Ready to rally
Here’s a blast from the past — the Mini is back in rallying, writes Paul Gover
THE mighty Mini is out to repeat its giant-killer successes of the 1960s with a return to the World Rally Championship in 2011.
Two-time driving champion Marcos Gronholm of Finland is already tipped to drive the Mini attack, which revolves around the same British team that took Subaru to the top of the WRC. Prodrive has been working on the project for more than two years, but it has only just gone public after the launch of the car used as the base for the rally program, the Mini Countryman.
The long-wheelbase, four-door Mini will go up against Citroen’s allnew DS3 and the Ford Fiesta in next year’s world championship, with Volkswagen and Saab tipped for 2012.
It will compete with the same signature paintwork as the original Mini, using red bodywork with a white roof.
The car will be powered by a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine — the key to new rules in the WRC next year— with hi-tech all-wheel drive and a specially prepared bodyshell.
BMW group sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson says: ‘‘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.’’
The Mini rally project is a world away from the original efforts in the 1960s, including stunning victories in the snow-covered roads of the Monte Carlo Rally.
It’s also a big step up from the Mini Challenge race series run in several countries, including Australia, for track-prepared Mini coupes.
Testing of the Mini Countryman WRC, as the new competition car is called, should begin next month before its competition debut early next year. Prodrive will also sell copies of the factory-backed cars to private teams. ‘‘Mini customers have always shown great interest in motorsport, Robertson says.
‘‘I am convinced we will add a few more chapters to our success story in rallying.
‘‘I am delighted Mini will be represented on one of the most popular stages in international motorsport. The success that the car has enjoyed on the rally circuit has made a vital contribution to the image of the brand.’’
Seeing red: the Mini Countryman in rally colours.