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GP Week : Issue 142
Plotting the course for Mini in 2012 WRC NEWS >> Dirk hollbeg, head of Mini Motor Sport, explains the struggle to get the Prodrive World Championship team on course for 2012. Worrying stories emerged at Wales Rally GB following news that the team had cancelled plans to test for the first two rallies in the new season: DH: The situation is we are looking for a major sponsor. We already have some financial support but we need more. Basically it is about finding the right money for next year. We are very close to signing contracts but haven’t signed yet. We didn’t cancel testing – we have done a lot of testing already this year beforehand. We are very happy with the condition of the car. We have reduced the testing plans by one or two days but we still carry on. We have this plan and we are preparing the cars. Can you confirm that the team will be registered for the world rally championship next year? Yes definitely, we go ahead and we will register. We have an agreement with Prodrive to do the whole season with two cars. As I said the only thing we need is a sponsor and we are waiting to sign but it will come. Who has the responsibility of obtaining the financial backing? The WRC Team itself is looking for a sponsor, everyone who works for the team contributes. Dave Richards at Prodrive is looking for sponsors, and so are we (at BMW Mini). At the end all that matters is to find a sponsor. Prodrive announced recently that they, rather than BMW, will prepare the engines in future. Does that mean that BMW is no longer working on these engines? We decided to give Prodrive the work of assembling the engine which we think is the best thing. They have got the experience, they know how to do it. BMW Motorsport which was responsible for the engine so far has finished the development of the (direct injection) cylinder head. We feel it is a good thing that if you run the engine that you are responsible for it and therefore do the further development, so you can balance your money better. BMW Motorsport will definitely continue to consult, they have all the expertise and the engineers work very closely with Prodrive. There is no official big suppor t (from BMW Mini) with budget and it is up to Prodrive to do further development of the engine next year. has the performance of the team, Kris and Dani, come as a big surprise? We knew that when we looked for drivers that Dani had obvious great potential. We knew Kris is a bit younger and not so experienced but also had huge potential. We are very happy that they have been performing like this. The Power Stage win (in Spain) was excellent but you also need some luck there and good strategy. We are very happy with it. Did we expect it? Perhaps not in the way. Perhaps we are positively surprised, but we always saw the potential. Where does this all go. how long is the agreement with Prodrive for running this team? We don’t talk about the contractual agreements. But how long does it take to win and get a title? It takes some years. The plan is to concentrate of the John Cooper Works model. We feel that is a good car, that’s the car we’re going to compete with. We might do development on the component side, on the chassis, but we will concentrate just on this model. And how do you think the future of the world championship is going. Are you worried about uncertainties? Not at all. We are very positive now that Volkswagen are joining in, the list of manufacturers is growing now. I can’t say how it was in the past but I see that we can join forces and help motorsport to set the priorities right, to make it appealing to TV audiences. Free-to-air is definitely something we need. We just want to bring more people to this fascinating spor t. The sport has great potential. I’m positive that next year and especially 2013 when everything is in place will have a better future than it was. INSIGHT: