Press Report : MINI confirms 2011 WRC programme

David Evans, Rallies Editor, Autosport, 27th July, 2010

The MINI Countryman WRC Design Sketch issued by BMW AG today

MINI has confirmed the existence of the Countryman World Rally Car for the first time – and that the Prodrive-built machine will run on selected rounds of next year’s World Rally Championship before starting a full programme of events in 2012.

A statement, which came from MINI in Munich, Germany, ended months of speculation linking the BMW-owned company with a rally development project being run by British-based motorsport firm Prodrive.

The MINI Countryman WRC will, as expected, run with a BMW-developed 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, with the first test expected in the autumn.

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.” Ian Robertson, Management Board Member – Sales and Marketing, BMW AG

Factory MINIs have not been seen at rallying’s highest level since the car won the Monte Carlo Rally, 1,000 Lakes Rally and Acropolis Rally in 1967. That will all change next season, however, when the Banbury-built car takes to the stages.

Ian Robertson, the member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Sales and Marketing, 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.”

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.” David Richards, Chairman, Prodrive

Prodrive Chairman David Richards added: “This is a very exciting new motorsport programme. 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 4,000km 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.”

No mention has been made of precisely when the car will start testing or competing, although the Rally d’Italia-Sardegna is widely tipped to be the launch event in May next season. As for drivers, Marcus Gronholm, Kris Meeke, P-G Andersson and Mads Ostberg are the names most regularly being linked to a deal.

[Source: Autosport]

Posted in: AROnline News, MINI
Clive Goldthorp

About the Author:

Clive claims that his interest in the BMC>MG story dates back to his childhood in the 1960s when the family’s garage premises were leased to a tenant with an Austin agency. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s, his grandmother was one of the country’s first female Garage Proprietors so cars probably run in his genes! Admits to affairs with Alfa Romeos, but has more recently owned an 06/06 MG TF 135 and then a 15/64 MG3 Style… Clive, who was AROnline’s News Editor for nearly four years, stood down from that role in order to devote more time to various Motor Racing projects but still contributes articles on as regular basis as his other commitments permit.

33 Comments on "Press Report : MINI confirms 2011 WRC programme"

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  1. KC says:

    Other manufacturers have shown that a successful rally programme can have a big beneficial effect on sales figures and perceived “image” for a marque, so maybe this could be a good move.

    No doubt the “it isn’t a Mini” brigade will be here before long to knock it down…

  2. David 3500 says:

    Can this car really put a famous British marque firmly back on the rally stages and, potentially, onto the podium? Let’s hope so. Hopefully, it will add further kudos to the MINI brand, its long heritage and ultimately increase demand for the regular Cowley-built cars.

  3. Jemma says:

    I am not gonna ‘not a real Mini’ this – but I am going to say one thing…

    This vehicle bears as much mechanical resemblance to a road-going car as an F-22 does to a Sopwith Pup… It’ll be tuned silly – have all the little gadgets and so on – with a MINI body taped over the top.

    Oh, and ummm, this might be me, but I seem to remember Bavarian Motor Werke are the people responsible for building this desirable piece of kit and, when last I looked, English they weren’t!

    It will probably have a trickle down effect – assuming that hairdressers and second-rate models (those with between 800 & 600gm silicone, first rates being 800gm & higher) watch the WRC, which would surprise me…

  4. Martin says:

    Great news!

    With the new MINI now well-established after 10 years in the market as a premium sporting small car with a growing number of rivals, it’s good to see BMW are still keeping ahead of the game by not only recently launching and previewing several new additions to the MINI range, but also re-entering the MINI into rallying once again with a manufacturer-backed team and WRC customer rally cars.

  5. @David 3500
    It’s a German car made in England. That is all. I won’t be wasting my breath cheering on this ugly little Germanic runt.

  6. @Richard Brown
    The MINI Countryman WRC will presumably be built in the UK by Prodrive but, for the record, the standard production versions of the Countryman will be manufactured by Magna Steyr AG & Co KG in Austria.

  7. Will says:

    The WRC doesn’t seem to have improved the image of the Citroen C4 much, to the best of my knowledge.

    Subaru’s participation in the WRC meant that, instead of being sold alongside tractors, the Impreza was a sales success with the boy racer brigade but, in the end, joyriders and increased insurance premiums probably did more harm than good to the image, which is why the new Impreza looks like a Kia Cee’d.

    Anyway, as for the MINI “Countryman”, well, outside of the Paris-Dakar, I’d always assumed that bloated SUVs had too high a centre of gravity for most rallies. Any credit will be going to Bavaria and, if they don’t win, they’ll just pull out and leave the team (Prodrive?) in the lurch, a la Sauber (and Rover…).

    I never knew Estate Agents cared for the WRC – I’d assumed they just watched repeats of Kirsty and Phil on More4 all evening!

