The introduction of Mini's first crossover SUV, the 2011 Countryman, points a new direction for the automaker known for its small cars. It will also signal Mini's return to rallying as a participant in the World Rally Championship.
After an decades-long absence, Mini's return to rallying will occur in a Prodrive-modified Countryman dubbed Countryman WRC. Prodrive has been working with Mini since 2009 to tune the brand's first four-door SUV. Mini selected the Countryman for its 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which meets the WRC's 1600-cc engine requirement, and for the Countryman's All4 four-wheel-drive system.
Mini's rallying heritage goes back to its 1959 win at the Mini Miglia Rally, followed up by successive wins at Monte Carlo in 1964 and 1965, as well as other years.
"The success enjoyed on the rally circuit has made a vital contribution to the image of the brand," said BMW managing board member Ian Robertson. "Mini customers have always shown great interest in motorsport."
The Countryman WRC will make appearances on several segments of this year's WRC circuit, and will compete regularly in 2012. Following the model's company-backed debut, the Countryman WRC package will be available to customer teams.
"I believe our new MINI will become a firm [favorite] of the latest generation of rally fans, just as it is adored by its millions of owners across the world," said Prodrive chairman David Richards. "We already have a significant number of confirmed customer orders for the new MINI rally car with the first deliveries scheduled for the start of the 2011 season."