WRC Mini Concept (2010) first official picturesThu, 30 Sep 2010 00:00:00 -0700
While the Mini Countryman might be destined for suburban mumsville, BMW has confirmed the new model will also terrorise the countryside in the form of the WRC Mini from 2011, with IRC champ Kris Meeke at the wheel.
Officially launched at the 2010 Paris motor show in concept guise, the WRC Mini will be engineered and run by motorsport doyen Dave Richards and his Prodrive outfit, although customer packages will be available too, allowing independents to compete in the car.
Not so much – this is no time for misty-eyed Paddy Hopkirk odes. The WRC Mini is a far cry from the front-wheel drive, blood, sweat and tears lightweight of the 1960s. Permanent four-wheel drive (like the Countryman All4), BMW Motorsport’s 1.6-litre Di-turbo four-pot and an Xtrac six-speed sequential ’shift mean this dirt devil hides some punchy kit under its Countryman body shell.
Prodrive had been brewing a new rally competitor since early 2009, and when the Countryman was announced, it sized up the platform and decided to sign up with Mini: 'A few quick measurements and we soon realised it would be a great base for a World Rally Car', said Richards.
Yes, sir, by all means. That’ll be £346,000 plus VAT, please. Oh come now, don’t close your chequebook, that includes a parts pack, warranty and the services of an engineer on race days. See, it’s a bargain.
So it’s not cheap, but compliance with the Super2000 FIA regulations means the WRC Mini will be eligible to compete in other championships, too. Around 25-30 cars will be built each year, and privateers will benefit from efficient engineering that includes interchangeable anti-roll bars and uprights.
Not in 2011, because the car will run in less than half of the scheduled events, but Richards considers that a stepping stone to the 2012 championship, and says the timing is ideal for an all-new contender to challenge Citroen and Ford: 'If you are going to be a new entrant to any championship, there is no better time to join than when there’s a new set of technical regulations and a new tyre supplier.'
BMW sales and marketing heavyweight Ian Robertson hopes the WRC Mini will reinforce the road car’s sporty image, and admits the Super2000 regulations have made rallying a commercially viable option for manufacturers once more, citing the estimated 25 percent drop in costs as a 'huge influence'. Income from independent runners also 'had a positive effect' on the decision to race.
By Richard Webber