  8. Dr Bobby Love says:

    Oh dear Lord… I think the Countryman’s growing on me in that “I think I’d like one of those” way…

  9. Dr Bobby Love says:

    That said… this reminds me a lot of the Fabia vRS Mk2 situation.

    If you haven’t seen, the NEW Fabia vRS has just been launched… When they took the refreshed Fabia rallying (before the vRS had come out) they made the S2000 version very much in the same style as the MINI above. Skoda promised the next Fabia vRS would be all crazy like the S2000…

    However, all they’ve done is paint it a horrid shade of green… Oh well, I guess that keeps the value on my Fabia vRS Mk1 up 🙂

  10. Will says:

    @Dr Bobby Love
    The Fabia VRS Mk1 was a great car with a 130bhp TDi and especially in vRS blue.

    I heard that the bigger bumpers were due to minimum WRC length limits? (An old collegue scooped up a pheasant with his 🙂 )

  11. Ryan says:

    Wow, I can’t wait to see the first ever slapped arse compete in a rally. My god that car is ugly… and I bet everyone will see the BMW sign above the MINI showrooms and go “how brilliant it looks.” God the public really are sheep somtimes. I couldn’t, to be honest, care less how well it does – it means nothing to me. It makes me smile when the press mention the British MINI company and then go on to refer to statements that come from their Head Office in Munich. lol

  12. Shep says:

    Oh dear 🙁

  13. David 3500 says:

    @Richard Brown
    I am personally not a fan of the MINI for a number of valid reasons and am not likely to ever buy one. However, for the prosperity of the main line-up built in the UK at Cowley, I hope this reinforces the success of the MINI brand and, just as importantly, ongoing employment.

    I cannot forgive BMW for the shameful way the company acted over the running and breakup of the former Rover Group. However, I also don’t want to see any more job losses in UK car assembly plants, including in the BMW-owned sites.

  14. Ianto says:

    @KC
    How right you are – I just can’t understand why the detractors post on this site if they have nothing more to add to the MINI discussion than ‘it isn’t the same as the old Mini’!

    If it wasn’t for BMW there would be no MINI but, as it is, we now have a fantastic car which has spawned many successful variants. Left to MG Rover, this would be chronically underdeveloped, unreliable and probably built in China by now. I reckon, in fact, that the Lifan 350 gives a good idea of how the MG Rover MINI would have looked by the time Project Drive kicked in.

    I think the Countryman is genius and I am certain that the rally programme will raise the profile of this brilliant little car even further. Time to stop knocking the most successful car built in Britain and get behind the workforce in Oxford and Swindon.

    Big up BMW!

  15. Dr Bobby Love says:

    @Will
    Yup, the bumper story’s true. It’s why the Fabia vRS Mk1 looks like it’s got a fat lip – in a good way.

    I think that probably explains why BMW has waited until the launch of this version before they’ve been out on the dirt – the normal MINI isn’t long enough to qualify, is it?

  16. Marty B says:

    Just look at the old 206 WRC – fat lip and lard arse! I love the original Fabia vRS and had one as a courtesy car when they were launched. Went like SOAS. Seriously thinking about looking for a used one soon. Low insurance group thanks to the derv unit, nigh on 130 mph performance and 50 mpg if steady with the right boot… That car gave Skoda a real image boost. Tempted by a black magic one…

  17. Martin says:

    It isn’t a Mini – it’s a German tool for relieving us Brits of our hard-earned cash 🙁 How many years do you think it will be before all BINIs are built in Germany?

  18. Dr Bobby Love says:

    Marty B :
    Just look at the old 206 WRC – fat lip and lard arse! I love the original Fabia vRS and had one as a courtesy car when they were launched. Went like SOAS. Seriously thinking about looking for a used one soon. Low insurance group thanks to the derv unit, nigh on 130 mph performance and 50 mpg if steady with the right boot… That car gave Skoda a real image boost. Tempted by a black magic one…

    You’d think some big bumpers wouldn’t be enough to get past the 4m minimum length rule, wouldn’t ya… I wanna see a G-Wizz with this “get around” applied… LOL!

    How much of this MINI above do people think will reach production if the car does, indeed, come to fruition?

    The vRS is quite quick but it’s all torque so more of an illusion of speed. Very useful when overtaking and fantastic in gear but it’ll never tear the tarmac up at the lights. That suits me perfectly… effortless driving.

    Insurance is low, but creeping up as the ticket price drops. Younger, shall we say, less careful, drivers are getting behind the wheel and increasing the assessed risk.

  19. KenS Ken S says:

    MINI had better be careful where they put those spotlights. Best to get a French tape measure first!

  20. Peter says:

    @Richard Brown
    It’s a German car made in England that employs many thousands of British workers…

    Anyway, it’s about time that MINI returned to motorsport. Don’t get me wrong, as a life-long Mini nut, I still don’t have any passion for the new MINIs mainly because they aren’t ‘mini’ anymore.

    However, it’s easily the most successful ‘British’ car ever produced – something confirmed when I went to New York and saw MINIs are everywhere. Not since the old MGB has a British car cracked the USA market.

