MINI and MG : Back on stage and track?
Autocar’s website and sister title Motorsport News have this week reported that two of the former BMC marques most closely associated with Motor Sport are set to return to competition in the next couple of years.
MINI’s forthcoming new crossover model, which will, if current rumours are correct, be badged the Countryman and will reach the showrooms next year, may well be used as the basis for a World Rally Championship (WRC) contender in 2011. The Countryman JCW will be launched that year and will be powered by a turbocharged 1.6 litre engine of the type specified in the proposed new rules for WRC engines.
Motorsport News cites a source close to the WRC’s Promoters, International Sportsworld Communicators Limited, as saying that there has been ‘a very positive response’ to the WSC from MINI personnel and that: ‘Mini has a massive history in our sport and it could have a very big future. The car would fit very well with the WRC and, under the new (technical) regulations for 2011, the necessary technology could be imported into the car to turn it into a winner quickly. MINI is just the sort of name we need back.’
It would be terrific to see MINI in the WRC. I’ve got the highest respect for the company and it would be magnificent for the glory days of rallying to return and for MINI to be a part of that.” Paddy Hopkirk, 1964 Monte Carlo Rally winner
Paddy Hopkirk, who won the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally in a Mini Cooper S, commented that the BMW Sauber F1 Team’s recently announced withdrawal from the Formula One World Championship might release sufficient funds to enable BMW Group to take MINI back into the WRC before adding: ‘It would be terrific to see MINI in the WRC. I’ve got the highest respect for the company and it would be magnificent for the glory days of rallying to return and for MINI to be a part of that.’
However, a MINI UK spokesman told Autocar: ‘There are no official plans at this stage. It is a story that has been doing the rounds for some time, as we will have a four-wheel-drive car for the first time but, at the moment, there isn’t a plan. If it does happen it would be late 2011 at the earliest, as JCW models traditionally follow on 12 months after the launch of the car.’
MG UK has also not, as yet, issued any official announcement about a new Motor Racing Programme. This week’s stories were, in fact, prompted by remarks made by the MG Car Club’s MG Trophy Championship Co-ordinator who indicated that a new class would be created for the MG 6 if and when the 1.8 litre turbocharged model was launched in the UK next year.
The Championship Co-ordinator, Peter Macwaters, added: ‘The MG 6 is a stunning-looking car and we would love to see it join the series as soon as possible… It would be fantastic to see a new MG out racing and if we could get a few out it might stir up some interest from MG in the series,’ but he also pointed out that: ‘The biggest stumbling block at the moment is the lack of information. Without details such as weight and torque, it’s hard to say if the car would be competitve with the ZRs.’
The MG 6 is a stunning-looking car and we would love to see it join the series as soon as possible… It would be fantastic to see a new MG out racing and if we could get a few out it might stir up some interest from MG in the series.” Peter Macwaters, MG Trophy Championship Co-ordinator
AROnline, though, suspects that MG UK may be aiming rather further up the UK’s Motor Racing ladder than the MG Trophy Championship for the marque’s official return to the tracks. MG UK’s Sales and Marketing Director, Gary Hagen, told us a year ago that: ‘We definitely need to get back into racing. Ideally, sooner rather than later, too. We’re already having an ongoing dialogue with at least two interested parties.’
We reckoned then, and still do, that a return to the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) might be on the cards. Indeed, with the sole works-backed team, Vauxhall’s Triple Eight Engineering Limited-run VX Racing, withdrawing at the end of this season, we would not be too surprised to hear that the BTCC’s Series Director, Alan Gow, has already been knocking on MG UK’s door in Longbridge…