Mini is returning to the international rally circuit. From 2011, the brand will compete at selected rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and will go on to contest the entire season from 2012 onwards. The involvement is planned for several years. The car to be used is the Mini Countryman WRC, which is being developed by Prodrive, in close cooperation with Mini.
The heart of the racing car is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine from BMW Motorsport. The car complies with the new FIA Super2000 regulations, which stipulate the use of 1600cc turbo engines and four-wheel drive.
The first test drive for the Mini Countryman WRC, which will also be available to customer teams, is planned for autumn 2010.
This decision sees Mini continue its role in rallying. In the 1960s, the Mini Cooper S caused a sensation with victories at the legendary Monte Carlo Rally. The company also tasted success on many occasions in the European Rally Championship.
Ian Robertson from BMW AG said: "I am delighted Mini will be represented on one of the most popular stages in international motorsport. The success enjoyed on the rally circuit has made a vital contribution to the image of the brand. Mini customers have always shown great interest in motorsport. I am convinced we will add a few more chapters to our success story in rallying. With Prodrive we have a strong and experienced partner."
"This is a very exciting new motorsport program," said Prodrive Chairman, David Richards. "During the 1960s Mini captured the imagination of the world when the tiny car took on the might of V8-powered Fords and won what was one of the toughest motorsport events, the 4000km Monte Carlo rally. I believe our new Mini will become a firm favorite of the latest generation of rally fans, just as it is adored by its millions of owners across the world. We already have a significant number of confirmed customer orders for the new Mini rally car with the first deliveries scheduled for the start of the 2011 season."
Prodrive has been working on developing the Mini Countryman WRC since early 2009. The company was formed in 1984 by Richards, who won the World Rally Championship as co-driver to Ari Vatanen three years earlier. Based in Banbury (GB), Prodrive has developed into a leading independent company in the motorsport and automobile sector under Richards' guidance, and today employs over 500 staff. Prodrive's many successes currently include six overall victories in the World Rally Championship, five titles in the British Touring Car Championship and three class victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
BMW was present when the World Rally Championship made its debut back in 1973. Achim Warmbold (DE) and Jean Todt (FR) tasted victory in their BMW 2002 at the Alpenfahrt Rally in Austria. However, Mini's tradition in this discipline stretches back even further: Pat Moss (GB) clinched the first victory with the Mini 850 at the 1959 Mini Miglia National Rally. Mini ultimately enjoyed its finest hours at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967: the Mini Cooper S celebrated three overall victories at the most iconic rallying event in the world. Paddy Hopkirk (IR, 1964), Timo Makinen (FI, 1965) and Rauno Aaltonen (FI, 1967) joined the list of winners at this prestigious event. In 1965, "Rally Professor" Aaltonen also won the European Rally Championship. Tony Ambrose (GB) and Makinen finished second and third to round off an excellent overall result for the Mini Cooper S.