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GP Week : Issue 102
When Subaru announced in December 2008 that their world championship activities had come to an end just when Prodrive were well advanced with the stillborn Impreza S15 2009 WRC model, it was time for an urgent change. The rush was on for Prodrive to decide on the next project. Eventually this turned out to be the BMW Mini. Prodrive already had other competition programmes to carry out, but this exercise was to find another rally programme. The first step was to analyse the sport and choose which car they would like to develop. Prodrive Chairman David Richards explained these were different days: “You cannot nowadays ask a manufacturer for a pot of gold and also get their permission to develop their cars. Things don’t work like that any more. Their priorities these days go in other directions.” Prodrive’s intention therefore was to identify which model cars in the market would be ideal to develop into a successful car, and see if that led to enthusiasm in the company concerned. Prodrive’s plan was to conceive an ideal ‘generic’ design of car, and see what existing production car most closely met these criteria. At that point, approach the manufacturer concerned and persuade them of their potential invincibility! This was the process that paved the path from Prodrive in Banbury, England, to BMW in Munich, in Germany “This ‘generic car’ research took about three months. We ended up with a list of 12 production cars, all of which we felt could have been converted into competent rally cars. The Mini Clubman wasn’t on that list, because the original design was too short in overall length to comply with the FIA regulations. Also the under-bonnet dimensions were too limited to house the required turbocharger and ancillary equipment. “But then we heard about the new secret bigger Mini Countryman R60 crossover design which was due to come out in 2010. When we The Road to MiniWhy – and how – the new BMW Mini Countryman is set to compete on World Championship rallies next year is explained by Martin Holmes. 50