Prodrive boss David Richards has revealed that the company has set a target with BMW of challenging for the World Rally Championship within three years, after confirmation that the MINI name will return to the World Rally Championship in 2011.

Parent company BMW revealed this morning that MINI will join the WRC next season as part of a long-term programme run by the same Prodrive team that carried Subaru to years of success before it left the series at the end of the 2008 campaign.

The new Countryman WRC, which will be built to the new S2000 rules and will be fitted with a 1.6-litre turbocharged BMW engine, is set to contest selected events in 2011 ahead of a full season assault on the WRC in 2012 and Richards said the targets laid out for the programme were clear.

"The target is clearly to be competitive from the outset and we have set a target with BMW and MINI of the world title within the next three years," he told Reuters. "We (Prodrive) have got six world titles to our credit already so we've been there before and know what it takes to do it. We are setting about that task very meticulously."

"We expect to do half the championship next year."

No drivers for the programme have been released, although reigning IRC champion Kris Meeke is believed to be one name in the frame. Although he wouldn't be drawn into naming names, Richards admitted he would be keen to try and have a British driver in the team.

Prodrive carried both Colin McRae and Richard Burns to the WRC title while running Subaru's factory team.

"Obviously our priority is to get the best drivers, whatever nationality," he said. "But I have always tried if possible to have one British driver in the team. There are a few candidates and maybe we will go for a younger driver, in the way we did with Colin and Richard."