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Mini has confirmed the existence of the Countryman World Rally Car for the first time - and that the Prodrive-built machine will run on selected rounds of next year's World Rally Championship before starting a full programme of events in 2012.

A statement, which came from Mini in Munich, Germany, ended months of speculation linking the BMW-owned company with a rally development project being run by British-based motorsport firm Prodrive.

As expected, the Mini Countryman WRC will run with a BMW-developed 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, with the first test expected in the autumn.

Factory Minis have not been seen at rallying's highest level since the car won the Monte Carlo 1,000 Lakes Rally and Acropolis Rally in 1967. That will all change next season, however, when the Banbury-built car takes to the stages.

Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Sales and Marketing, said: "I am delighted Mini will be represented on one of the most popular stages in international motorsport. The success enjoyed on the rally circuit has made a vital contribution to the image of the brand. Mini customers have always shown great interest in motorsport.

"I am convinced we will add a few more chapters to our success story in rallying. The Mini Countryman provides an excellent basis, from which to create a competitive racing car for the world championship. In Prodrive, we have a strong and experienced partner. We will work hard together over the coming months to ensure we get the project on track right from the word go."

Prodrive chairman David Richards added: "This is a very exciting new motorsport programme. I believe our new Mini will become a firm favourite of the latest generation of rally fans, just as it is adored by its millions of owners across the world. We already have a significant number of confirmed customer orders for the new Mini rally car with the first deliveries scheduled for the start of the 2011 season."

No mention has been made of precisely when the car will start testing or competing, although the Rally d'Italia-Sardegna is widely tipped to be the launch event in May next season. As for drivers, Marcus Gronholm, Kris Meeke, P-G Andersson and Mads Ostberg are the names most regularly being linked to a deal.

I have read elsewhere that the car will be tested in the Autumn and will compete in selected events next year before a full calendar in 2012.

My friend who used to work at Prodrive (now at M-Sport) did say ages ago that they had been testing Mini engines at Prodrive, so it has been on the cards for a while. With any luck it'll be a challenger for podiums!
One would be inclined to think that more manufacturers will be fielding teams in the WRC after this news in the next couple of years.
Well next year we can expect the Ford Fiesta and the Citroen DS3 to have full-time campaigns, as well as this part-time campaign from Mini...I think the Skoda Fabia is a pretty safe bet as well, but I don't think that's been confirmed? What about Fiat?
Is the WRX coming back? sad.gif
QUOTE(911xx @ Jul 30 2010, 09:17 PM) *
Is the WRX coming back? sad.gif

Prodrive prepped the Subarus in all of their previous years in the WRC, but they are now doing so for BMW, so I wouldn't think so.
People run private Subaru's but unless a new team picks them up, I don't expect to see much of them next season. Are the Fabia's switching from IRC next year?
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