Mini is the third company to reveal their WRC car at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, and they have the most interesting car of them all. As you know in 2011 Mini will make a big comeback to the world rally championship after many years of absence. But they are not coming back with the original Mini, they’ve decided to prepare a rally version of the new Countryman crossover vehicle.
This Mini too, like all the other 2011 WRC cars, is powered by a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder Di turbo-charged engine. This unit has proved to be up to the task during the first shakedown in Portugal. it, in its standard form, develops 135 kW / 184 bhp, and accelerates the MINI Cooper S Countryman from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds. For the Mini WRC it should be able of putting out around 300 bhp.
The power transmission takes place via an Xtrac 6-speed, sequential gearbox. For its outings on the rally stages, the MINI Countryman chassis has been fitted with a roll cage developed by Prodrive, which exceeds the strict safety
“The Paris Motor Show is the perfect stage, on which to launch our MINI WRC,” says Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Sales and Marketing. “The response to our announcement that MINI will return to the world of rallying next year was very positive. The FIA World Rally Championship is the pinnacle of rallying, making it the ideal platform for demonstrating the competitive spirit of our brand. The development of the car is running on schedule, and the preparations for the world championship are in full swing. The MINI Countryman production model provided the ideal basis for our new world championship challenger.”
The 2011 World Rally Championship will see the new MINI WRC contesting in six of 13 scheduled rounds, with MINI competing in the full 2012 season. In addition, Prodrive plans to make available customer versions to independent teams for use in the championship.
Rallying is hardly unchartered territory for MINI. In the past this popular motor sporting genre decisively shaped the image of the brand. The MINI Cooper S became a true legend through its numerous victories on Rally Monte Carlo. The European Rally Championship, too, saw MINI notch up serial successes. “MINI can look back on a successful tradition in rallying,” says Dr Wolfgang Armbrecht, Senior Vice President Brand Management MINI. “The interest in motorsport among the present generation of MINI customers is massive. The WRC provides an excellent communications platform for the MINI Countryman,upon which the MINI WRC is based.”
Prodrive, an experienced motorsport operation, was chosen as the partner in the quest to continue MINI’s success story. The company, founded by David Richards, is viewed as one of the most respected and successful in rallying. “This project is a truly passionate opportunity,” believes Richards. “MINI is a cult brand which left a lasting impression during its previous motorsport campaigns. We are both extremely happy and proud to be on board as a partner when MINI returns to rallying. We aim to use 2011 as a preparatory year, amassing experience in order to ensure we are fully competitive from the start of the following season. But let’s not underestimate the task ahead of us nor the stiff competition we will face on the way, however our target is firmly set on winning the World Championship title again with MINI.”
Prodrive was founded in 1984, and has established itself as one of motorsport’s leading independent teams. Currently employing over 500 staff, the company is based in Banbury (GB). Among other successes, Prodrive has to date won six World Rally Championships, five British Touring Car titles, and scored three class victories in France’s classic Le Mans 24 Hours.
Kris Meeke has been confirmed as the first driver to compete for Prodrive in the MINI WRC. The rally ace from Dungannon (GB) first came to prominence when he won the British Junior Rally Championship in 2002. Numerous victories and titles were to follow. With support from his long-term mentor and former rally world champion, the late Colin McRae (GB), Meeke has been able to successfully establish himself on the rally scene. The Northern Irishman celebrated his most recent success last year, when he won the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC).