Monday, July 26, 2010

MINI back to Rallying

Mini Cooper S Rally Car, originally uploaded by BenGPhotos.

Good news, MINI Cooper is rumored to be taking the plunge and re-entering the World Rallying Championship.

For a point of reference, a Mini Cooper S with a barely 1L 4-cylinder engine won the 1964, 1965 and 1967 Monte Carlo Rally beating out the likes of Porsche 911S's which were rear-wheel-drive and much more powerful. So, the British, tiny, front-drive car managed to beat the rear-engined beasts of Stuttgart.

That's the first important part of the story.

The second part is that BMW Group, who've revitalized the little Brit brand, have commissioned Prodrive to manage the MINI Cooper WRC team. That's even better news.

BMW and Prodrive previously worked together on an E30 M3 rally car in the late 1980's which was a dangerous little package of the homologated S14-powered E30 M3 on the Monte Carlo Rally - a rear-wheel-drive car in the golden days of all-wheel-drive. While the M3 excursion wasn't incredibly successful Prodrive moved onto bigger and better things with Subaru starting in 1990.

With a Subaru Legacy and then the more successful Impreza and driver talent like Colin McRae, Prodrive had a lot resources at their disposal for potential wins. Three world championships later, Prodrive's ability to bring in wins anchored their place in rallying history. Lackluster performance in later years resulted in Subaru pulling out of the WRC and leaving Prodrive without a partner for professional competition.

However, re-partnering of Prodrive and BMW via MINI could result in some interesting additions to the WRC, which has suffered as of late after Mitsubishi and Subaru pulled out due to economic pressures. Insiders believe that the MINI Countryman would serve as the basis for the rally car along with the potent 1.6L turbocharged 4 banger. If the partnership moves forward, expect an announcement sometime next Spring.

Personally, I am looking forward to it as this should provide an interesting racing series and a renewed venue for BMW to demonstrate its strong product lines - assuming MINI and Prodrive move forward with a partnership!.

Evidence of things that could be when BMW and Prodrive combine? I point you to exhibit A:

Source: BMWBlog via Autosport

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