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.