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GP Week : Issue 153
OVERNIGHT SENSATION How Motorsport Italia suddenly became an official World Rally Team! Their Mini rally cars had already arrived in the country, their entries had already been accepted under the old registered names, everything seemed ready for the second round of the 2012 World Rally Championship ... yet three days before the start of the Swedish Rally it all changed. Privateers Armindo Araujo and Paulo Nobre suddenly became official works drivers and the last people to know, it seems, were they and their team! Bruno De Pianto, Team Manager for Motorsport Italia, who run their cars was as surprised as everyone else. He knew that Prodrive, with whom his company had been working as customers for the Mini John Cooper Works WRC cars, were having difficulty finding ways to enter the various events they, as the official Mini manufacturer team, were obliged to contest. The season’s first event Monte Carlo Rally came and went but, in the days after wards, stories emerged about necessary changes in the arrangements with the FIA and Mini, the manufacturers of the cars. The name of Motorsport Italia was being mentioned in high places, but nothing was official, or could ever be explained until the board of BMW met on Friday February 3. Motorsport Italia is the division of the established Ralliart Italy Mitsubishi operation based at Inverigo in Northern Italy formed to run the Minis. Their cars are prepared in the same building, opposite each other. Motorsport Italia began their work in early 2011, in time to run a world championship programme for Armindo Araujo, a driver with whom Ralliart Italy had a long championship-winning relationship. It was in all respects a private customer team. At the end of 2011 Motorsport Italia expanded, running a second car for another customer driver, Paulo Nobre and this was planned to continue into 2012. Then came February 6, the day everything changed. De Pianto: “It was the Monday before the Swedish, one hour before Mini issued their famous press release to 36 GPWEEK.com // RALLY >>> FEATURE