Countryman 4x4 could be the basis for a WRC contender

Mini is being linked to a return to the World Rally Championship with its upcoming 4x4.

The crossover, which is rumoured to be called the Countryman and due to go on sale next year, would be turned into a WRC contender for the 2011 season to coincide with the launch of a JCW model, according to British newspaper Motorsport News.

The Mini Countryman JCW will be powered by a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, which will fall in line with proposed powerplants for future WRC cars.

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The paper quotes a source within the WRC's organisers as saying there had been "a very positive response" to the series from Mini personnel.

Mini rallying legend Paddy Hopkirk, who won the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally in a Mini Cooper S, continues to work for BMW as an ambassador.

He told Motorsport News, “The level of engineering is amazing and very diligent – they’re a companythat doesn’t take shortcuts. Everything they do they do well. If there is aproblem they will throw more money at it until they get it right. Without the [BMW Sauber] F1 project there could be more money to do that.

“People love the Mini and actually love the new Mini as well. It would be terrific to see Mini in the WRC. I’ve got the highest respect for the company and it would be magnificent for the glory days of rallying to return and for Mini to be a part of that.

“I’m kind of an ambassador for the company already. I drive a Mini on the road and I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t believe in the product. I love the car.”

A Mini UK spokesman told Autocar, "There are no official plans at this stage. It is a story that has been doing the rounds for some time, as we will have a four-wheel-drive car for the first time, but at the moment there isn't a plan.

"If it does happen it would be late 2011 at the earliest, as JCW models traditionally follow on 12 months after the launch of the car."

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