Any addition of new auto manufactures is a step to making the WRC stronger. Now I won't have to revert to old videos of Minis slaying the giants.
This is a discussion on MINI confirms WRC comeback within the Motorsports Talk forums, part of the Community - Meet other Enthusiasts category; The iconic MINI name will return to the World Rally Championship stages next year after its parent BMW group announced ...
The iconic MINI name will return to the World Rally Championship stages next year after its parent BMW group announced a multi-year comeback for one of the most charismatic names in the sport’s history.
From 2011, MINI will compete at selected rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship and will go on to contest the entire season from 2012 onwards. BMW says this involvement is planned ‘for several years’.
MINI’s first-ever World Rally Car will be based on the new Countryman production car and is being developed in partnership with Prodrive - the British firm which masterminded Subaru’s WRC programme from 1989 to 2008. The car will be fitted with a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbo-charged engine from BMW Motorsport.
Ian Robertson, a member of the BMW board of management said: “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.”
The first test drive for the MINI Countryman WRC, which will also be available to customer teams, is planned for autumn 2010. There is no news yet regarding the driver line-up, although long term Prodrive customer Mads Ostberg had been linked to a car.
Today’s announcement ends months of speculation linking MINI to a WRC programme, and continues one of the most exciting stories in the world of rallying. In the 1960s, the MINI Cooper S caused a sensation with giant-killing victories on WRC rallies, making stars of drivers like Paddy Hopkirk, Rauno Aaltonen and Timo Makinen.
“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.”
Click: wrc.com/MINI confirms WRC
Read even more: wrc.com/mini feature
BMW/MINI Press Release: press.bmwgroup-sport.com
MINI Clubman WRC [Pic credit: BMW]
Last edited by Weasel 555; 07-27-2010 at 08:34 AM.
Any addition of new auto manufactures is a step to making the WRC stronger. Now I won't have to revert to old videos of Minis slaying the giants.
An escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. You would never see an ‘Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order’ sign, just ‘Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.’ - Mitch Hedberg
Prodrive boss David Richards has revealed that the company has set a target with BMW of challenging for the World Rally Championship within three years, after confirmation that the MINI name will return to the World Rally Championship in 2011.
Parent company BMW revealed this morning that MINI will join the WRC next season as part of a long-term programme run by the same Prodrive team that carried Subaru to years of success before it left the series at the end of the 2008 campaign.
The new Countryman WRC, which will be built to the new S2000 rules and will be fitted with a 1.6-litre turbocharged BMW engine, is set to contest selected events in 2011 ahead of a full season assault on the WRC in 2012 and Richards said the targets laid out for the programme were clear.
"The target is clearly to be competitive from the outset and we have set a target with BMW and MINI of the world title within the next three years," he told Reuters. "We (Prodrive) have got six world titles to our credit already so we've been there before and know what it takes to do it. We are setting about that task very meticulously."
“We expect to do half the championship next year.”
No drivers for the programme have been released, although reigning IRC champion Kris Meeke is believed to be one name in the frame. Although he wouldn't be drawn into naming names, Richards admitted he would be keen to try and have a British driver in the team.
Prodrive carried both Colin McRae and Richard Burns to the WRC title while running Subaru's factory team.
"Obviously our priority is to get the best drivers, whatever nationality,” he said. “But I have always tried if possible to have one British driver in the team. There are a few candidates and maybe we will go for a younger driver, in the way we did with Colin and Richard."
Click: crash.net David Richards MINI Plan
Fantastic! Where are Paddy and Timo when you need them, eh? This is great news!
WRX Info Links, Courtesy TheJ
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Anyone know where us US residents can watch some rally? Besides the x-games.
I can't find any channels that carry the next event.
Subaru’s decision of withdraw from rallying in 2008 sent a shockwave through the sport and ended an association with British motorsport firm Prodrive that stretched back almost two decades.
Now Prodrive is back, with a new partnership with BMW Motorsport and MINI, and a new World Rally Car, the Countryman, under development ahead of a WRC debut in 2011.
