Since the first hintings of the return of the MINI name to the world stage of rallying last July, right up through to the testing stages and constant teasing, we have longed to know what form MINI’s efforts for the World Rally Championship (WRC) would take, and now we finally know. The new MINI WRC team was presented to the public over the weekend at an official launch ceremony at the brand’s vehicle plant in Oxford, UK.
As previously reported, the team will only compete at six selected rounds in the 13-event 2011 FIA WRC season in order to prepare for a full push next year. The first outing for the new team will be at the 2011 Rally Italia on May 5, culminating with the 2011 Rally Great Britain in November.
MINI’s rally cars, based on the Countryman crossover, have been developed by British motorsports and engineering firm Prodrive. You may recall Prodrive was the same firm backing the successful Subaru WRC teams during the past decade.
They will come equipped with a turbocharged 1.6-liter gasoline mill derived from the same unit used in MINI’s production models. You may recall that this engine was further developed by BMW Motorsport for the use in various categories according to FIA Super2000 regulations. Sending drive to the wheels will be an Xtrac six-speed sequential gearbox, and for its outings on the rally stages the Countryman chassis has also been fitted with a roll cage developed by Prodrive.
Piloting the cars will be Kris Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle, a duo with the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) title under their belts, as well as Daniel Sordo and co-driver Carlos del Barrio.
Acting as Team Principal, meanwhile, will be Prodrive boss and former rally co-driver David Richards. He will be joined by MINI Motorsport boss Dirk Hollweg and David Wilcock as Technical Director.
MINI has a long motorsports heritage, including names like Pat Moss and of course John Cooper in its history. The original Cooper S found early success racing at Monte Carlo, while MINI raced on to numerous rally successes in the 1960s.