There have been plenty of rumours in the motorsport world that BMW will build a WRC version of the new Countryman.
However, despite numerous sources insisting that the deal was done and cars will be prepared by Prodrive in the UK, nothing concrete has been confirmed.
However, I can’t help thinking that BMW was offering a very heavy hint yesterday when it rolled out no less a man than Rauno Aaltonen at the Mini Countryman technical presentation.
Aaltonen is a pretty exceptional sportsman, starting out on speed boats and winning big on motorcycles before switching to rallying with great success.
The key point here, though, is the fact he joined the BMC rally team in 1962 driving Mini Coopers. And that he won the Monte Carlo rally in 1967 in the Mini.
It’s true to say that Aaltonen has been with BMW’s Driver Training for decades. But the fact he was rolled out to drive with us in the Countryman unveil speaks volumes.
I had a few laps with Aaltonen in the passenger seat, and he was keen to demonstrate the Countryman ALL4’s extraordinary electronic counter measure, which will virtually keep the car on the road no matter how poor the driver.
I wonder what a driver of his standing must think of electronic chassis controls that actually allow the Countryman to slide gently in hard cornering, flattering driver ability enormously.
At one point he said to me, ‘Go just throw the car around like you don’t know what you’re doing’.
Honestly Rauno, by comparison, I don’t. I come from the ESP and DSC generation. You, however, are from an era when driving skills were on another level altogether.