BMW board member Ian Robertson says MINI is keen to 'annoy the opposition as soon as possible' when the marque returns to the World Rally Championship later this year.
The MINI World Rally Team is set to take part in a limited programme this season with the Countryman WRC before mounting a full championship challenge in 2012. Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo have already been named as drivers for the year ahead, which will encompass at least six outings for the team as it goes up against the new machinery entered by Citroen and Ford.
Prodrive, the team behind Subaru's success in the WRC, is currently working through a development programme with the Countryman ahead of its competition debut and Robertson admitted it was vital for the team to hit the ground running when the car appears on the stages for the first time.
“Anyone wanting to be successful in a World Championship must first gain experience and put in a lot of hard work,” he said. “We will do that together with our partner Prodrive. David Richards' team is very familiar with the World Rally Championship, so we can start at a very high level. Several rallies are planned for this year. In 2012 we will compete for the full season.
“It goes without saying we want to be competitive as quickly as possible, and I am optimistic we will succeed. The new regulations mean the gap to the top is smaller than it would have been at another time. We want to annoy the opposition as soon as possible.
“You can plan your own performance in motorsport, but not a title win. All you can do is work as hard as possible to move closer to your goal. Our goal is to win the World Championship.”
Robertson added that the reduction in costs for the 2011 season had been a key factor in MINI's decision to move into the WRC and said the series was the ideal showcase for the brand.
“The costs of developing a car and running it in the World Rally Championship have fallen significantly since the introduction of the new regulations,” he said. “We assume the costs will be about 25 percent lower than would have been the case in previous years. This was a huge influence on our decision to become involved. The 1.6-litre turbo engine cannot only be used in the WRC, but also in other categories as the World Touring Car Championship. In addition, the sale of customer rally cars has a positive effect on the total calculation. The WRC offers MINI an attractive platform – with manageable costs. The cost/performance ratio is excellent.
“Our involvement in the World Rally Championship effectively sees MINI returning to its roots. In the early years, success in the world of motorsport contributed significantly to the rapid rise of the MINI. Back then, people saw that this little car not only looked good in everyday traffic, but also had a sporty side. This has not changed since then.
“On the one hand, MINI can look back on a unique success story. On the other hand, MINI is the epitome of excitement for millions of fans around the world and thrills them with its energy. This is precisely what we are able to authentically and sustainably represent through our motorsport involvement in the World Rally Championship. Thrilling rally events, ultimate performances by man and machine, and as much success as possible, of course.
“Motorsport is pure emotion – just as MINI is for its fans.”