MINI announced today that it will make its comeback in the international rally circuit. Starting 2011, the brand will take the start at selected rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) while in 2012 will go on to contest the entire season. The car chosen for this job is the MINI Countryman WRC, developed by Prodrive in close cooperation with MINI.
It is powered by a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbo-charged engine from BMW Motorsport and complies with the new Super2000 regulations put in place by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), which stipulate the use of "turbo engines with 1,600 cc displacement and four-wheel drive combined with an increased emphasis on road relevant technologies".
Starting this autumn, the MINI Countryman WRC will also be available to customer teams. Apparently, the decision to return to WRC was taken due in order to continue its success story in the world of rallying. Back in 1960s, the MINI Cooper S made quite a buzz with victories at the legendary Monte Carlo Rally.
From 2011, MINI made a highly publicized announcement of its return to the World Rally Championship with Prodrive as partner. The pair had announced that they are working on a rally version of the popular MINI Countryman.
In an interview, BMW AG’s Board of Management member Ian Robertson stated that the management at MINI was “delighted” at the prospect of returning to international motorsport. It was particularly excited that MINI will be participating at the WRC, which it described as an important stage in motorsport, with Prodrive as a partner.
Robertson then added that previous successes in motorsport formed an important component of the company’s market as most of its customers were interested in motorsport events. He also stated that MINI had created an image with its successes in rally events.
With that reputation, he said that the company is confident about creating additional chapters to the rallying chapters of the company’s history. With Prodrive as a partner, MINI hopes to take advantage of its ally’s experience and expertise in rallying to achieve more successes in the tracks.
Prodrive’s David Richards also expressed excitement at partnering with MINI for its motorsport programme. He said that it is reminiscent of the time in the 1960s when a smaller MINI challenged Fords powered by V8 monster engines, and succeeded, in the 4000-kilometer Monte Carlo rally.
Richards said that Prodrive and MINI are confident that their new rally car will achieve the same success and leave the same impressions in the current generation of rally and racing enthusiasts. He even revealed that there already is a significant amount of pre-orders confirmed for the 2011 MINI rally car.