Heading the project is Prodrive’s chairman, and WRC title winning co-driver, David Richards - the man who first brought Subaru into the WRC back in 1989.
Talking on the World Rally Championship’s official radio station, Richards explained how the new team had come about, how the car was coming along, and why he prefers to take some risks when it comes to choosing a driver-line-up...
The MINI project marks the public return of Prodrive to the WRC, two years after Subaru pulled out in 2008. How did you keep the team running in the meantime?
“We had some extraordinary talent in the team and we knew that if we took our time and didn’t do anything immediately people would disappear into other areas. Some people did, of course, but we put many on sabbaticals and had some working on other projects. To the core team and we said right, your job is to design the ultimate rally car according to the new regulations.”
“The traditional way of producing a rally car is that a manufacturer comes along and asks you to make a car out of this product. Instead, we took the new regulations and said, right, what would the ultimate car look like? We used reverse engineering. Three months in, we looked at what we’d got and analysed this against the cars of all the manufacturers in the world. By March 2009 we had come up with 11 target cars. Then we went to talk to the manufacturers.”
So the MINI lends itself well to the WRC treatment?
“Ironically the MINI wasn’t on that list because the car as we knew it was too small. It just didn’t fit the rules. But during discussions we found out that a new, larger car was in development - the four-door Countryman - and it went straight to the top of our list. Firstly, as being just about perfect in dimensions and layout, and secondly being one of the most iconic names and rally brands ever.”
When did work on the Countryman start?
“By June 2009 we’d narrowed things down to three manufacturers and three products we thought were suited. At the same time we continued work on common elements of the project: We decided which manufacturer we wanted to work with on a new design of steering rack, and were working with a suspension manufacturer on a new damper concept. It was the first chance for us to have the time to do these things in a logical, methodical way. By December it was decided that we were going to be working with MINI and they gave us car data for us to start designing from. So we’ve been working on the actual car for nearly nine months now and the first car is ready bar an engine.”
When will BMW motorsport give you the first proper engine?
“Regulations from the FIA were a little delayed in terms of the turbocharger and other details engine, but we expect the first engines to be with us by the middle of August. We’ll start shakedown of the first cars by the end of August.”
And how soon after that before the car is ready to rally?
“But from there on it’s probably another six months before you can finish the development programme, the homologation work, produce spare parts and make sure that everything is right. It will be the middle of next year before we’re competing.”
Next year you’ll be pitting the new MINI against cars from established WRC manufacturers Ford and Citroen. How do you think it will fare?
“There’s no way you can underestimate the strength of the competition, but we’ve done this very methodically. We’ve done it with a lot of experience of what is required to win and with the cooperation of BMW Motorsport on the engine side as well, so we’re under no illusions about what the task is and how good the car has got to be. But the basic MINI starts off as being a superb product and this new Countryman is a great product and around it we will build a very special car.”
And it’s a new car which you’ll sell to private competitors?
“Absolutely. It’s what we did with Subaru in the past and selling customer cars is something we will continue with this programme. We’ve taken a number of orders already from our existing customers, who clearly we have to prioritise, but we expect to be producing one of these cars every fortnight from the latter part of this year. These customer cars will be identical to the ones we’ll run ourselves in the WRC. It works from both sides; it gives economies of scale and increased developing and testing wherever they are in the world.”
Have you selected your development drivers yet?
“There is no shortage of applications. But the initial testing will be done by our engineers and a small group of test drivers who we use historically for doing this work for us in the UK. Most of this will be carried out between now and September when the major testing starts in Spain or Portugal. I would expect we’ll have one or two drivers signed up by then.”
And what about your works team drivers beyond that? Names including Markko Martin and Marcus Gronholm have been linked to MINI.
“Markko has done work for us in the past and Marcus is a great friend of ours who did the Portugal Rally in one of our cars last year. But there is also young talent out there and we must take some risks with this programme. If I look back at how we were so successful in the past it wasn’t by making safe decisions - it was choosing young McRae when everyone told me he would never get to the end of any events. And look what happened. And then picking up RB and working with him and getting him to the WRC title. That’s what we’re about and that’s what I intent to make sure MINI is all about for the future.”
