Mini exiting WRC after just one yearFri, 12 Oct 2012 13:29:00 ESTMini announced a return to the World Rally Championship for this season, but the road to making that happen has been as rocky as a gravel stage. It spent 2011 developing its JCW Countryman WRC challenger, changing its mind about how it wanted to work with Prodrive, dumped a driver due to budget issues, then registering its entry after the deadline had passed in a ploy that might or might not have been a protest aimed at the WRC promoter.
Mini had stated that it wanted to win the whole championship in 2013, and spent 2011 doing six WRC rounds as development. As it stands for this year, the WRC Team Mini Portugal – paid for by Mini, run by ProDrive – scored 26 points in the first rally at Monte Carlo and has so far blanked the rest of the season. The relationship between Mini and ProDrive appeared to be an ever-contentious affair, at the end of this season, even the money will dry up along with what support there was.
Because it contested every race in the calendar, though, Mini says it has completed the FIA requirements for homologation of the JCW Countryman WRC; meaning that privateers can continue purchasing the car and run it in the WRC. BMW Motorsport is continuing development and parts supply of the 1.6-liter turbo engine, and a report in Autosport indicates that ProDrive will continue to run Minis in the series next year.
The press release below has more info on the whys and wherefores.
MINI ceases works involvement in the WRC.
Munich, 12.10.2012 -- MINI will terminate its works involvement in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at the end of the 2012 season. The company has made this decision after careful consideration.
Dr. Kay Segler, Senior Vice President MINI Business Coordination and Brand Management: "MINI will abandon its works involvement in the WRC at the end of the 2012 season. 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 doing so, we would have achieved the prerequisites to allow those interested to continue to run the car in the WRC on a customer rallying basis. BMW Motorsport will continue to further develop the 1.6-litre turbo engine in conjunction with Prodrive. In a very difficult commercial environment, MINI has played an active role in ensuring that friends of the MINI brand can continue to participate in motorsport. As such, the MINI family is retaining its presence on various international platforms and getting even closer to its customers. We would like to see the MINI John Cooper Works WRC continue to run competitively in WRC and other championships. We would like to thank Prodrive, WRC Team MINI Portugal and our partners for the good cooperation, and wish all drivers, teams and customers a successful future in rallying."
MINI Motorsport has secured the future of its customer teams, while Prodrive will still be able to run, optimise and sell vehicles in the future. BMW Motorsport will continue to develop the 1.6-litre turbo engine and provide Prodrive with parts.
From its rallying debut early in 2011, the MINI John Cooper Works WRC turned out to be a successful model: MINI drivers collected three podiums and many top-ten finishes at the wheel of this car. Arguably the biggest success was achieved by Dani Sordo (ES) in January 2012, when he finished second at the comeback of MINI at the legendary Monte Carlo Rally. With three wins in the Principality – back in 1964, 1965 and 1967 – the Mini laid the foundation for the unique reputation of the brand in rallying.
By Jonathon Ramsey
See also: Mini knows how you take your coffee after a test drive, Mini ditches four-seat Countryman.