MINI is back in the WRC – officially! Although the factory team won’t make its debut until Rally d’Italia Sardegna in early May, two privateer cars contested Rally de Portugal with support from Banbury-based Prodrive.
This season, the team will contest six rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with the MINI John Cooper Works WRC, developed by Prodrive and based on the Countryman production model. For 2012, the team is set to do the entire season of the WRC.
The car will be propelled by a direct fuel-injection 1.6-liter turbocharged engine developed by BMW Motorsport and making 310 horsepower. It will have an Xtrac 6-speed sequential gearbox and limited slip differentials for its full-time 4-wheel-drive system. Mini’s signature deep-dish speedometer graces an otherwise stripped-down interior.
The mill is virtually identical to that used by BMW in its World Touring Car programme, except in the MINI rally car it’s fitted transversely in the engine bay and the ECU remapped for rallying. Under FIA regulations, the performance of the engine is limited by a 33 mm air restrictor and a maximum turbo boost pressure of 2.5 bar (absolute).
Dirk Hollweg (Head of MINI Motorsport):
“The excitement of everyone involved in the comeback of MINI to the rally stage is building with every day we get closer to our maiden rally appearance. With the MINI WRC Team we not only want to please the loyal fans of the MINI brand, but also aim to address new motorsport enthusiasts. We want to thrill them with fascinating pictures, technical know-how and pure performance. In addition, the special MINI lifestyle is always part of the equation. For us, it’s always about a bit more than just motorsport. I think the rally fans will love it.”
MINI’s milestones in the WRC include the three Monte Carlo Rally wins of 1964, 1965 and 1967, with Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Mäkinen and Rauno Aaltonen respectively, each behind the wheel of the classic Mini Cooper S.