After a couple of not so official outings, MINI WRC Team held a ceremony at the MINI Plant in Oxford to officially announce their comeback to the word of rallying.
Now you might be thinking the 2011 WRC season is already underway, why took them so long. Well, this year’s WRC season is a sort of warm up for the MINI John Cooper Works WRC as they are entered for just six rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). But form 2012 they will be participating in full. As the team’s officials point out “The goal in the debut season is to gain valuable experience to be perfectly prepared to take on the entire 2012 World Rally Championship.”
The driver/navigator lineup for the team includes Kris Meeke (GB)/Paul Nagle (IR) and Dani Sordo (ES)/Carlos del Barrio (ES). MINI hopes these guys can revive the good old memories of Rallye Monte Carlo in the Classic Mini Cooper S in 1964, 1965 and 1967. Expect they will be driving a Pro Drive-prepared Mini Countryman.
The MINI John Cooper Works WRC is powered by a 1.6-litre turbo engine also used in MINI production cars, which was developed by BMW Motorsport for use in series complying with FIA Super 2000 regulations, including the World Touring Car Championship. As well as being responsible for the works team’s MINI John Cooper Works WRC cars, Prodrive also supplies customer cars to teams lining up in the World Rally Championship. This applies to the WRC and S2000 versions of the new rally MINI.
“On the one hand, MINI can look back on a unique success story,” said Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of Management of the BMW AG for Sales and Marketing. “On the other hand, MINI is the epitome of excitement for millions of fans around the world and thrills them with its energy. This is precisely what we are able to authentically represent through our motorsport involvement in the World Rally Championship. Thrilling rally events, ultimate performances by man and machine, and as much success as possible, of course: motorsport is pure emotion – just as MINI is for its fans.”
David Richards, Chairman and Chief Executive, Prodrive Group, is also looking forward to the first rally for the new MINI John Cooper Works WRC. He said: “We have been working towards this moment for more than two years and it is truly exciting to be launching the MINI WRC Team and what I believe is the most stunning car in World Rallying, the MINI John Cooper Works WRC. We have an experienced team, a talented driver pairing and, most importantly of all, a strong partnership with MINI. We are now eagerly looking forward to demonstrating the performance of the car on its debut in Sardinia in just a few weeks.”
“The excitement of everyone involved in the comeback of MINI to the rally stage is building with every day we get closer to our maiden rally appearance,” added Dirk Hollweg, Head of MINI Motorsport. “With the MINI WRC Team we not only want to please the loyal fans of the MINI brand, but also aim to address new motorsport enthusiasts. We want to thrill them with fascinating pictures, technical know-how and pure performance. In addition, the special MINI lifestyle is always part of the equation. For us, it’s always about a bit more than just motorsport. I think the rally fans will love it.”
David Wilcock, Technical Director of the MINI WRC Team, presented the guests with the most important details of the MINI John Cooper Works WRC and said: “This Team Launch is really perfectly timed for us. We look back at some extremely demanding and busy months. Now we are entering the crucial phase of our preparation programme for the first rally. We started the development of the MINI John Cooper Works WRC early. It was important to make sure the ratio between development and actual building of the car was right. Our goal was to maximise every area of performance we could get from the technical regulations. Our first rally appearances will show how well we achieved this. In any case I can say that the partnership between MINI, Prodrive and BMW Motorsport on the engine side is running exceptionally well, everyone is contributing to the project with a lot of enthusiasm.”