MINI is making a return to rallying, with the Countryman WRC joining the World Rally Championship in 2011.
Rallying has had lots of interesting cars over the years, ranging from the Audi quattro to the Lancia Stratos, but few of the current crop of cars get the adrenalin pumping, so it’s exciting news that MINI may be creating a bit more engagement in the sport.
Even more interesting is the fact that Prodrive, the company behind the hugely successful Subaru rally team, is developing the Countryman WRC in close cooperation with MINI.
From 2011, the brand will compete at selected rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and will go on to contest the entire season from 2012 onwards. This involvement is planned for several years.
The Countryman WRC is based on the production model, with a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine from BMW Motorsport. The car complies with the new Super2000 regulations put in place by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), which stipulate the use of turbo engines with 1,600 cc displacement and four-wheel drive combined with an increased emphasis on road relevant technologies. The result is a significant 25 per cent reduction in overall costs. The first test drive for the MINI Countryman WRC, which will also be available to customer teams, is planned for autumn 2010.
This decision sees MINI continue its success story in the world of rallying. In the 1960s, the MINI Cooper S caused a sensation with victories at the legendary Monte Carlo Rally. The company also tasted success on many occasions in the European Rally Championship. Having already demonstrated the sporty character of its models in many countries in the MINI CHALLENGE, the brand is now taking its presence in motorsport to a new level with the commitment to the WRC.
Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Sales and Marketing, says: “I am delighted MINI will be represented on one of the most popular stages in international motorsport. The success enjoyed on the rally circuit has made a vital contribution to the image of the brand. MINI customers have always shown great interest in motorsport. I am convinced we will add a few more chapters to our success story in rallying. The MINI Countryman provides an excellent basis from which to create a competitive racing car for the world championship. In Prodrive, we have a strong and experienced partner. We will work hard together over the coming months to ensure we get the project on track right from the word go.”
“This is a very exciting new motorsport programme,” said Prodrive Chairman, David Richards. “During the 1960s MINI captured the imagination of the world when the tiny car took on the might of V8 powered Fords and won what was then one of the toughest motorsport events, the 4000km Monte Carlo rally. I believe our new MINI will become a firm favourite of the latest generation of rally fans, just as it is adored by its millions of owners across the world. We already have a significant number of confirmed customer orders for the new MINI rally car with the first deliveries scheduled for the start of the 2011 season.”
Prodrive has been working on developing the MINI Countryman WRC since early 2009. The company was formed in 1984 by Richards, who won the World Rally Championship as co-driver to Ari Vatanen three years earlier. Based in Banbury, Prodrive has developed into a leading independent company in the motorsport and automobile sector under Richards’ guidance, and today employs over 500 staff. Prodrive’s many successes currently include six overall victories in the World Rally Championship, five titles in the British Touring Car Championship and three class victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours (FR).
MINI enjoyed its finest hours at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967: the MINI Cooper S celebrated three overall victories at the most iconic rallying event in the world. Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Mäkinen and Rauno Aaltonen joined the list of winners at this prestigious event.
The closest thing that you can buy to the MINI Countryman WRC for the road is the Cooper S Countryman. With its twin-scroll turbocharger and direct injection now complemented by fully variable valve management, the 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the range-topping model offers the best balance between output and fuel consumption in its displacement class. The engine generates 184 bhp and allows the MINI Cooper S Countryman to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds.
It also comes with technology designed to reduce fuel consumption and emissions – such as Brake Energy Regeneration, the Auto Start/Stop function, Shift Point Display and the need-based operation of ancillary components – fitted as standard and in model-specific combinations.
The MINI Cooper S Countryman and MINI Cooper D Countryman can be ordered as an option with MINI ALL4 permanent all-wheel drive. Here, an electromagnetic centre differential positioned directly on the final drive varies the distribution of power seamlessly between the front and rear axles. In normal driving conditions up to 50 per cent of the drive is sent to the rear wheels, in extreme situations as much as 100 per cent.
Keywords: MINI Countryman WRC, World Rally Championship, Prodrive, FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), MINI Cooper S Countryman, MINI Cooper D Countryman, MINI ALL4 permanent all-wheel drive