The return of MINI to one of the biggest stages in motorsport is approaching ever closer. On Monday, the MINI WRC Team was officially presented to the public at the Team Launch, which took place at the MINI Plant in Oxford (GB). This season, the team will contest six rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with the MINI John Cooper Works WRC. The car will be tested against its rivals for the first time at the Rally d’Italia Sardegna from 5th to 8th May 2011. The goal in the debut season is to gain valuable experience to be perfectly prepared to take on the entire 2012 World Rally Championship.
MINI can look back on a long history of success in rallying. Paddy Hopkirk (GB), Timo Mäkinen (FI) and Rauno Aaltonen (FI) won the Rallye Monte Carlo in the Classic Mini Cooper S in 1964, 1965 and 1967. Today’s driving teams of Kris Meeke (GB)/Paul Nagle (IR) and Dani Sordo (ES)/Carlos del Barrio (ES) are keen to follow in the footsteps of the “Three Musketeers”.
At the launch in the “T Building” of the MINI Plant in Oxford, the spotlight was initially on Hopkirk and Aaltonen as they drove onto the stage behind the wheel of the legendary Classic Mini Cooper S. The guests and media representatives were then treated to their first look at the MINI John Cooper Works WRC in its final World Championship design. The car was developed by Prodrive, based on the MINI Countryman production model.
“On the one hand, MINI can look back on a unique success story,” said Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of Management of the BMW AG for Sales and Marketing. “On the other hand, MINI is the epitome of excitement for millions of fans around the world and thrills them with its energy. This is precisely what we are able to authentically represent through our motorsport involvement in the World Rally Championship. Thrilling rally events, ultimate performances by man and machine, and as much success as possible, of course: motorsport is pure emotion – just as MINI is for its fans.”
David Richards, Chairman and Chief Executive, Prodrive Group, is also looking forward to the first rally for the new MINI John Cooper Works WRC. He said: “We have been working towards this moment for more than two years and it is truly exciting to be launching the MINI WRC Team and what I believe is the most stunning car in World Rallying, the MINI John Cooper Works WRC. We have an experienced team, a talented driver pairing and, most importantly of all, a strong partnership with MINI. We are now eagerly looking forward to demonstrating the performance of the car on its debut in Sardinia in just a few weeks.”
“The excitement of everyone involved in the comeback of MINI to the rally stage is building with every day we get closer to our maiden rally appearance,” added Dirk Hollweg, Head of MINI Motorsport. “With the MINI WRC Team we not only want to please the loyal fans of the MINI brand, but also aim to address new motorsport enthusiasts. We want to thrill them with fascinating pictures, technical know-how and pure performance. In addition, the special MINI lifestyle is always part of the equation. For us, it’s always about a bit more than just motorsport. I think the rally fans will love it.”