Mini John Cooper Works WRC (2011): launch news | CAR Magazine

Mini John Cooper Works WRC (2011): launch news

Published: 11 April 2011 Updated: 26 January 2015

Mini John Cooper Works WRC: the rollcage in detail

Mini WRC goes flat-out in France – VIDEO

Mini has today officially launched its WRC campaign in the UK, at the company’s Cowley base on the outskirts of Oxford. For the first time, the WRC team – run in conjunction with Prodrive – also revealed its ambitious strategy: to be challenging for the WRC championship by 2013. That’s despite the fact that the car debuts part-way through the 2011 season, contesting just six rallies.

‘This year is a test year, next year we aim to be winning rallies, and by 2013 I hope to be challenging for the title,’ said Prodrive boss David Richards. ‘I’ve never before felt such engagement from the team behind a project.’

Mini’s WRC car: the launch

The car’s official name is the Mini John Cooper Works WRC, but the base vehicle is the new five-door Countryman mini-SUV – not the first thing that might come to mind for Mini enthusiasts.

But, says Richards, ‘every element ticked the right box: the four-wheel drive, the dimensions, the 1.6-litre turbo engine.’

Engineer David Willcock agrees: ‘The whole bodyshell is designed around four-wheel drive from the factory. It’s inherently stiff, and we were already well on the way to meeting our targets before we’d started.’

And with the engine being developed by the experts at BMW Motorsport, and news that a customer car built to the sub-WRC S2000 spec recently took the win on an Italian rally, the team are particularly upbeat ahead of their early-May debut.

Who’s going to drive the Mini John Cooper Works WRC

Previous IRC champion Kris Meeke and ex-Citroen WRC driver Dani Sordo pick up where Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk left off in the 1960s. Both have worked together before at the Citroen Junior team, but neither will be drawn on who’s fastest in the Mini as they’ve never before driven the same road at the same time in the new car. Still, we’ll get a good idea when the Mini debuts on Rally Sardinia from May 5.

Fancy a go yourself? Well, David Richards hopes to see 10 Minis contesting the WRC in 2012, and reckons approximately £350k will see you with a car and spares package that’s ready to compete anywhere in the world.

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator