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GP Week : Issue 93
Mini con rms WRC entry -- the story to date The long-awaited confirmation from BMW that the Mini brand will contest selected rounds of the 2011 World Rally Championship, and the "entire season"(which is not yet defined) from 2012 onwards is welcome, putting an end to the protracted, frustrating and confusing publicity leaks which preceded it. The Mini story started when the Prodrive preparation company came to the end of its association with Subaru, after firstly the once successful World Rally Car activities came to an end, then the realisation that the market for high quality Group N cars was fast disappearing as Super 2000 cars became more competitive. Subaru had no Super 2000 model that Prodrive could promote. The hunt for another project became commercially urgent, and Mini was an opportunity, especially as Prodrive had enjoyed a previous successful association with BMW, which now produces the Mini. Under earlier agreements, Prodrive carried out development work on the Mini and this led to curiosity at how to develop a turbocharged and four-wheel drive version of the car suitable for future world rally championship use. What was needed was the approval by BMW of the homologation of a Super 2000 version, which was a short step away from the opportunity to develop a World Rally Car version. The recent announcement suggests that BMW has now agreed to homologate such a car, which in turn means that Prodrive can predict that the Mini will reappear on WRC events, in one guise or another. Nothing else can be confidently predicted at the moment. The FIA has not yet outlined how teams can register for the championship in 2011. The current rules restrict the right to homologate a World Rally Car to only those manufacturers who have registered themselves for the championship, and this step demands (a) a sizeable budget, (b) setting up an official works team and (c) commitment to compete in the whole series, albeit traditionally there are entry-level incentives. Until the FIA confirms how a team can register in 2011, the Mini project has no chance of proceeding beyond the Super 2000 level, but Prodrive states that it has "a significant number of confirmed customer orders for the new Mini" and that the first deliveries are scheduled for the start of the 2011 season. If "significant" means "many" , this is an impressive endorsement of Prodrive's enviable reputation! It seems the Mini Super 2000 sounds like being the first commercially available S2000 car designed with the new mandatory 1.6 litre direct-injection turbo-charged engine. It is less than seven years ago that a Mini (a traditional British machine) was last seen on a world championship rally, when the private driver Neil Burgess competed on the 2003 Rally GB (pic, left). He won his class but finished last overall. Meetings held before Neste Oil Rally Finland, the FIA's shortest world championship rally for 35 years, between the FIA President Jean Todt and rally team managers have highlighted Todt's intentions for the future. Todt has indicated his wish that World Rally Championship events revert to former format styles in future. Notable examples of his intention are to increase stage lengths up to 800km (the 2010 Rally Finland length was 310km) with faraway overnight rest halts, the end of the central service park system, the use of night stages and even allowing more events to cross borders and use stages in different countries. These plans have surprised teams who approve the current budget-friendly formats in which the formalities and size of world championship events have been adjusted to current ecological and safety standards, which expansion of events would challenge. Todt envisages bigger WRC events WRC NEWS >> 47