  21. Craig W says:

    @Peter
    The Countryman is not even made in England, it’s made in Austria.

  22. Martin says:

    Martin :
    It isn’t a Mini – it’s a German tool for relieving us Brits of our hard-earned cash How many years do you think it will be before all BINIs are built in Germany?

    Despite the predictions of the usual cynics and knockers who always hate anything successful, 1.5 million+ MINIs have now been made at Oxford in the last ten years and more investment is going in right now to tool up for the new MINI Coupe and Roadster models.

    The Countryman is to be built in Austria where other 4×4 BMWs have been built and, no doubt, if world demand for MINIs continues to rise – especially in the USA – it will make sense to build more MINIs in other countries just like the classic Mini which was built in Italy, Belgian, Spain, Australia, South Africa and many more places!

  23. Ianto says:

    @Martin
    I agree – this MINI bashing is tiresome and, if there are people who still cannot come to terms with the fact that it is owned by BMW, then why do they post on this pro-MINI site?

    The MINI is one of the best cars on the road at the moment and it has a cachet that many others will struggle to achieve (e.g. Nissan Juke, etc). I wonder how many of the contributors would have lambasted MINI had it remained as part of the doomed MG Rover project.

    I, for one, am grateful that BMW saved MINI and, for that matter, Land Rover from the inept management and poor judgement of the Phoenix Four.

  24. Ryan says:

    Who said that AROnline was a pro-MINI site? The bottom line is that I just don’t like them… I can’t comment on the second generation model but the first one was terrible. My back still breaks into a cold sweat every time I think about the ride…

    I’m not saying it isn’t a proper Mini because it’s built in Austria or because the horrendous BMW own it or because it’s butt ugly… The reason it’s not a proper Mini? Well, the clue is in the name! It just isn’t small enough.

  25. Dennis says:

    I think that, if the WRC has a class for the ugliest car, then this will win hands down. Regardless of who builds it and what badge it wears, it’s still an ugly car.

    Let’s face it rallying them is just a marketing tool, look at what it did for BMC! With perhaps the exception of Honda, that’s the only reason any manufacturer competes in motorsport.

    Regarding the Fabia vRS, I remember when the first one came out 5th Gear put one up against the petrol MINI Cooper on their track and the vRS did a better lap time than the MINI by quite a long way.

    Basically, a modern turbo diesel won’t normally have the outright speed of an equivalent petrol car, but the diesel will normally be quicker in terms of real-world driving, where you actually have to turn corners and obey speed limits, simply because the massive torque they have allows for greater acceleration and the ability to use a taller gear earlier. Hence, in real-world terms the vRS doesn’t just feel quicker, it actually is.

  26. Dennis says:

    Incidentally, out of curiosity, why is there a ‘minimum length’ in the WRC? I can kind of understand why there might be a maximum length but a minimum one?

  27. Martin says:

    Dennis :
    I think that, if the WRC has a class for the ugliest car, then this will win hands down. Regardless of who builds it and what badge it wears, it’s still an ugly car.

    How do you rate its nearest competitor, the new Nissan Juke, for looks then? It’s based upon the Renault/Nissan platform which underpins the Clio, Micra and Note.

  28. Ianto says:

    @Ryan
    This news story and the countless other articles on the car wouldn’t be on AROnline if the site wasn’t pro-MINI.

  29. @Ianto
    AROnline, in fact, aims to be the leading Internet-based aggregator for BMC>MG-related Automotive Industry news. We cover Jaguar, Land Rover, MG and MINI for the purely historical reason that they just happen to be the four former British Leyland brands to have survived until now.

  30. Dennis says:

    Martin :

    Dennis :I think that, if the WRC has a class for the ugliest car, then this will win hands down. Regardless of who builds it and what badge it wears, it’s still an ugly car.

    How do you rate its nearest competitor, the new Nissan Juke, for looks then? It’s based upon the Renault/Nissan platform which underpins the Clio, Micra and Note.

    Are Renault-Nissan putting that in the WRC too?

    I’m not being anti-BMW/MINI – I just think it’s a bloody ugly car!

  31. Ianto says:

    @Clive Goldthorp
    …which makes it a pro-Jaguar, Land Rover, MG and MINI site, and probably the best automotive site in the world, with some of the most insightful comment.

    Vive AROnline !

  32. Will says:

    I can only guess that the minimum length rule is a Group A hangover to try and restrict all the competing cars to a similar size, weight and wheelbase and possibly prevent a repetition of Audi’s truncated Quattro.

    It would be interesting to get an official answer, but Google is useless in this regard 🙂

    Interesting to see though, using the same length rule, that effectively the cars raced fifteen or so years ago were family saloons such as Imprezas and Sierras, then the next generation were medium-sized family cars such as the Focus and Xsara and that, now using the same length rule, we have seen (albeit lengthened) WRC Fabias, 206s and now MINIs…

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