The countdown has started for the return of Mini on the international motorsport stage. This season, the new Mini WRC Team will compete in selected rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). The aim is to gain experience to be prepared for the complete 2012 World Championship season.
The Mini WRC has been developed by Prodrive, based on the Mini Countryman. It is equipped with a 1.6-liter turbo production engine developed by BMW Motorsport for use in series according to FIA Super2000 regulations, including the World Touring Car Championship.
As well as its works involvement with the Mini WRC Team, Prodrive is supplying customer cars to private rally teams, who will also run the car in the S2000 class of the World Rally Championship.
The Mini WRC Team will be putting its faith in Kris Meeke (UK) and his co-driver Paul Nagle (UK) who have proven their ability in impressive style, listing the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) title as just one of their achievements.
Daniel "Dani" Sordo (ES), who will compete alongside his new co-driver Carlos del Barrio (ES) in 2011. He has many years of World Championship experience. Twenty nine podium finishes from 84 starts in the WRC go to show the former Citroen works driver has what it takes to battle it out at the top.
Rallying is far from new territory for Mini. In the past, success in this popular motorsport has played a crucial role in defining the brand's image. Three victories at the Rally Monte Carlo in the 1960s made the Mini Cooper S a true legend. Mini also competed in the European Rally Championship, where it also notched up countless triumphs.
The latest developments for the Mini WRC are undergoing intensive testing. The car to be used in the 2011 World Rally Championship will be presented at the official Team Launch on 13th April 2011 at the Mini Plant Oxford.
Prodrive is an experienced motorsport operation. Founded in 1984, it has established itself as one of motorsport's leading independent teams. Currently employing about 500 staff, the company is based in Banbury (GB). Among other successes, Prodrive has to date won six World Rally Championships, five British Touring Car titles, and scored three class victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The Mini Countryman is the youngest Mini model and also the first to be equipped with an all-wheel-drive system. Therefore this model provided the logical basis for a competitive rally derivative. The flagship Mini Cooper S Countryman is powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine, supplemented by a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct fuel injection and variable valve management.
The transmission uses an Xtrac 6-speed, sequential gearbox. For its outings on the rally stages, the Mini Countryman chassis has been fitted with a Prodrive rollcage.
The Mini WRC has been developed by Prodrive to comply with the new FIA regulations. The development started back in 2009 when Prodrive assembled a team of engineers, which was given freedom to design the new rally car. The goal was to gain a precise idea of what the ideal car must look like, in accordance with the new rules.
The engineers focused on analysis for the initial months, examining more than a dozen cars from a variety of manufacturers, measuring key areas such as wheel base, center of gravity, weight, tread width, etc.
After comparing the measurements with the Countryman, it became clear this car would provide an excellent basis for a WRC car.
One of the key requirements of the development team was to keep the servicing effort required for the Mini WRC to a minimum for private teams, without causing high maintenance costs. At the same time, the performance should not be compromised. Twenty-five to 30 models will be manufactured per year - a relatively high number by motorsport standards. For this reason, Prodrive had to ensure the car could also be run easily and economically at remote locations around the world.
As a result, all four suspension uprights are interchangeable, as are the anti-roll bars. This means customer teams require relatively few spare parts in order to run their cars.
In addition, the car also offers many other innovations. These include the design of the rollcage, which makes the MINI WRC extremely safe.
"I am very proud of what our team of engineers has achieved," said David Richards. "By combining the experience of our technical director David Lapworth with the inspiration from a team of young engineers, we have been able to produce a radically new car. However, let's not underestimate the challenge that faces us as I'm sure our competitors are working equally hard on their new cars for 2011. But if you're going to be a new entrant in any championship, there's no better time to join than when there's a new set of technical regulations and a new tire supplier."
Mini WRC Technical specifications
Weight: 1200kg (FIA minimum weight)
1600cc, four-cylinder direct injection gasoline engine
Garrett turbocharger - maximum boost 2.5 bar
Permanent four-wheel drive
Gearbox: Xtrac 6-speed sequential
AP Racing sintered twin-plate clutch
Plated limited-slip (front and rear axle)
Hydraulic power assisted
Mini Countryman bodyshell with Prodrive rollcage
Prodrive/Ohlins MacPherson strut, 3-way adjustable dampers
ATS wheels, Michelin tires
Gravel: 15" diameter
Tarmac: 18" diameter
Four-piston, 300mm (front and rear axle)
Four-piston, 355mm (front and rear axle)
Castrol brake fluid (SFX)
Lubricants and coolants:
Sparco race seats and safety belts