Mini Countryman WRC: return of a rally legend

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Mini Countryman WRC in Paris 2010
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M ini Countryman WRC is the new hope of the British traditional brand. British Leyland (BLMC) already mixed up the rally scene in the sixties: whether the Monte Carlo Rally or the 1,000 Lakes Rally, whether the RAC rally or the Acropolis rally in Greece - the 100 hp and 670 rally were everywhere Kilo-heavy Mini with drivers like Rauno Aaltonen, Timo Mäkinen or Paddy Hopkirk victorious in the overall classification and not only in the class up to 1,000 and later up to 1,300 cubic centimeters.

Debut of the Mini Countryman WRC planned for May

Almost half a century later, Mini now wants to build on its old deeds of glory with the Mini Countryman WRC. The Mini Countryman WRC is set to make its debut in the World Rally Championship in May 2011. The traditional British manufacturer has long been owned by BMW. But when it came to the comeback in the World Rally Championship, a Brit was the driving force: David Richards, patron of the 350-employee renowned racing service provider Prodrive from Banbury near Oxford, was able to convince the BMW managers that the Mini Countryman WRC certainly had opportunities have to survive in the World Rally Championship against the top dogs Citroen and Ford (as well as possibly from 2013 against VW).

Richards is happy to refer to a chapter in rally history that Prodrive wrote together with BMW: 'In 1987 we won the World Championship race on Corsica with an M3 Group A and Bernard Béguin.' It was the only victory for Munich in the history of the World Rally Championship.

BMW supplies the turbo engine for the Mini Countryman WRC

At the Mini Countryman WRC, prodrive and BMW division of tasks agreed: BMW supplies the roughly 310 hp 1.6-liter turbo engine with direct injection, Prodrive takes care of the rest, i.e. the design and manufacture of the WRC racing cars.

As the base car, Prodrive chose the new four-door mini crossover model called Countryman. The normal Mini would not have been particularly suitable as a basis for a WRC because of its overly compact dimensions and the rather narrow engine compartment, according to Prodrive. 'The Countryman offers an excellent base,' says Prodrive technology boss David Lapworth. 'When designing the wheel suspension, for example, we don't have to make any compromises. The engine is in the right place and the values ​​for wheelbase or body overhangs are correct.'

First test drives with the Mini Countryman WRC in theSeptember

Strictly speaking, the Mini Countryman WRC does not deserve the name Mini.
With a length of 4.11 meters, it is rather maxi, especially compared to its much shorter rivals from Citroen and Ford Lapworth belittles the stately height of 156 centimeters as standard: 'That is a far smaller disadvantage than you might think.' During the first test drives of the Mini Countryman WRC, Lapworth personally got behind the wheel. At the beginning of September in England, however, it was initially only a matter of checking the rolling ability of the new one during the so-called shakedown.

In mid-September, the first real tests with the Mini Countryman WRC on gravel were on the program in Portugal. The drivers took hold of the mini-ratchets: Mads Östberg drove as did ex-World Cup star Markko Märtin from Estonia and two-time world champion Marcus Grönholm from Finland.

As an operational pilot, Prodrive appropriately decided on a British. The Northern Irishman Kris Meeke, who drew attention with the IRC title last year, will be the first regular driver to sit in the mini cockpit in 2011. The new team is expected to make its World Championship debut in May 2011 at the Rally Italy. A total of six missions are planned for the coming season. In 2012 they want to contest the entire season.

Everyone is enthusiastic about the Mini Countryman WRC

In contrast to Citroen and Ford, where factory outings initially enjoy priority, Prodrive also focuses on customer racing : The wealthy clientele can even get a full guarantee on the Mini Countryman WRC from Prodrive. However, only if a Prodrive engineer is always on site to make sure, for example, that the engine is properly warmed up.

In England, the enthusiasm for the Mini WRC knows no bounds. 'I would not have expected so much enthusiasm,' says David Richards. 'Everyone is asking if they can come and see us, from my gardener to Prime Minister David Cameron.'


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