The Mini Countryman WRC will compete in the World Rally Championship next season and marks the small-car brand's return to a scene it last seriously competed in during the 1960s. The specially prepped Countryman WRC uses a BMW Motorsport-developed, turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four with direct injection, an Xtrac six-speed sequential transmission, and the company's All4 all-wheel-drive system. Vaunted motorsport engineering and operations firm Prodrive will assist Mini's WRC works team and prepare separate Countryman WRC models for privateer teams.
"The response to our announcement that Mini will return to the world of rallying next year was very positive," said Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing. "The FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) World Rally Championship is the pinnacle of rallying, making it the ideal platform for demonstrating the competitive spirit of our brand. The development of the car is running on schedule, and the preparations for the world championship are in full swing. The Mini Countryman production model provided the ideal basis for our new world championship challenger."
To ease the Countryman WRC into the rallying community, it will compete in just six of the 13 scheduled rounds for 2011 before undertaking a full season in 2012. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder powerplant will be used in other FIA series conforming to Super2000 regulations, where engines must have swept displacements of two liters and under.
Mini has also confirmed veteran racer Kris Meeke as one of its factory drivers for the 2011 WRC season. Meeke will switch out of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, where he is the reigning champion driving for Peugeot.