The mini will return to top-line rally competition next year in the hands of the organisation that took Subaru to World Rally Championship success.
Prodrive Engineering has concluded an agreement with BMW, the parent company of Mini, to develop the Countryman version of the car to the new 2011 WRC rulebook (right). The team is planning a limited programme of events next season and a full programme in 2012, and aims to lift the WRC crown within three years.
Prodrive chief David Richards explained that his organisation had been seeking a new partner from the moment it became clear that Subaru would not continue in the WRC ahead of the 2009 season.
“We started designing a generic car in January 2009 and we worked out a wish list of models from various manufacturers,” he said. “The Mini wasn’t on that list, but then we heard there was a longer version coming [which meets the 3.8-metre minimum demanded by the rules]. It went straight to the top of our list because the Mini is an icon in rallying terms.”
The association with BMW, which is developing the 1.6-litre direct-injection turbo engine for the car, was described by Richards as being “a straightforward commercial agreement”. He continued: “It is the same as Ford has with Malcolm Wilson Motorsport and our arrangement with Aston Martin. The days of manufacturers writing blank cheques are over.”
Richards admitted that sales of the new Mini to customers was an integral part of the rally programme. The car will be available as a Super 2000-spec car or with the kit that turns it into a full-blown WRC contender.
“There are some 380 of our Subarus competing around the world and we have a waiting list for the Mini,” he said.
The Mini’s WRC debut event and its drivers have yet to be conﬁrmed.