Expressing confidence in its, Mini announced today it would compete in selected 2011 World Rally Championship (WRC) races in preparation for running the entire 2012 season. Mini's new effort is aided by the fact that FIA, WRC's governing body, adopted new regulations limiting engine displacement to 1.6 liters.
Various Mini Cooper S models seem tailor-made for the new regulations, as they rely on a turbocharged direct injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The missing link for WRC would have been four-wheel-drive, but Mini's new Countryman model, on which its rally car is based, comes with a new all-wheel-drive system.
The Mini Countryman WRC will be a special model, adapted for WRC by independent tuner Prodrive. Although the base engine will remain the same, Prodrive will most likely use a larger turbocharger. Additionally, expect a more advanced all-wheel-drive system along with different suspension components.
WRC held its first races in 1973. These dirt road races require cars that can handle slippery conditions at high speeds, and over the years have made such cars as the Audi Quattro, Subaru STI, and Mitsubishi Evo famous. The new rules eliminate the STI and Evo from competition, as those cars relied on 2-liter powerplants.
Previous to the formation of the WRC, and long before the advent of the BMW-designed Mini, Mini Coopers were very successful in rally events. The Mini Cooper S scored victories at the 1964, 1965, and 1967 Monte Carlo rallies.