MINI shows off 2011-spec Countryman S2000 WRC car at Rallye Monte Carlo

Article by Christian Andrei, on February 5, 2011

At the recent Rallye Monte Carlo Historique, MINI showed a glimpse of its 2011-spec Countryman S2000 WRC car. In this event, which began on Jan. 26, the public saw former Monte Carlo Rally winner Rauno Aaltonen drive the historic Cooper S and come to the finish line in 109th place. When this event ended, MINI brought out its official WRC lineup and showed off its 2011-spec Countryman WRC alongside its rally car in the '60s, the Cooper S.

For this photo shoot, Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke joined Aaltonen in the harbor with the new Countryman. The Countryman WRC features a revised front and rear sections but there may be aerodynamic changes that will be done in the next few months.

Further testing will be done on the car in Spain this month and it will be officially unveiled on April 13, at Cowley, Oxford. Meeke said that while competing for MINI, he and Sordo will take up “that legendary spirit.”

Meeke also described the “fundamental DNA” of this car to be “very, very good.” Likewise, Sordo displayed enthusiasm and optimism about his maiden campaign with MINI, which will start in Rally d'Italia in May.

Aaltonen also met another Monte Carlo Rally winner, Mini driver Paddy Hopkirk of Northern Ireland. Hopkirk remarked that he was delighted to see Rauno looking so well and the MINI WRC looking so good. He also expressed delight in seeing the iconic car revived.

He recalled that when they won the Monte Carlo, the victory was not just motorsport news, but it made front page news. He noted that he even received a telegram from the Beatles and the Prime Minister, adding that he was given keys to Belfast. He quipped that Meeke treated him to a ride in the MINI WRC around the Prodrive test track.

Now, both Meeke and Sordo are excited to commence their rally program. Meeke remarked that so far, everything has been going very well, adding that the basic DNA of the MINI WRC is very good. He noted that even at the early phase of development, the MINI WRC seems to achieving all the targets outlined for the development stage.

Equally excited as Meeke is Sordo, who remarked that although he has driven the MINI WRC fewer times than his partner, he has experience in driving on both tarmac and gravel. He quipped that while the feel of the MINI WRC was good, there is a need to improve in certain areas, which is typical for new cars. He also noted that even if the MINI WRC is new to rallying, Prodrive already has experience and reaped achievements in the sport.

Derived from the MINI Countryman, the MINI WRC is powered by a 1.6-liter turbo engine that also powers a number of MINI production models. This engine was developed by BMW Motorsport for series running to the FIA Series 2000 Regulations, which means it could be used in the FIA World Touring Car Championship. Meanwhile, the MINI WRC was developed by Prodrive, a United Kingdom-based company that boasts of six World Rally Championship titles to its wings.

Press Release

MINI returns to Monte Carlo with old and new models.

MINI is back in Monte Carlo and this time it is the iconic version that won the famous rally in the sixties meeting up with the latest MINI WRC that sees the brand back on the world rally stage. Rauno Aaltonen (FI) was driving the 1960s version when he was greeted at the end of the Rallye Monte Carlo Historique in the early hours of the 2nd February by Kris Meeke (GB) and Dani Sordo (ES), the drivers who will revive the brand’s rallying tradition this year.

For Meeke and Sordo this is a stop on what is a busy schedule leading up to the first appearance of the MINI WRC on selected FIA World Rally Championship events in 2011, prior to a full assault on the championship in 2012. However, before that they will be heading from Monaco to Spain to put their brand new test car through its paces. Then on the 13th April comes the official launch of the MINI WRC Team at the plant in Cowley, Oxford (GB) where MINI models are produced.

Aaltonen, who won the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally in a works Mini, covered 4,101 kilometres on the rally that took him and his co-driver, Helmut Artacker, from the start in Marrakech on the 26th January to the principality’s harbour for the finish in the early hours of the 2nd February. His comments on the event were: “It has taken us a long time to get here and it was a good trip. In the old days a Mini in rallying form was rather uncomfortable, but in this Mini we had modern shock absorbers and it was so comfortable that after over 4,000 kilometres I am not tired at all. There was snow in places, but we were not told about this so we did not have the appropriate tyres and so lost over a hundred places. It was really busy on this last leg, we were really fighting hard and it was a great atmosphere.”

Also in Monte Carlo to greet Aaltonen was another famous Mini driver, Paddy Hopkirk from Northern Ireland, who won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964. Remembering that time he said: “It is very interesting to be here and I was delighted to see Rauno looking so well and the car looking so good. It is just great to see it all being revived. When we won it was not just motorsport news, but front page news and I even got a telegram from the Beatles and the Prime Minister and I was given the keys to Belfast. I do admire the talents of these guys. Kris took me around the Prodrive test track in the MINI WRC and it was absolutely fantastic.”

Meeke and Sordo are both keen to start their rally programme. “It is great for Dani and me to be competing for MINI and taking up that legendary spirit . Everything is going extremely well and I think the fundamental DNA of the car is very, very good. At this early stage of the development everyone is really excited as it seems to be hitting all the targets that were set out in the development phase, ” said Meeke.

Sordo was also relishing the task ahead of him: “I have driven the car less than Kris but I have been on both tarmac and gravel. Honestly the feel of the car was really good. We still need to improve in certain areas, but this is normal because the car is new. Our MINI is new to rallying but in Prodrive we have a lot of experience and they have achieved many things in the sport. Kris and I will try to do the best we can. At the moment the car is really good and getting better and better.”

The MINI WRC is based on the MINI Countryman and is powered by a 1.6-litre turbo engine derived from the MINI production models that has been developed by BMW Motorsport for use in series running to the FIA Series2000 Regulations, which also includes the FIA World Touring Car Championship. The MINI WRC has been developed by Prodrive, one of the most experienced and respected operations in rallying. This UK based company from Banbury has no less than six World Rally Championship titles to its name.

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