Mini is back in rallying, more than 50 years after it ruled the roost at Monte Carlo and beyond, giving a huge shot in the arm to the World Rally Championship.
In typically audacious style BMW has announced it will campaign the Countryman SUV rather than the standard Mini, starting with selected WRC rounds in 2011 followed by the entire 2012 season.
It’s also a return to WRC for Banbury-based Prodrive, the outfit behind Subaru’s legendary WRC success, who will develop the car and run the team. Prodrive last campaigned in the 2008 season, and have been developing the Countryman since early 2009.
The car is based on the production Countryman, and will run the BMW Motorsport 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine, to comply with the new Super2000 regulations. Being an SUV, it will also have four-wheel drive – ironically the only car in the field to do so.
Prodrive boss Dave Richards says: ‘This very exciting. I believe the Countryman will become a firm favourite with the latest generation of rally fans.’
BMW board member Ian Robertson thinks the Mini Countryman is perfect for the job: ‘It provides an excellent basis from which to create a competitive racing car for the world championship,’ he says. ‘I am convinced we will add a few more chapters to our success story in rallying.’
The Countryman WRC will also be available for customer teams, and Richards confirms that several orders have already been placed. The car starts testing in the autumn.