Firm will return to top-line rallying next year with its all-wheel drive Countryman

Mini has confirmed that it is returning to world championship rallying next year, with a Countryman WRC developed and run by Prodrive.

The deal, which has been rumoured for several months, includes a limited programme in 2011 with the Countryman WRC - designed to the World Rally Championship's new turbocharged 1600cc, four-wheel-drive regulations. A full campaign will then follow in 2012.

See the official sketch of the Mini Countryman WRC carJohn McIlroy blog: Mini goes rallying

Mini says "the involvement is planned for several years”; the firm is said to be keen to exploit its brand’s history in rallying, including its famous victories on the Monte Carlo Rally.

Testing of the car will begin in the autumn, but Mini has yet to specify a date for a competitive debut. Rallying insiders say that next's year's Rally Sardinia is the most likely event, however.

The firm has not confirmed any drivers either, although multiple world champion Marcus Gronholm has been linked with the campaign. Britain's Intercontinental Rally Challenge title-holder Kris Meeke is also said to have had discussions about a drive.

Read Autocar's first drive of the Mini Countryman Cooper S ALL4

Ian Robertson, BMW Group's sales and marketing boss, said,"I am delighted Mini will be represented on one of the most popular stages in international motorsport."

The deal is a coup for Prodrive, which has been absent from the World Rally Championship since Subaru's withdrawal at the end of the 2008 season. Mini has revealed that the firm has been working on the Countryman WRC since early 2009.

The firm's chairman David Richards said, "This is a very exciting new motorsport programme. I believe our new Mini will become a firm favourite of the latest generation of rally fans."

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27 July 2010

Personally, I think this will put boosters under the sales of the Countryman - a WRC version gives it instant performance credibility. BMW was clever to get the Cooper S out quickly when it launched the first new Mini. It means that the car has performance cred from the outset, preventing it becoming a 'girls car' or 'school run' car or whatever. It's well known that women will buy a 'man's' car, but men won't buy a 'girl's' car. BTW - I trust Paddy Hopkirk has cleared his diary for 2011....and any suggestions on how BMW can revive the numberplate 33 EJB?

27 July 2010

[quote HiltonH]Personally, I think this will put boosters under the sales of the Countryman - a WRC version gives it instant performance credibility[/quote]

absolutely.

just as long as they don't hire that ridiculous Ken Block-head to drive it. The man built up by Clarkson and all to be a God promptly turned into chump-central once up against real European drivers. Sebastien Ogier would be a good bet.

27 July 2010

[quote dutchmaestro]Sebastien Ogier would be a good bet.[/quote]

Ogier's already been confirmed at Citroen. I do hope Kris Meeke gets a shot at the WRC, think he'd do well. Also think Dani Sordo would be a good bet, I know he hasn't won any rallies but he's been a good number 2 to Loeb, sacrificing a number of wins to help his team.

27 July 2010

What's the betting that the Countryman get's special WRC decals to boost sales?

27 July 2010

It’s good news, though how have BMW been persuaded to join a struggling series? They must know something we don’t. But I wish them luck – the Citroen/Ford duopoly needs to be broken. As for drivers, they surely must use a British driver – the sport at WRC level is on it’s backside in this country. Kris Meeke would be a perfect choice, however, he has a PSA contact, Guy Wilks?? There are also young Irish hot-shoes Keith Cronin??, Craig Breen?? But maybe a bit early for them. Hopefully this is the start of more Manufacturers joining – 5,6,7 Manufacturers with 3-4 seats would be fantastic. However, these S1.6T are still expensive, and currently the returns, in media terms are pathetic.

27 July 2010

Mini won´t be any match for current teams, like Proton in IRC.

27 July 2010

[quote VDG.CZ]Mini won´t be any match for current teams, like Proton [/quote]

dead right.

those Malaysian heavy-hitters should tell the chickenshit outfit in Munchen to quit while they're ahead.

In other news, cretinism is the new summer-season rage in Britain.

27 July 2010

[quote John McIlroy]

[quote cmcc90]Ogier's already been confirmed at Citroen. I do hope Kris Meeke gets a shot at the WRC, think he'd do well. Also think Dani Sordo would be a good bet, I know he hasn't won any rallies but he's been a good number 2 to Loeb, sacrificing a number of wins to help his team.[/quote]

You really think so? I'm inclined to think that Sordo has had his chance, and blown it. He's only been at Citroen so long because Spain is such an important market for the firm.

Ogier, on the other hand, scared Loeb enough that he even suggested he should sign for Ford instead of staying at Citroen...

John

[/quote]

I know it does seem an odd choice, but I think he could do a decent job for mini. In his time as Loeb's number 2 he has been a very reliable servant to Citroen and has gave up a number of potential wins to help Loeb. However I don't see him as a long term measure for Mini but more as a reliable pair of hands to help them through the first couple of years.

27 July 2010

[quote John McIlroy]Of course, the competitiveness of neither Proton's nor Mini's rally effort has much to do with Malaysia or Munich respectively. That's down to Mellors Elliott Motorsport and Prodrive. I guess Banbury's boys would argue that they're better resourced than Mellors'. But then, Subarus didn't do much winning in their last two years in the WRC - and they came straight out of Prodrive[/quote]

John, in production car terms Proton is an irrelevance compared to BMW/MINI. That was my point, not that their rallying contractors would be so unequally matched.

Dave Richards of Prodrive has today been telling the media that he wants MINI(/Prodrive) to win the WRC within 3 years. I imagine that's what took Munich so long to make sure they were prepared to spend the, I would guess, around €50m a year this will take to make that happen.

Although the Malaysians with Proton are pipsqueaks in production car terms, it is amazing that they appear to be giving oodles of cash to the Lotus production car company, as they are managing to poach some of Europe's finest car men, at presumably very large wages. Plus, there's the Petronas backing of Mercedes GP. So there is serious money in Malaysia, from oil or whatever, but just that BMW's intent in the Countryman WRC venture looks like a different animal to anything that any other company besides Citroen and Ford is doing in rallying at the moment.

27 July 2010

Good news...

I would prefer a red Cooper S with a white top. But it will make more seats!

PS Think at François Duval too!

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