentor. His most recent successes were recorded last year after winning the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. As the basis for the MINI WRC, the MINI Countryman was the youngest model from MINI and the first-ever to have the all-wheel-drive system fitted to it.
This is the reason why this same model was logically the basis for this competitive rally version. Powering the MINI Cooper S Countryman is the 4-cylinder 1.6-liter petrol engine which is complemented with the fully variable valve management and twin-scroll turbocharger. This allows it to have the best relationship between fuel consumption and engine power. Output is at 135 kW (184 bhp) with acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in merely 7.6 seconds.