MINI is making a comeback on 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. This involvement is planned for several years.
The car charged with this task is the MINI Countryman WRC, which is being developed by Prodrive, in close cooperation with MINI, and is based on the production model. The powerful heart of the racing car is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder turbo-charged engine from BMW Motorsport. The car 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. The result is a significant 25 per cent reduction in overall costs. 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 success story in the world of 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. Having already demonstrated the sporty character of its models in many countries in the MINI CHALLENGE, the brand is now taking its presence in motorsport to a new level with the commitment to the WRC.
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 (FI) 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 (FR).