In case you missed it, Mini is returning to the rally scene with the new Countryman compact crossover and the company dropped a picture and a short press release today to let us all know that the Countryman WRC rally car is coming along nicely.
After announcing back in July that the company was going rallying again for the first time in decades, Mini dropped a note today to let everyone know that work is progressing nicely on the Countryman WRC racer and attached this picture. The heavily-modified car can be seen doing some “low grip” testing at legendary rally company Prodrive’s private proving grounds. After testing mostly on tarmac at Prodrive’s facility in England, the car is on its way to Portugal for a week of testing on gravel. Prodrive has been working on this project with Mini since last year.
“As with any totally new car, it is vital to take time to ensure all the systems are working as intended before embarking on a weeklong gravel test,” said David Lapworth, Prodrive’s technical director.
Mini makes a point of notifying us that the bodywork you see here is only temporary and will be replaced by the real body seen in earlier renderings once design and fabrication is complete. Those wondering why the not-so-mini Countryman model was used should recall that it is the only Mini model so far to get the company’s new All4 four-wheel drive system, not to mention their tried-and-true turbocharged four-cylinder engine that just meets the 1.6-liter limit for World Rally Championship entries.
The Mini Countryman WRC could make its debut on the World Rally Championship circuit sometime later this year, if not during the 2011 season. The car is expected to run its first full season in 2012 with factory backing. Once the factory-backed car is in the series, the company will begin selling cars to customer teams.