Former World Touring Car Championship title winner Andy Priaulx has sampled the new MINI Countryman WRC after taking up the chance to drive the car at the Prodrive test track near Banbury.
MINI will return to the World Rally Championship next season after Prodrive developed a rallying version of the new car, with Kris Meeke having been confirmed as one of the drivers for a limited programme in 2011.
Priaulx got the chance to drive the car thanks to his position as a factory BMW driver but was quick to point out that his outing was nothing more than a bit of fun and isn't set to lead to a move away from circuit racing.
“I had a bit of fun,” he said. “It was great as Kris Meeke was there so he was able to show me the ropes, and then was brave enough to sit beside me while I drove the car. It really is a lovely little car, and I am sure the programme will be successful. This was an amazing opportunity and I can't thank David Richards enough for giving me such a great chance.
“However, before anyone starts getting excited about me swapping from racing to rallying, I need to point out it is a one off and I can't visualise myself taking on the rally boys at this stage in my career!”
The MINI will be powered by the same 1.6 litre, four-cylinder Di turbo-Charged engine that BMW will make available to customer teams in the WTCC next year, with Priaulx having tested the BMW 320 TC last week in Spain.