Citing “a very difficult commercial environment,” BMW Senior Vice President MINI Business Coordination and Brand Management, Dr. Kay Segler, has announced that MINI will end its factory involvement in the FIA World Rally Championship at the end of the 2012 season.

The announcement comes as no real surprise, as MINI split with WRC partner Prodrive back in February, although both BMW Motorsport and Prodrive continue to develop the MINI’s 1.6-liter turbocharged engine for competition use.

Prodrive and MINI’s 2012 season started on a high note, with driver Dani Sordo taking second at the season-opening Monte Carlo Rallye. After the split between BMW / MINI and Prodrive, however, WRC Team MINI Portugal failed to achieve any more podium finishes, although the team did enter every 2012 event.

As Dr. Segler points out, “By the end of the season WRC Team MINI Portugal will have competed in every rally in 2012. As such, in accordance with FIA regulations, we will have achieved the WRC homologation for the MINI John Cooper Works.”

In other words, MINI has paved the way for privateer teams to campaign MINI John Cooper Works models, even if the factory isn’t backing their efforts or further developing the platform. Prodrive will retain the ability to run, tune and sell WRC-prepared MINI cars, meaning that privateer teams won’t have issues with parts availability.

As to how much of the decision was related to reaching the homologation requirements versus conserving money in the struggling global economy, it’s hard to say. As automaker see profits declining and expenses soaring, it will only get harder to justify the massive costs associated with top-level motorsports competition.