Mini's rally partner Prodrive wants the chance to a run a British driver at the heart of the firm's new Countryman WRC programme.
Prodrive chairman David Richards, who helped to bring Subaru to rallying and then made Colin McRae and Richard Burns world rally champions in the Japanese firm's cars, has told Autocar that he would love to give another Briton a chance of the sport's top prize.
"The driver choice will be down to Mini and ourselves," said Richards. "Mini doesn't really seem to have a preference on driver choice or where they're from, but I've always had a patriotic streak in me and it's well documented that Prodrive has had success with British drivers before. It'd certainly have appeal if we were to take a third British driver to a world title, and in a British car."
Britain has two obvious candidates for the drive: reigning Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Kris Meeke and Skoda UK IRC driver Guy Wilks. Meeke is likely to be the favoured option of the two; he is a Northern Irishman, like Mini legend Paddy Hopkirk, and his technical and development skills are said to be highly rated. He has already been used by Citroen to test the forthcoming DS3 WRC.
RIchards also said the deal marked the end of a "strange period" for Prodrive. "When you've got a firm that's as steeped in the World Rally Championship as we are, and then you end up spending two years away, it does feel like a strange period," he said. "But to come back with a brand like Mini is terrific. This isn't some lame, half-hearted effort; it's an absolutely full-blooded campaign."