It’s been something of an ignominious end for MINI’s World Rally Championship return – having rolled up at the start of the 2011 season with the newly developed Countryman WRC, the car was initially competitive in the hands of drivers Chris Meeke and Dani Sordo.
But by the end of the season, Meeke had been dropped while Sordo hung on in 2012, hoping that the manufacturer would contest another season in 2013. In an interview during the summer with Motorsport News, Sordo said “I want to wait first for the plans of MINI. This is my team now, I will listen to what MINI is doing – I love this team and these guys.”
“There is so much experience at Prodrive, everybody knows what they are doing. At the moment there is no news for me for next season. I hear a lot every day but I want to know MINI’s plans.”
Prodrive boss David Richards said at the time that the BMW-backed team had been unsuccessful in attracting major sponsorship for 2012, and had run the latter-half of 2011 on limited budget. Sordo contested only selected events this year and was looking forward to mounting a full championship challenge in 2013.
Well, MINI has now confirmed what the rest of the paddock already suspected – MINI will abandon its works involvement in the WRC at the end of the 2012 season.
Dr. Kay Segler, MINI’s Senior VP of Brand Management, said “By the end of the season WRC Team MINI Portugal will have competed in every rally in 2012. As such, in accordance with FIA regulations, we will have achieved the WRC homologation for the MINI John Cooper Works. In doing so, we would have achieved the prerequisites to allow those interested to continue to run the car in the WRC on a customer rallying basis.
“BMW Motorsport will continue to further develop the 1.6-litre turbo engine in conjunction with Prodrive. In a very difficult commercial environment, MINI has played an active role in ensuring that friends of the MINI brand can continue to participate in motorsport. As such, the MINI family is retaining its presence on various international platforms and getting even closer to its customers.”
“We would like to see the MINI John Cooper Works WRC continue to run competitively in WRC and other championships. We would like to thank Prodrive, WRC Team MINI Portugal and our partners for the good cooperation, and wish all drivers, teams and customers a successful future in rallying.”
Since MINI’s rallying debut in 2011, its biggest success was achieved by Dani Sordo in January 2012, when he finished second at the legendary Monte Carlo Rally.
BMW Motorsport will continue to develop the 1.6-litre turbo engine and provide Prodrive with parts.
Prodrive in 2013
Meanwhile, Prodrive has announced that it will continue to target a full programme of events in the World Rally Championship in 2013, backed up by a comprehensive development programme for both the MINI John Cooper Works WRC and S2000 cars.
Prodrive’s existing long term contract with MINI remains unchanged. This ensures the sales, support and development of the MINI John Cooper Works WRC and S2000 cars, as well as the supply of engines and parts from BMW Motorsport for use by all teams in the WRC, regional and national rallies throughout the full homologation period of the car up to 2018.
The Prodrive WRC Team has operated as an independent, private team since early 2012 and will continue to do so in 2013 with the aim of adding to the three WRC podium places already achieved by Dani Sordo.
will announce next season’s Prodrive WRC Team entry and driver details in the due course, and is now concentrating on preparations for Rally Spain in November where it will run two MINI John Cooper Works WRC cars for Dani Sordo and the young Finnish driver, Jarkko Nikara.