And what chance for a British driver?
“Mini is an international brand and we need to get the best drivers in it and get the best opportunity for success, but I’d very much like to see a British driver in the team. After all, it was Paddy Hopkirk who scored the last great victories for MINI and wouldn’t it be great to see that repeated with another British driver? But let’s see how things evolve over the next couple of years. We’re not rushing into anything yet and our full programme doesn’t really commence until 2010 - so we’ve got a little time yet.”
I have mixed feelings.. I'm still pissed over the BMW Mini, as a whole. It's (to me) no different if GM bought nameplate rights for the Pantera DeTomaso and started a 'resemblance' to De Originale.
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Two-time World Champion Marcus Gronholm will make a return to the wheel of a Prodrive-run rally car for the first time in over a year, when he tests the new Mini Countryman WRC in Portugal next week.
The eagerly-anticipated car had an initial shakedown test at the British firm’s proving ground in Warwick this week, but the forthcoming Portugal test marks the first serious running that the Mini will carry out on gravel.
Having met with Prodrive last month to discuss the project, the 42-year-old Gronholm agreed to drive the car for its initial tests before taking any long-term decisions about his future.
Since retiring at the end of 2007 after two titles with Peugeot and two seasons with Ford, Gronholm has constantly debated whether or not he should return to the sport full-time. In 2009 he drove a Subaru Impreza WRC run by Prodrive in a one-off outing on the Rally of Portugal, having come close to agreeing terms to complete a full season before Subaru unexpectedly pulled the plug on rallying at the end of 2008.
This year, he drove a privately-run Ford Focus WRC in Sweden, posting competitive times before an electrical problem dropped him down the order.
Mini will not be in a position to commit to a full programme next year and is unlikely to start its campaign until April or May at the earliest. This could appeal to Gronholm, who has previously said that he misses the driving in the World Rally Championship but not the hectic schedule of a full calendar.
The aim of the Portugal test next week is simply to put more kilometres on the car and assess basic durability, rather than looking at any specific set-up work.
Kris Meeke has signed to drive for Mini in the World Rally Championship next year, this week's AUTOSPORT magazine reveals.
Reigning Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Meeke denied any deal had been done with the Prodrive team that will run Mini's WRC return, but AUTOSPORT understands that an agreement is in place.
A source close to Prodrive said: "The deal with Kris is done. [Prodrive chairman] David Richards has talked a great deal about having a British driver and he's been as good as his word."
Meeke said: "My focus remains on this year and winning rallies with Peugeot."
Peugeot UK is known to have contacted drivers about replacing Meeke in its IRC programme for next season.
AUTOSPORT has learned that double WRC champion Marcus Gronholm will test the new Mini Countryman WRC for the first time in Portugal next week, after which he is set to decide whether he will sign for the team.
Former Junior champion and Suzuki WRC driver P-G Andersson also has an offer from Mini for 2011.
Last edited by Weasel 555; 09-03-2010 at 02:40 AM.
I might have to buy a new MINI in a few years. I loved my 05 S but hated the FWD, and the short wheelbase made it a little unnerving over 80mph or 65mph and a strong wind.
Plus if you look at the Countryman's design its pretty neat. Looks huge inside and the accessory center rail is a great idea.
Reminds me of a small Cayenne.
good news , hopefully more manufacturers will follow
The new MINI Countryman WRC has completed its initial shakedown test at the Prodrive proving grounds in Warwickshire.
Running with an interim body and aero package while the team works to finalise the bodywork that will be used on the car when it debuts in the WRC next season, the initial part of the test and development programme saw the car complete four days of running.
That running was primarily on tarmac, although the car also ran on both loose surface and on Prodrive's low grip facility.
“As with any totally new car, it is vital to take time to ensure all the systems are working as intended before embarking on a week long gravel test,” David Lapworth, Prodrive technical director said.
The MINI Countryman will now head to Portugal for that gravel testing as preparations continue for the 2011 debut.
Definitely something to look forward to in 2011.
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