Earlier this week, Mini made it’s debut appearance in the 2011 World Rally Championship (WRC)! In July last year BMW announced that the Prodrive developed Mini Countryman with a BMW Motorsport 1.6-Liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine would compete in selected events at this year’s WRC before competing the full championship from 2012 onwards. Prodrive has been working on the MINI Countryman WRC since early 2009 and has significant experience in Rallying, having run the Rothmans Porsche Rally Team in Regional and National rally events in 1984, and the Rothmans Motul BMW team in the WRC in 1987. Their greatest success was with Subaru with whom they won the 1995 Manufacturers’ World Rally Championship and the Driver’s Championship with the late Colin McRae! Prodrive helped Subaru to the Manufacturer’s Championship in 1996 and 1997 and also secured the 2001 Drivers Championship with the late Richard Burns and the 2003 Drivers Championship with Petter Solberg.
Mini had its rally success in the 1960s before the advent of the WRC when the Austin Mini Cooper S won the legendary Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967. Rather ironic as the Monte Carlo has not been a WRC event for the past two years! It will. however, return in 2012. The Mini showed great promise, with Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo posting competitive times, Meeke even posting a third fastest time on stage two. However, while Sordo managed to finish in a creditable 6th place, Meeke was forced to retire after the second stage due to mechanical problems. The Mini WRC Team chose not to restart Meeke’s car.
Hopefully things go better for the team on their next rally, which is scheduled to be the Finnish Rally on July 28-30.